He Lehua ʻĀhihi

maliaMeet the composers: Mālia Ko’iulaokawaolehua Helelā and Dave Manu Bird

In Hawaiian culture, there is a strong oral tradition called a mele inoa, or name chant. In her beautiful original mele, Mālia Helelā compares her beloved grandmother, June Moreira Zaulig (known as Mom Z), to the elegant upland lehua flower. “E lohe e ik kona naʻauao, Hāwana o na pili mua, ʻIke hoʻoheno o ka honua – Listen to her wisdom, whispers of the elders, sweet insights of native lands.”

Māliaʻ father, Leeward CC Professor Manu Bird, shares his manaʻo about writing He Lehua ʻĀhihi with his daughter:

When Mom Z refused radiation and chemotherapy and returned home for hospice care, Mālia and I knew we had to write a mele for her. We didn’t have much time because we wanted her to hear her mele, which unfortunately was not to happen. I neglected work to write the ‘ōlelo. The hardest part was the ‘ōlelo haole translation of the original, which is still not good enough. Mālia then went to work on the music. It all came together but not in time, as Mālia states in the video. I’ll never forget that falling mango! Mālia’s halau danced to the mele at Mom Zʻs funeral. The hula was very moving and beautiful, and it fit perfectly into our celebration of Mom Z’s life.

interestingly, Mom Z was the daughter of the woman featured in Fishing for Grandma, a personal history by Manu Bird.

Ua kū pa’a ‘oia i luna
Kaulana o Lanihuli
Ka pua hiehie
O ka uka

E nānā i ka pihana
O Ka pua noho laʻi i ka lani
Ka lehua ‘āhihi i ka lani
Kau mai i luna

E lohe e i kona na’auao
Hāwana o na pili mua
‘Ike hoʻoheno
O ka honua

Eia ko mākou haʻina
O na makana no nā haunauna
He lehua ‘āhihi
Ia no Lanihuli

1  She stood steadfast about (over us)/the famous one of Lanihuli/the elegant flower/Of the uplands

2  Look at the completeness/of the flower dwelling peacefully in the heavens/the lehua ‘āhihi/located in the heights

3  Listen to her wisdom/whispers of the elders/sweet insights/of native lands

4  Here is our story/of gifts for newer generations/a lehua ‘āhihi/found there on Lanihuli

Credits: performance video by Educational Media Center, Leeward Community College; feature photo courtesy of Mālia Helelā; interview video by Robert Delim and Kat Camit


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *