Contributors of mele to Helen Roberts’ collection at Bishop Museum, 1924.

MELE, LEGEND CONTRIBUTORS ARE THANKED

Hawaiian Folklore Commission Names Many Islanders

YEAR’S COMPILATION

The names of many well-known residents of the various island communities have been mentioned in a report which Miss Helen H. Roberts has recently sent from the mainland. Miss Roberts left Hawaii some weeks ago after spending a year in the compilation of a collection of ancient music and meles for the Hawaiian Legends and Folklore Commission.

The contributors of meles or music by recitation are mentioned in one group and the contributors of written collections are mentioned in another: Continue reading

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Welo Hou and the Helen H. Roberts Collection at the Bishop Museum, 2018.

It seems the Welo Hou blog has been up since November of 2017, with posts every Monday. If you are a mele person, or a history person, or are from Hawaii nei, you should check it out and start a dialogue! This is its opening post from last year [click anywhere below to link to the blog]:

Welo Hou: Building Connections to the Helen Roberts Mele Collection

 How has mele informed your understanding of a Hawaiian worldview?

As I ponder this question framed within the context of the above quote, my mind begins to churn with examples stemming from my own life and learning experiences. I recall my early childhood years in keiki hula class where I proudly chanted “Kūnihi ka mauna” while oblivious to the meaning of the words that were resonating from my mouth. Yet even in my naivety, I understood the function and purpose of that oli kahea. Though my mind was too young to comprehend the arbitrary words formed by my lips, I was fully aware that I had to be focused and present-minded in order to be granted permission into the hālau. This is a small example of how, even at 5 years old, mele/oli had already begun to shape my perspective to be one that reflects a Hawaiian way of thinking and behaving. “Kūnihi ka mauna” followed me into the academic arena where I eventually learned how to dissect the mele word for word, structure by structure, phrase by phrase, and sound by sound. I learned about the different places referenced in the mele and discovered the kaona behind words. I came to know the story by which the mele was inspired and I internalized the knowledge gained through the deconstruction and reconstruction of this mele. I share these thoughts with the hope that we can collectively become even more conscious of the way in which mele is able to shed light on aspects that are often considered obscure in research and Hawaiian knowledge acquisition.

                As we meet here weekly for Mele Monday, I invite you to ponder deeply on the pieces we will discuss from the Roberts’ Mele Collection over the next two years. The purpose of this blog is to cultivate a community of mele enthusiasts who would like to dialogue about the gems uncovered from within the mele we will explore over the coming weeks. Please feel free to ask questions, share manaʻo, and post comments that will contribute to the facilitation of thoughtful and respectful discourse.

                If you feel so inclined, I invite you to leave a comment expressing your thoughts on the quote and question posed above. 

E hea i ke kanaka e komo ma loko…..

Helen H. Roberts, ethnomusicologist, collecting mele from across the islands, 1923.

SOMETHING WORTHWHILE HELPING

In this past Legislative session, $5,000 was set aside for the cost to prepare a book of “Ancient Hawaiian Music”. This endeavor has been given to Kamehameha School, and they are now utilizing this to preserve the “old mele olioli” of Hawaii nei. Miss Helen H. Roberts has been sent by the Trustees of the Kamehameha School to go amongst the Hawaiians and to search out ancient mele of Hawaii nei.

She is accompanied by a phonograph [ponotalapa (ipu malama olelo)], and is looking to have people chant ancient mele into the phonograph and to record and save it for generations to come. Not only mele olioli are being sought after, but also wanted are mele hula hoaeae of the Hawaiians. Many years from now the people who know these old mele will be gone, but these mele olioli and mele hoaeae will become something to look back to the history of the Hawaiian Lahui.

This will be something that will look for where the Hawaiians came from, whereas also being sought are mele of other Polynesians while comparing these ancient mele with the ancient mele of Hawaii.

This is something that the old people who are fluent for instance in the old mele hoaeae of Hawaii nei should assist in.

This is not being done for monetary profit, but to seek the ancient things of the beloved Kupuna of this Lahui; and for all Hawaiians who have pride in the fame of their Lahui, there is no reason for them to withhold these ancient things of the Kupuna and to go to the grave without leaving these blessings for those coming after them. We ask Rev. W. M. Kalaiwaa and Rev. William Kamau of the Kohala districts to support this great endeavor for the acclaim of the Hawaiian Lahui. We are also helping to move this project along with what little we have, being that this will help to perpetuate the great Moolelo of the Hawaiian People.

[The opening to the book “Ancient Hawaiian Music” reads:

A survey of ancient Hawaiian music was conducted, 1923–24, by Miss Helen H. Roberts under the auspices of the Hawaiian Folk-Lore Commission represented by John R. Galt, chairman; Edna J. Hill, secretary; Mrs. Emma Ahuena Taylor, Hawaiian member. In cooperation with the Commission, manuscripts resulting from the survey are published by Bernice P. Bishop Museum.]

(Hoku o Hawaii, 12/6/1923, p. 2)

HE HANA MAIKAI E KOKUA IA

Ka Hoku o Hawaii, Buke XVII, Helu 28, Aoao 2. Dekemaba 6, 1923.