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[Photo: Peter Kaawa; Kalaoa, North Kona, Hawaiʻi. ca. 1923; SP 59969.]

Aloha nō au iā Kahulimoku

Happy Mele Monday!

“Mention has already been made of the original difficulty of procuring any ukeke in the field, and of the fact that after continual disappointment on Kauai and Oahu, the first reward for the search occurred in North Kona, Hawaii.”- Helen Roberts, Ancient Hawaiian Music, p. 22

The ʻūkēkē, or musical bow, is the only indigenous stringed instrument of Hawaiʻi. Used to incite romance and courtship, this rare instrument is played by engaging the strings in a strumming motion while using the mouth cavity as a resonator.

Although Roberts doesn’t name the individual who provided the first ʻūkēkē in the field, it is speculated that Peter Kaawa may have been that person. The native of Kalaoa, North Kona, Hawaiʻi, contributed a variety of compositions to the collection including today’s featured mele. This mele ʻūkēkē was dedicated to a man named Kahulimoku, an aliʻi of Maui.

(Mele translation by Mary Kawena Pukui)

Aloha nō au iā Kahulimoku

I love Kahulimoku

Uwē ʻana iho, uwē kuʻu hoa.

I weep, weep for my companion.

O ka lā welawela o Kōʻieʻie

Of the very warm days of Kōʻieʻie

Ka nalu haʻi moku o Kalepolepo.

And the waves that break at Kalepolepo.

[Call Number: MS SC Roberts 2.3, Pg. 21]

Mele are an invaluable primary resource for Hawaiian scholarship and cultural connection. The Welo Hou: Building Connections to the Roberts Mele Collection project, funded in part by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, will improve the digitization, indexing, and accessibility of a unique and treasured collection of mele dating from pre-Western contact to the early 1900s. This pilot project will serve as a model for improved access to and increased engagement with the Bishop Museum Library & Archives’ other mele collections.

Welo Hou, or to unfurl once again, aims to provide more opportunities for researchers of all levels of Hawaiian language and cultural fluency to access the Roberts Collection with ease, and honors the connections between Hawaiian voices of the past and our community of the present.

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