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

April 26 Lahaina Library Show


Learn about the history of the ‘ukulele and enjoy a concert

The Hawaiian Serenaders will be presenting a program History of the ‘Ukulele and Concert on Wednesday, April 26 at 10:30 a.m. at Lahaina Public Library. Come and learn about the ‘ukulele, Hawaii’s official instrument, including the types, parts, tuning, and how playing the ‘ukulele has evolved. Discover the stories behind the songs and enjoy a musical mixed plate concert as we embark on a musical journey through time. The program is sponsored by UH Statewide Cultural Extension Program and thus free to the public. Join us!

History of the ‘Ukulele and Concert
by The Hawaiian Serenaders
Wednesday, April 26, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.
Lahaina Public Library
680 Wharf Street

Read more about The Hawaiian Serenaders

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Prince Kuhio Day 2017


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

Queen Ka’ahumanu Festival March 18


The Hawaiian Serenaders return to Ka’ahumanu Center

The Hawaiian Serenaders will be performing on Saturday, March 18 at 1:00 p.m. as part of the Queen’s Festival happening Friday and Saturday at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center in Kahului. On Friday night, the Ahahui Ka’ahumanu presents an annual program celebrating the Queen’s birthday with history, hula, song, and draping of leis on the Queen’s statue. On Saturday there will be special performances on stage. It makes sense that the Center would celebrate its namesake with special cultural activities.

Queen Elisabeth Ka’ahumanu was Hawaii’s first female monarch. She reigned for 55 years, making her the longest reigning monarch in Hawaii. A tall woman, Queen Ka’ahumanu was noted for her intelligence, beauty, and fearlessness. More than any other woman in Hawaiian history, Queen Ka’ahumanu created changes in society that continue to impact our lives today.

Elisabeth Ka’ahumanu was a Maui girl, born on March 17, 1768 in a cave in Hana. This was during the period of competition between warrior ali’i families to rule the islands. Thus, Ka’ahumanu’s ali’i parents of Maui and Hawai’i islands hid her so she would not be kidnapped or killed. Ka’ahumanu’s name means “feather cloak.”

Promised at a young age in marriage to Kamehameha, Ka’ahumanu became the king’s favorite wife as he united the Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom in 1810. After Kamehameha the 1st died in 1819, Ka’ahumanu created the office of kuhina nui or co-ruler with his young son Liholiho who became the next king. In this unique role, Ka’ahumanu moved from influence to political power.

Ka’ahumanu began the abolishment of the kapu system, the traditional system of religious laws, when she sat down to eat with King Liholiho and broke the law that forbade men and women from eating together. Thus, the Queen changed the daily lives of Hawaiians forever.

Ka’ahumanu was among the first ali’i to convert to Christianity. When the American Protestant missionaries arrived in 1820, she embraced them and encouraged her people to do the same. Ka’ahumanu was one of the original founders of Kawaiaha’o Church on Oahu. Ka’ahumanu wanted a church built and named after her in Wailuku, Maui, but the structure was not completed until after she died.

Ka’ahumanu learned to read, ordered schools built on all the islands, and made books available to the commoners. Opened in 1831, Lahainaluna School on Maui is the oldest high school west of the Rockies. The literacy rate was higher in Hawai’i than across America.


Mele is a member of Ahahui Ka’ahumanu

Ka’ahumanu adopted the black dress worn by the women missionaries and for which the Ahahui Ka’ahumanu regalia is identified. The Ahahui, a royal society of Native Hawaiian women, has been honoring Queen Ka’ahumanu for over a century with chapters on every island. I was sponsored into Chapter IV, Wailuku, Maui, in September 2004 and have served as historian giving oral stories of Hawaiian royalty and their contributions at general membership meetings. Our annual program at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center is one of the few Hawaiian cultural activities open to the public.

This year as a member of the Ahahui Ka’ahumanu I am proud to be offering Hawaiian music entertainment on stage on Saturday as part of the 2017 Queen’s Festival. The Hawaiian Serenaders will play our mix of traditional Hawaiian and hapa haole songs on ‘ukulele and u-bass with unique rhythms and harmonies. Come and see us if you can.

Keep Hawaiian music alive from wherever you live:

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou


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

Review Four Royals History and Song Program


Before the program started, ‘ukulele student Dolly presented Mele with a puakenikeni lei she made.

“This is for you,” said Dolly Ching as she presented a puakenikeni lei that she made from flowers in her yard. “We’re so proud of you,” said Barbara Fernandez as she put a red hibiscus lei around my neck. I think she was referring to the recent article “A Song in Her Heart” published about me in The Maui News on October 14, 2016 (see the online version or download PDF version).

Eighteen people came to my program on Na Lani Eha: The Four Royals on Thursday, October 27, 2016 at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better. This was the 4th of 4 programs in my Hawaiian History Series for 2016 and replaced the previously scheduled program for April that was cancelled due to sickness.

The program was in two parts. The first part was about each of the siblings: King David Kalākaua, Queen Lili’uokalani, Princess Miriam Likelike, and Prince William Pitt Leleiohōku. The second part was a sing-along and ‘ukulele play-along of a song from each of the four royal composers. The PowerPoint presentation lasted 80 minutes through 59 slides.

Click on the song titles to listen to audio samples:

  1. Koni Au I Ka Wai, written by King David Kalākaua in 1888, is a party song.
  2. Kaulana Na Pua, written by Ellen Prendergast in 1893, supports Queen Lili’uokalani after the overthrow of the monarchy.
  3. Ku’uipo I Ka He’e Pu’e One, written by Princess Likelike in the 1800s, is a love song and her best known composition.
  4. Hawaiian War Chant, written by Prince Leleiohōku in the 1860s and titled “We Two in Spray”, is a love song about two palace lovers who met in secret. In 1936, composer Johnny Noble borrowed the melody, Ralph Freed added English lyrics, and renamed the song Hawaiian War Chant.
  5. Hawaii Aloha, written in the 1800s by Reverend Lorenzo Lyons, tells about love for the islands.

Barbara gives Mele a red hibiscus lei

New this time, I talked through the entire first part lecture without reading from my script and opened it up to questions. I received favorable feedback after the program about how smooth and more personal it was when I talked “off the cuff.” I guess I surprised myself at how much I know about Hawaiian history that I was able to speak confidently without referring to my notes.

Once again, my husband accompanied the sing-along portion of the program by playing his u-bass. We did 5 songs including Hawaii Aloha as the traditional song to end the program. For each song I told the story behind the song in keeping with Hawaiian oral history traditions, taught everyone how to pronounce the Hawaiian lyrics, and then led everyone in singing the song twice (once to become familiar with the tune, and then once more to gain confidence).

What a kick to see my current ‘ukulele students all sitting together and having fun. I was also happy to see new faces and new ‘ukulele players playing along. Before the program started, I made a point of talking to new people and was surprised to recognize a couple that we had met at a Chinese Club New Year’s dinner last February. They commute back and forth between Seattle, Washington and Maui where they live in the same condo complex as one of my students. They told me they enjoyed themselves at my first program and had signed up for more classes during my Ukulele Mele Music Week coming up in November.


My ‘ukulele students enjoy sitting together to have more fun

‘Ukulele players can learn to play all the songs we did at the program by subscribing to Complete Monthly Online Lessons for Advanced players via the One Month Trial or Recurring Monthly Package. You can also learn a few songs offline via my packaged song sets with book/DVD/CD. The song Ku’uipo I Ka He’e Pu’e One is available in Nostalgic Hawaiian Songs Volume One. The songs Koni Au, Hawaii Aloha, and Hawaiian War Chant are available in Nostalgic Hawaiian Songs Volume Two.

(See photo galleries from past history programs)

(See other oral history programs)

(See past Kaunoa Senior Center programs)

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

The Overthrow

Hawaiian history comes alive Saturday

Hawaiian history comes alive Saturday

This Saturday, September 17, we’ll be going to see a production about the overthrow of the kingdom of Hawai’i in 1893. I find it interesting that the date for the production is during the month of September which is the month Hawai’i’is last reigning monarch, Queen Lili’uokalani was born. As a Native Hawaiian and teacher of Hawaiian history, I’m looking forward to learning from the presentation in order to keep my knowledge about Hawaiian history sharp. Plus, I love creative presentations of difficult subjects.

Last year we missed the production Trial of a Queen which the Hawai’i Pono’i Coalition brought to Maui. The same group is bringing this new production Mai Poina: The Overthrow to Maui.

The promotional materials say “This production tells the story of the tumultuous last four days of the Hawaiian monarchy from the perspective of the people most concerned: native Hawaiians and other citizens of the kingdom. Newly conceived for the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, history comes alive to inform and inspire. An open discussion with Hawaiian scholars follows the performance.”

For a link to Hawaiian songs and stories that I teach online and on Maui, click here.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Hawaiian Songs Class Reviewed


Hawaiian Songs for ‘Ukulele 1 class less 3 students

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for a wonderful experience in your Hawaiian Songs 1 class. I did not expect to learn as many useful techniques for playing ukulele Hawaiian style, plus learning some very challenging strums. The selection of traditional Hawaiian songs was great, and your presentation was excellent. Perhaps the best part of the class is that it was fun. I am looking forward to the Hawaiian Songs 2 class. Mahalo nui loa.” —-Kip Bowley (standing far right), Maui, 27 August, 2016.

“Thanks for allowing me into your Hawaiian songs class. I mainly signed up for this class in hopes of improving my performance of Hawaiian songs and especially trying to improve my Olapa strumming technique. This class has helped me with the pronunciation of the Hawaiian language in son and the different strums. All the information about the background of the songs has been so educational for me. I look forward to more classes in the future. Thanks again!! Mahalo.” —Charles Calvan (sitting far right), Maui, 27 August, 2016.


Book/DVD/CD packaged set by Ukulele Mele

I received the above written comments about my Hawaiian Songs for ‘Ukulele One class that met on four Mondays for 2-hours each day at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better. We used my newly revised ‘Ukulele Strums for Nostalgic Hawaiian Songs Volume One packaged set with book/DVD/CD for the curriculum. Eleven students signed up, with half being brand new students. All but one student is continuing into the next class, which I feel is a great testament.

Click on the song title to hear an audio sample from Nostalgic Hawaiian Songs Volume One:

1. Aloha ‘Oe with Morse Code Strum.
2. Hula O Makee with ‘Olapa Strum.
3. Ku’uipo I Ka He’e Pu’e One with Pick in 4 and Latin Strums.
4. Makalapua with I Wanna Rest Strum.
5. On The Beach At Waikiki with Hum Ding-Ah Strum.
6. Sanoe with Waltz Strum: Thumb Strum Up and Pick in 6 Strum.

If you want to learn Hawaiian songs from wherever you live, purchase the packaged set online for Nostalgic Hawaiian Songs Volume One and I will mail it to you.

The next Hawaiian songs for ‘ukulele class starts Monday, August 29 and uses the newly revised ‘Ukulele Strums for Nostalgic Hawaiian Songs Volume Two packaged set with book/DVD/CD for the curriculum. Purchase the set of Nostalgic Hawaiian Songs Volume Two, and I will mail it to you.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

5 Songs for September


Learn songs by Lili’uokalani for her birthday

To inspire you this month, here are 5 songs composed by Queen Lili’uokalani that you can that you can learn to play The Ukulele Mele Way as we celebrate the Queen’s birthday on September 5th. She was Hawai’i’s last monarch.




Click the song title to hear audio samples

  1. Sanoe – with Waltz: Thumb Strum Up and Pick in 6 Strums
  2. Ku’u Pua I Paoakalani – with Pick in 4 Strum
  3. Makalapua – with I Wanna Rest Strum
  4. Queen’s Jubilee – with Morse Code Strum
  5. Kaulana Na Pua – with Morse Code Strum

Here is how you can learn to play the 5 songs and more (get song sheet, video lessons and audio recordings)

  1. Subscribe to Complete Monthly Online Lessons for Advanced players to learn to play all 5 songs plus 45 others for 30 days at-a-time access. Plus, only online do you get the video stories behind the songs in keeping with Hawaiian oral history traditions whether the song is Hawaiian or not.
  2. Purchase Nostalgic Hawaiian Songs Volume One packaged song set of book/DVD/CD to learn Makalapua and Sanoe plus 4 other songs.
  3. Purchase Nostalgic Hawaiian Songs Volume Two packaged song set of book/DVD/CD to learn Ku’u Pua I Paoakalani plus 5 other songs.

How is my method unique?

  1. No need to read music to learn the Ukulele Mele Way.
  2. My method shows how to form chords without muscle strain, plus you learn unique strums taught nowhere else.
  3. I am an experienced educator and entertainer with over 50+ years playing the uke.
  4. I offer different ways online and offline line to learn from wherever you live in addition to lessons on Maui.
  5. I give free Fan Club access to 95 audio files of songs available to learn via private lessons on Maui or via webcam.

Questions? Contact me for general questions, or schedule a private webcam lesson  to get feedback from me about what you’re learning from the comfort of your home.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Kamehameha Day March This Saturday


I marched with my Ahahui Kaahumanu sisters on Kamehameha Day 2005

Saturday, June 11 is Kamehameha Day, the birthday of Hawai’i’s First King, and one of two state holidays honoring Hawaiian ali’i (royalty). I will be marching along with my Ahahui Ka’ahumanu sisters in the commemorative march organized by the Royal Order of Kamehameha. We are usually joined by members of the two other royal societies and friends as we march down Ka’ahumanu Avenue to Hoaloha Park to honor King Kamehameha’s memory on his actual birthday. This is not a parade with floats. In the top photo, here is the scene in front of me as we marched down the street. In the bottom photo, my Uncle Clifford Hashimoto as Ali’i Ai Moku, meaning the head of the statewide Royal Order of Kamehameha, gets ready to welcome participants at the end of the march. In turn, each head of the four royal societies says something during the ceremonies before we adjourn for lunch.

The first time I participated in the march was in 2005, after being initiated into the Ahahui Ka’ahumanu Chapter IV Wailuku in September 2004. Members are Native Hawaiian women who are sponsored into the organization that honors Queen Ka’ahumanu’s memory as favorite wife of Kamehameha and more. I am proud of my Hawaiian heritage. As past historian for the Ahahui, I used to give short 5-minute historical talks at membership meetings and at public events. I have since expanded those talks to 2-hour PowerPoint presentations that I present to the public to keep our Hawaiian stories and traditional music alive.


The royal societies gather in a circle at the end of the march

On January 11, I gave a presentation on Hawai’i’s First King as the first program in my Hawaiian History Series for 2016 at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better. We learned about Kamehameha who lived from 1758-1810, and sang 4 songs relating to him and the time period. Read more about the program.

Last year, I did an Oral History and Sing-Along Program on June 11, King Kamehameha’s actual birthday and state holiday, at the Bailey House Museum in Wailuku. The 2-hour program included a short lecture about the King and the singing of 9 traditional Hawaiian songs and the stories behind them in keeping with Hawaiian cultural traditions. Read more about the program.

One of the songs related to Kamehameha that ‘ukulele players can learn is Na Ali’i, a song written in 1928 by Samuel Kuahiwi in praise of the chiefs and includes two of their famous sayings. Subscribers to Complete Monthly Online Lessons can learn to play the song with my Hum Ding-Ah Strum, download the PDF song sheets, view the video lesson, play along with the audio recording, and watch the video story in the lesson along with 49 other lessons for 30 days at-a-time. Listen to an audio sample of Na Ali’i and learn more about subscribing to Complete Monthly Online Lessons to learn to play more Hawaiian songs.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele