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VIDEO: Hālau Mele Composes Entrance Chant, Mele for Mt. Ka‘ala

March 2, 2018, 8:51 AM HST (Updated March 7, 2018, 8:39 AM)
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Mele for Mt. Ka‘ala. PC: DLRN

O‘ahu’s highest point, Mt. Ka‘ala, at 4,025 feet above sea level is most often shrouded in fog and mist.

The flat-top mountain in the Wai‘anae Mountains hosts numerous native and rare plants and animals and is culturally significant. The 1,100-acre area of rugged mountain terrain was placed under the protection of the State’s Natural Area Reserve System in 1981.

To honor place and people, Hālau Mele composed an entrance chant and mele for Mt. Ka‘ala, as a gift to the staff of DLNR’s Natural Area Reserve System.

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The entrance chant, He Oli Kāhea no Kaʻala Ka Niʻo o Oʻahu, celebrates the signature tree of Ka‘ala; the Lapalapa, the fluttering tree of the summit. Composed by Nā Waʻa Lālani Kāhuna o Puʻu Koholā, the chant section of Hālau Mele under Kumu Sam ʻOhu Gon III, the chant recognizes Ka‘ala as home of Kaiona, who in Hawaiian culture is known as the beneficent goddess who guides travelers. She is referred to as ka wahine hele lā, the woman who goes by day. She, and the multitude of living denizens of Kaʻala provide inspiration and protection.

The hula, Haʻa Kaʻala i ka Moaʻe Kū, means Ka‘ala “dances in the strong tradewinds.” Gon describes it as, “a tempestuous mele, as befits Ka‘ala when strong trades blow and the plateau is marked by fast-moving cold mist and rain.”

It notes lehua as one of the dominant trees on the mountain and makole, a common herb found on the summit, growing on the ground amidst mosses. The mele also recognizes Kaiona as the patron goddess of travelers guiding them on the mountain’s fog-bound trails.

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The summit of the mountain has military communications and radar installations. However venture onto to the boardwalk trail and you can explore the native cloud forest and catch glimpses of the fragile community of Hawaiian plants and animals that have made Mt. Ka‘ala their home for countless generations and recognized by Hawaiians as the sacred wao akua, realm of the gods.

In recognizing the gift of the chant and mele to the NARS, DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “We are honored that Hālau Mele created and performed these special gifts to our staff to recognize their daily efforts to protect and preserve Ka‘ala and the other 20 natural area reserves around the state. These works link the natural and cultural worlds, which is in complete alignment with DLNR’s mission and goals.”

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