Honoring the King Who Unified the Hawaiian Islands

Kamehameha the Great

Kamehameha the Great unified the Hawaiian Islands

On Monday, June 12 the state of Hawai’i observes King Kamehameha Day, one of two holidays that recognize Hawaiian royalty (Prince Kuhio Day is the other). The holiday is usually celebrated on the king’s birthday of June 11 but this year the date falls on a Sunday (so the holiday is Monday).

King Kamehameha 1 aka Kamehameha the Great unified the Hawaiian Islands to form the Kingdom of Hawai’i in 1810. He ruled until his death in 1819 and the monarchy continued until the overthrow of Queen Lili’uokalani in 1893.

Kamehameha’s grandson, Lot Kapuaiwa aka Kamehameha V, established the first King Kamehameha Day on June 11, 1872. The commoners attended fairs, carnivals, horse races and more to honor their former king. When Hawai’i became a state in 1959, the state legislature continued the royal holiday.

Today on Maui, there is a parade in Lahaina and a commemorative march in Kahului. The parade includes marching bands, colorful floats, and pa’u riders on horseback culminating at the famous Banyan Tree Park for a Ho’olaule’a (public party featuring Hawaiian foods, entertainment, and crafts). The march is organized by the Royal Order of Kamehameha and includes members of the four royal societies marching solemnly down Ka’ahumanu Avenue to honor the king’s memory. I have participated in several marches as a member of Ahahui Ka’ahumanu, a royal society of Native Hawaiian women honoring Queen Ka’ahumanu, the favorite wife of King Kamehameha.

On Oahu, there is a lei draping ceremony at King Kamehameha’s statue at Ali’iolani Hale, the annual King Kamehameha Hula Competition at Blaisdell Arena, and the floral parade in Waikiki. The King Kamehameha Celebration Floral Parade is the longest parade in the state.

On the Big Island of Hawai’i, there is a lei draping ceremony at the original statue of King Kamehameha at his birthplace in North Kohala followed by a Ho’olaule’a, and the Kamehameha Festival in Hilo.

Read more about Kamehameha Day festivities in 2017.

‘UKULELE PLAYERS can learn to play two songs honoring King Kamehameha:

  1. Na Ali’i, a traditional Hawaiian song written by Samuel Kuahiwi in 1928 in praise of the chiefs and includes two of their famous sayings. Purchase the single song and download the PDF song sheet with Hum Ding-Ah Strum, video lesson, audio recording, and video story behind the song in keeping with Hawaiian oral history traditions. Buy Now.
  2. King Kamehameha the Conqueror of the Islands, a hapa haole song written by Johnny Noble and Ted Fiorito in 1934, tells the story in English. Listen to the audio recording in the free online Fan Club and then schedule private lessons by webcam or on Maui to get the PDF song sheet with I Wanna Rest Strum and 4 And Strum and to learn how to play it.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

First Mother’s Day Without Mom

May Day Queen

Mom and me celebrating my being crowned May Day Queen in 6th grade because of academic achievements

My memories of mom are of standing next to the piano and beating time with her hands like a human metronome as I practiced playing songs. I started piano lessons when I was 7-years-old, and continued all the way through high school and into college at the Conservatory of Music at University of Pacific in Stockton, California. Along the way, I learned ‘ukulele, taught myself to play guitar, and entertained audiences. All of our family parties involved gathering around the piano and playing music.

Read more about growing up in Hawaii.

On February 10, 2017 my mom passed away making me a motherless child (my dad died on August 14, 2012.) On March 10, during my mom’s Celebration of Life, I presented a 6-minute slideshow movie titled “Fong Family Memories – A Tribute To My Parents.” The slideshow chronicled 93 years of my mom’s life and gives a sense of where I come from. It was hard to talk about my mom without also talking about my dad as they were married for 68 years when he passed away. It’s easy to see the musical influence and joy of making music that my parents instilled in me from a young age. In the background you’ll hear the music of Kui Lee singing “Days of My Youth” which he wrote when he was dying from cancer and dedicated to his son.

View the tribute on my YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/OfslGCy4uc4

Another memory of my mom was feeling her pride when I was crowned May Day queen for a day in 6th grade when I was selected based on scholastic achievement by my elementary school teachers for the annual program. In Hawaii, May 1st is celebrated with May Day school programs including a royal king and queen, and princesses representing the 8 Hawaiian Islands. It was a big deal to be selected as Queen. Our royal court sat underneath the shade of the huge monkey pod tree while children from classes K-6 performed Hawaiian dances for us. Today, elementary schools stagger their May Day programs throughout the month rather than only on May 1st.

This year we are celebrating Mother’s Day with friends Jim and Julie Bills who are visiting from Brisbane, Australia. We had them over to our house for a jam session after they attended my Sing-Along with Mele Fong series: Flower and Lei Songs on Thursday, May 4th. Read the program review and see their picture.

I remember my dad saying, “Music is the universal language. It will open doors for you.” How true that is as we continue to make musical connections and friends with people from all over the world.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Celebrate May Day in Hawaii

www.UkuleleMeleOnMaui.com

May Day is Lei Day in Hawai’i

May 1st is also known as “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii.” Invented in 1927, writer and poet Don Blanding wrote an article in the local paper suggesting that a holiday be created around the Hawaiian custom of making and wearing lei. Fellow writer Grace Tower Warren came up with the idea of a holiday on May 1st in conjunction with May Day. She is also responsible for the phrase “May Day is Lei Day.”

The first Lei Day was held on May 1, 1928 and everyone in Honolulu was encouraged to wear lei, and festivities were held downtown with hula, music, lei making demos and exhibits and contest.

On May 4th, I am presenting a program about flower and lei songs as we celebrate May Day on Maui. The program is part of my Sing-Along with Mele Fong series from 10 a.m. – noon at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better. The program evokes the feeling of sing-along with Mitch Miller programs as the lyrics and ‘ukulele chords are projected on the large screen in front of room for everyone to follow. ‘Ukulele players are invited to bring instruments to play along. Lunch is optional. Call Kaunoa at 808-270-7308 to sign up.

Live away from Maui? There are several ways to learn to play Hawaiian and hapa haole songs from me:

  1. Visit my online Fan Club and listen to audio recordings of songs you can learn to play via private webcam lessons.
  2. Select a packaged song set of book/DVD/CD of 6 songs with 8 different strumming styles to learn off-line.
  3. Download a single song lesson to your digital device and get only the song you want to learn to play.
  4. Purchase online lessons for self study via a One Month Trial or Subscribe to the Recurring Monthly Package.

For more about May Day in Hawaii, visit http://gohawaii.about.com/cs/festivals/a/lei_day_hawaii.htm

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Sing Flower and Lei Songs for May Day

www.UkuleleMeleOnMaui.com

Celebrate May Day with Ukulele Mele

In celebration of May Day, join us for the next Sing-Along with Mele Fong series as we learn flower and lei songs on Thursday, May 4 from 10 a.m. – noon at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better. The program evokes the feeling of sing-along with Mitch Miller programs as the lyrics and ‘ukulele chords are projected on the large screen in front of room for everyone to follow. ‘Ukulele players are invited to bring instruments to play along. Lunch is optional. Call Kaunoa at 808-270-7308 to register for the program on Maui.

Listen to our recording of the hapa haole song “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii” at http://ukulelemeleonmaui.com/images/fullaudio/MayDay.mp3  and then learn how to play it via private ‘ukulele lessons with me via private webcam lessons from the comfort of your home.

May 1st is also known as “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii.” Invented in 1927, writer and poet Don Blanding wrote an article in the local paper suggesting that a holiday be created around the Hawaiian custom of making and wearing lei. Fellow writer Grace Tower Warren came up with the idea of a holiday on May 1st in conjunction with May Day. She is also responsible for the phrase “May Day is Lei Day.”

The first Lei Day was held on May 1, 1928 and everyone in Honolulu was encouraged to wear lei, and festivities were held downtown with hula, music, lei making demos and exhibits and contest.

Originally from Oklahoma, Don Blanding is also credited with inventing the custom of tossing your lei overboard when you sailed from Honolulu. If the lei came back to shore, it meant you would return.

For more about May Day in Hawaii, visit

For more information about my classes offered at Kaunoa Senior Center, click here.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Celebrate Earth Day at Haiku Flower Festival

www.UkuleleMeleOnMaui.com

Celebrate Earth Day at Haiku Flower Festival Saturday

This year’s Earth Day on Saturday, April 22, happens to fall on the same day as the 24th Annual Haiku Ho’olaule’a and Festival on Maui. Hours are 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Haiku Elementary School. This free local festival benefits the school, Haiku Community Association, and the Boys & Girls Club Maui-Hailku. It is one of the biggest events of the year, attracting over 7,000 attendees in past years. Entertainment runs all day including Richard Ho’opii who sings traditional Hawaiian songs and plays ‘ukulele along with his family at 11 .am. In past years, I have worked a booth to educate people about invasive plants and animals that threaten our environment. Now I get to go and “just have fun.” Visit http://haikuhoolaulea.org/ for the entertainment lineup and more.

“Founded in 1970 as a day of education about environmental issues, Earth Day is now a globally celebrated holiday that is sometimes extended into Earth Week, a full seven days of events focused on green awareness. The brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson and inspired by the antiwar protests of the late 1960s, Earth Day was originally aimed at creating a mass environmental movement. It began as a “national teach-in on the environment” and was held on April 22 to maximize the number of students that could be reached on university campuses. By raising public awareness of air and water pollution, Nelson hoped to bring environmental causes into the national spotlight.” Visit http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/earth-day for more on the history of Earth Day.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Fong Family Memories – Tribute to My Parents

www.UkuleleMeleOnMaui.com

My musical beginnings

On February 10, 2017 my mom passed away making me a motherless child (since my dad had passed away on August 14, 2012.) On March 10, during my mom’s Celebration of Life, I presented a 6-minute slideshow movie titled “Fong Family Memories – A Tribute To My Parents.” The slideshow chronicled 93 years of her life and gives a sense of where I come from. It’s easy to see the musical influence and joy of making music that my parents instilled in me from a young age. In the background you’ll hear the music of Kui Lee singing “Days of My Youth” which he wrote when he was dying from cancer and dedicated to his son.

View the tribute on my YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/OfslGCy4uc4

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Prince Kuhio Day 2017

www.UkuleleMeleOnMaui.com

Sample of my 2016 program on Prince Kuhio

The State of Hawaii designates two state holidays for Hawaiian royalty, March 26 for Kuhio Day and June 11 for Kamehameha Day. Kuhio Day honors Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, one of Hawai’i’s best known leaders. Kamehameha Day honors King Kamehameha the Great (aka the 1st), who united the islands into one kingdom in 1810. Both holidays fall on the actual birthdays of the leaders although statewide celebrations may occur on other days.

This year Prince Kuhio Day falls on the last Sunday of the month and is observed on Monday, March 27 when state and county offices will be closed. Some people commemorate Prince Kuhio by attending special services at Oahu’s Royal Mausoleum where he is buried. Others may attend festivals including statewide canoe races, cultural demonstrations and luaus. In previous years I have given oral history talks and sing-alongs of songs popular during the Prince’s lifetime (1871-1922) at Hale Ho’ike’ike at the Bailey House and at Kaunoa Senior Center (see sample title slide from a presentation in 2016).

Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, heir to the throne of the kingdom of Hawaii, prince of the house of Kalākaua, is best remembered for his efforts to improve the lives of the people of Hawai’i. In 1902, Kuhio was elected as Hawai’’s second territorial delegate to the U.S. congress where he served for 10 consecutive terms lasting nearly 20 years until his death. Kuhio was the first Native Hawaiian and the only person elected to the U.S. congress that was born a royal. As a delegate, Kuhio authored the first Hawai’i Statehood bill in 1919. He also won passage of the Hawaiian Homes Act in 1921 which created the Hawaiian Homes Commission and set aside 200,000 acres of land for Native Hawaiian homesteaders. Kuhio’s legacy lives on today in two Native Hawaiian organizations, the Royal Order of Kamehameha which he restored in 1903 and the Hawaiian Civic Clubs which he started in 1918.

Prince Kuhio was born March 26, 1871 on the island of Kauai. His mother was Queen Kapiolani’s sister and his father was the ruling chief and son of the last high chief of Kauai. When Kuhio’s mother died soon after his birth, his Aunt Queen Kapiolani and Uncle King David Kalakaua hanaied (adopted) Kuhio and his brother David Kawananakoa into their family. Kuhio’s cousin Queen Lili’uokalani named him heir to the throne, and thus he was given the title of “prince.” Kuhio married Elizabeth Kahanu and they lived in Waikiki near the present day Kuhio beach. They had no children. Prince Kuhio died on January 7, 1922 at the age of 51 on Oahu.

In 1949, the legislature of the Territory of Hawai’i established Prince Kuhio Day as an official holiday. Today, various landmarks, streets, beaches, and buildings in Hawai’i are named after Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole. A statue of Prince Kuhio by sculptor Sean K.L. Browne was dedicated on January 12, 2002 in Waikiki on Oahu. As a teenager, I used to go paipo boarding (form of surfing) at nearby Kuhio Beach.

Now you know a little about the cultural significance of one of Hawai’i’s state holidays, Prince Kuhio Day that is celebrated on March 26.

Keep traditional Hawaiian music alive!

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Chinese New Year 2017

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year began Jan. 28

Chinese New Year – the Year of the Rooster – began the day before my birthday on January 28, 2017 and will last until February 15, 2018. “Kung Hee Fat Choy” (Cantonese) is how we greet each other in Hawaii. What’s the difference between celebrating Chinese New Year and the regular New Year in Hawaii? Look for red firecracker paper strewn around a person’s driveway and the evidence will show you whose house is a Chinese house. Growing up in Hawaii, I remember the fun of burning firecrackers to ward off the evil spirits. Plus there were certain types of traditional foods that we had to eat, for example jai, or monk’s food, along with gau.

When we celebrated regular New Year’s, it was more about going from one relative’s house to another and burning sparklers. We would eat traditional Japanese food at one house, then traditional Chinese at another, and end up with Portuguese soup at neighbors after midnight. What fun we had! When I got older, I would go with friends to watch the aerial fireworks light up the sky, but it was hard to breathe because of all the smoke.

People born in the Year of the Rooster are characterized as honest, energetic, intelligent, flexible and confident. I was born in the Year of the Sheep which means I am tasteful, crafty, warm, elegant, charming, intuitive, sensitive, and calm.[1] There are many resources about the Chinese zodiac and what the signs mean (if you believe that sort of thing).

One year we were in San Francisco on Chinese New Year and it was great to watch the parade and enjoy the festivities. You don’t need to be Chinese to enjoy the celebration.

Read more stories about growing up in Hawaii.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/chinese-new-year-2017-year-rooster-celebrate-london-today/

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou

www.UkuleleMeleOnMaui.com

Learn ‘ukulele from a Native Hawaiian

In Hawai’i we say Hau’oli Makahiki Hou to say Happy New Year. “In ancient Hawaii, the Makahiki Season was a celebration of abundance of land and sea and the accomplishments of the Hawaiian People. It was the time for healing, new growth, a time of peace and spiritual cleansing of the Hawaiian mind, sound and heart, in celebration of life.”[1] The season lasted approximately four months between November and February.

In the spirit of the Makahiki Season, I offer you a Hawaiian cultural connection through the perpetuation of playing Hawaiian music on the ‘ukulele. Live the Hawaiian culture from wherever you live. Learn to play the ‘ukulele, Hawai’i’s official instrument, from a Native Hawaiian with over 50 years of ‘ukulele playing and performing experience.

For all of you homesick Hawaiians and Hawaiians-at-heart living away from Hawai’i, learn the old Hawaiian songs in a new way. Get my song arrangements with unique strums for the ‘ukulele.

  • Can’t pronounce the Hawaiian words? No need to.
  • Forgot the melody? We sing so you can focus on playing along.
  • Curious about the story behind the song? Watch the video story and/or read the song sheets.

Celebrate the Makahiki Season with Ukulele Mele!

Read more how Ka’anapali Beach Hotel celebrates the Makahiki season. We have attended Hawaiian cultural events at the hotel and appreciate the local feel of the place.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

[1] http://www.hawaiiculture.com/cms/View.aspx/Show/Makahiki

Celebration of Life in Arizona

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The Hawaiian Serenaders perform in Arizona for a Celebration of Life program for 40 guests

“In This Life” and “I’ll Remember You” were two songs that we performed for our friend Rod Minami’s celebration of life program on Sunday, October 2, 2016 in Tucson, Arizona. We selected the songs because they are popular in Hawaii and Rod grew up in Hawaii. Rod’s wife JoAn (originally from Iowa) planned the outdoor event at their home and gardens covering 1-acre and forty guests attended. After the formal program, we sang 2 more local songs and then the rains came. “It’s a blessing,” we told JoAn. In Hawaii, it is common belief that a light rain after an event is a good thing. For us, flying from Maui to Arizona to help JoAn was the right thing to do.

My husband Rich and I have been friends with Rod and JoAn for over 20 years since our days living in Maryland and working in Washington, D.C. They attended our wedding on September 3, 1994 and we attended their wedding on October 2, 1999. In February 1999 we had a joint 60th birthday party for the guys as they were born in the same year just weeks apart. We moved to Maui in 2000 and they moved to Arizona in 2004. We visited them in Tucson in 2005 and they visited us on Maui numerous times.

We specifically chose the two songs for Rod’s program because of the meaningful words. The day before the program as we practiced the songs, we had a hard time playing through our tears as we thought about the words. I knew we had to get our emotions out so we could play the songs the next day without choking up. The power of music can help us grieve the death of a good friend and deal with the hurt, hope, and heal to move on. Rod died on March 29, 2016 at 77 years-old.

Listen to an audio recording we made of “In This Life” that you can learn to play the Ukulele Mele Way with private ukulele lessons on Maui or via webcam from wherever you live.

Listen to an audio recording we made of “I’ll Remember You” that you can learn to play the Ukulele Mele Way with private ukulele lessons on Maui or via webcam from wherever you live.

Watch the video of The Hawaiian Serenaders performing “I’ll Remember You” on my YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/xktYwrnf-xo or visit my facebook page.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele