Ka Lei Momi CoverKenneth Makuakāne and I wrote this mele as a tribute to Jean ‘Īleialoha Keale Beniamina from Kaua‘i. ‘Īlei was a friend, mentor and inspiration who worked tirelessly in support of the Hawaiian people and the Hawaiian language. She was a native speaker of Hawaiian, born on the island of Ni‘ihau in 1955. She was one of the founders of the ʻAha Pūnana Leo, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to the perpetuation of the Hawaiian language. ‘Īlei was honoured as a Living Treasure of the Year and of Kauaʻi for her dedication to the people of the island in 2005, and passed away in 2010.

The mele compares ‘Īlei to a lei made of momi shells – one of those used to make Ni‘ihau shell leis. The practice of composing mele to honor individuals is a long-standing tradition in the Hawaiian community.

Listen to “Ka Lei Momi” in its entirety:


Kenneth and I are grateful to both Julie Schmidt and Kekoa Billena for sharing the images that appear on the cover graphic for this release. We hope you appreciate this makana (gift) in the same spirit in which it was composed and recorded – with great aloha.

Keola Donaghy, ‘Ōla‘a, Hawai‘i mokupuni.


Ka Lei Momi – Composed and performed by Kenneth Makaukāne and Keola Donaghy

‘Auhea wale ‘oe Where are you,
E ka lei momi The momi shell lei
I kāhiko a pāpahi Decorative and festive
He lei makamae A prized lei
Kaulana hoʻi ‘oe You are famous
a‘e lohe ‘ia And heard
Kō leo hanohano Is your honored voice
Puni ‘o Hawai‘i throughout Hawaiʻi
E pūlama iho ‘oe Cherish,
i ʻī mau ai You always said
ka ʻōlelo hiwahiwa The precious language
a nā kūpuna of our ancestors
He makana nui ia It is a great gift
e lei mai ai that will be worn as a lei
nā mamo hoʻoheno By the cherished
Laumanamana and numerous descendants
Ha‘ina ‘ia mai Told
Ana ka puana is the story
No ka lei momi Of the momi shell lei
He poina ʻole That is unforgettable

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