[Hawaiian man digging sweet potatoes; Maui, Hawaiʻi. Photo by Ray Jerome Baker. SD_35158.]

Kaulana mai nei Kaulaokeahi

I ka ho‘olewa aku nei o Kūhelemai.
Attended the funeral of Kūhelemai.

A play on ho‘olewa (to lift) and kū hele mai (stand up and come), meaning that we stood up and lifted the beer down our throats. An expression used by the sweet potato beer drinkers of Lahaina, Maui.
Selection no. 1181 from Mary Kawena Pukui’s “ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings,” ©1983 by Bishop Museum.

‘Uala ‘awa‘awa, or sweet potato beer, was prepared by cooking, peeling, and mashing sweet potatoes. Mixing the mashed sweet potato with water, it was then left in a jar or barrel for a few days until the process of fermentation was complete.

Referred to in this mele as “the liquid that makes the body limp,” the composer begins by describing the various sensations of consuming ‘uala ‘awa‘awa and the relaxing effects it has on the body.

(Mele translation by Mary Kawena Pukui)

Kaulana mai nei Kaulaokeahi,
Famous is Kaulaokeahi,

Ke pola ʻuwala piʻi i ka lani.
For the bowl of sweet potato (brew) raised to the sky.

Ka pipiʻi nō ia a ke kīʻaha
Bubbling within the glass

Me ka wai haʻi malule i ke kino.
Is the liquid that makes the body limp.

Noho maila i ka pākipa,
There sits the barkeeper,

Pūniu ʻuwala hoʻomoemoe.
With a coconut shell full of the sleep-causing potato brew.

I laila wau a i ʻike iho ai
That is where I discovered

Hauwalaʻau ʻana hoʻi nā manu.
The loud clamoring of the birds.

Ui aku wau iā Kupuohi
I turn to question Kupuohi

Holoholokulani kaʻu kuaʻana.
And Holoholokulani my elder brother.

Pai mai nei [nā] keiki hele wale
The wandering boys encourage

Kuʻu aku ʻoe lā i ka nanahe.
One to let go very gently.

Puʻuwai kēia o Lōkālia
This is the heart of Lōkālia

ʻO ka lā leʻaleʻa o Halāliʻi.
Who enjoys the celerations of Halāliʻi.

Hoʻoheno mai ana ʻoe, ē ka ulua,
You make love to me, O ulua fish,

Ulua liʻiliʻi, hukihuki mai,
Little ulua fish, gently pulled in,

ʻO ke kau a ka lā a i nā pali,
The sun now rests over the cliffs,

E hoʻi kākou ua ahiahi.
Let us go home for evening is here.

Haʻina ka puana hone i ka wai
This is the end of my song

Ke pola ʻuwala piʻi i ka lani.
Of the bowl of potato brew raised to the sky.

[Call Number: MS SC Roberts 3.10, pg. 83-84a, 85b-87a]

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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