Mālia Ko’iulaokawaolehua Helelā is a kumu hula, Hawaiian language scholar, and talented composer of Hawaiian mele, including Ma Puʻuloa Kuʻu Aloha (He Mele No Patsy Dudoit), He Lehua ʻAhihi, He Mele Nēnē and Ka Awa No Waiʻawa. Mālia was born on O’ahu to Manu and Mary Bird. Her halau is Na Hula Ola Aloha. Completing her `uniki under Kumu Hula Pulu`elo Park in 2002, she now teaches hula and oli to a wide range of students, from infants and toddlers to kupuna. Malia studied oli (traditional Hawaiian chant) under Kumu Hula John Keola Lake.
As a wife and mother of a grown son, twin boys and a little sassafrass girl, she has experience with juggling an abundance of projects which include managing Still & Moving Center in Kaka’ako, composing chants and songs, recording music for her first album, developing a keiki educational program and writing her first novel. She continues to look to the beauty and grace of the Hawaiian environment for grounding and inspiration.
When composing her mele, Mālia says she thinks a lot about storytelling, especially stories related to history, and how history gives us clues of how to act. Mālia believes core values of respect, gratitude, and taking care of the land are deeply ingrained in Hawaiian poetry. “Weʻre lucky to have inspiration all around us,” she says. In this delightful video, Mālia shares some insights into her composing process by describing another of her mele inoa, Manu O Ka Pali Kahakō.
Credits: performance video by Educational Media Center, Leeward Community College; feature photo courtesy of Mālia Helelā; interview video by Robert Delim and Kat Camit