History Behind Kamehameha Day

Kamehameha the Great

Kamehameha Unified The Islands

Kamehameha Day was first declared by King Kamehameha V on June 11, 1871 to honor his grandfather, Kamehameha the Great, on his birthday.  Kamehameha lived from June 11, 1758 – May 18,1819. The first observance of the holiday with parades and more was the following year. When Hawai’i became a state in 1959, Kamehameha Day was one of the two holidays honoring past royalty that were proclaimed by the governor and state legislature.

In 1997, I led the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Chorale during the annual Kamehameha Day program at our Nation’s Capitol in Washington, D.C. Kamehameha Schools was established in 1887 by the will of Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, great-granddaughter of Kamehameha the Great. The private school aims to produce industrious men and women of Native Hawaiian ancestry. Fellow alumnus U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka and U.S. House of Representative Neil Abercrombie both from Hawai’i participated in the program at the Capitol. Read more about the program here.

Kamehameha the Great unified the Hawaiian Islands into one kingdom in 1810. His dynasty lasted through five kings followed by King Kalākaua, King Lunalilo, and then Queen Lili’uokalani who was overthrown in 1893. Hawai’i is the only state of the United States to have had a monarchy and the only state where you can visit a palace where the monarchs once lived.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

State Holidays and Song for May

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State Holidays and Song is the title of the program on Wednesday, May 30 at Kaunoa Senior Center on Maui.

State Holidays and Song is the title of my program on Wednesday, May 30 from 10 a.m. – 12 noon at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better on Maui. We will learn about Kamehameha Day and Kuhio Day and the significance behind these two state holidays honoring Hawai’i’s royalty. Plus we will sing some songs related to the time period and learn the stories behind the songs in keeping with Hawaiian oral history traditions.

Participants can follow the song’s lyrics and ‘ukulele chords projected onto the large screen at the front of the room (similar to Sing-Along with Mitch Miller). All ‘ukulele players are invited to bring instruments to play along as I lead everyone by singing and playing my ‘ukulele while my husband accompanies us on ‘ukulele-bass.

Similar to the new additions in my Sing-Along with Mele Fong series, there is a slide before each song that shows the unique strum graphic (how we play the rhythm) and the chord shapes with corresponding finger numbers for playing the ‘ukulele. Don’t worry if you don’t know the ‘ukulele chords or the unique strumming pattern for the songs. The focus is on learning Hawaiian history, singing the songs, finding out the stories behind them, and enjoying the group experience.

Lunch is optional and a good time to sit around and talk story with like minded people who enjoy Hawaiian history, singing, and playing the ‘ukulele.

This program is the second of the new Hawaiian History and Song series for 2018 on the 5th Wednesdays of the month. The next program is titled Legacies of Hawaiian Leaders scheduled for August 29.

Aloha, Mele Fong, aka Ukulele Mele

History Behind May Day in Hawaii

May Day Queen

Mom and Mele on May Day 1967

“May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii” is a song and a special occasion celebrated on the first of May in Hawaii Nei. The song was composed by Leonard “Red” Hawk in 1928 for the first Lei Day festival. Later in 1943, the composer adapted the words to the times and wrote “My War Lei” to emphasize the use of war stamps for leis during WWII.

May Day (May 1st) is also celebrated as Lei Day in Hawaii. Invented in 1927, Don Blanding wrote an article in the local newspaper 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 also came up with 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.

May Day is also the time for school events. When I was in the 6th grade, I was crowned by teachers at Kahala Elementary School as May Day queen in 1967. I was selected based on academic achievements and happened to be the first queen of Native Hawaiian ancestry. Along with the king and our court of princesses representing each of the main Hawaiian Islands, we presided over the day’s activities for grades K-6. Each class performed a hula or another cultural dance for May Day.

I have a song arrangement of “May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii” with the Hum Ding-Ah Strum in the key of G with 5-chords for ukulele.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Kamehameha Day at the Nation’s Capitol

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U.S. Senator Akaka, Mele Fong, U.S. Rep Neil Abercrombie, and Richard Tom in front of King  Kamehameha statue in Statuary Hall in Washington DC, 1997

On June 8, 1997, I led the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Chorale during the Kamehameha Day ceremony honoring Hawaii’s first king in Washington, D.C. Our group sang “Hole Waimea” about the place on the Big Island of Hawaii where Kamehameha grew up and “Nā Ali’i about the chiefs and their famous sayings. My husband and I also sang “Ku’u Pua I Paoakalani” while Ipolani Lung danced hula to the song written by Queen Lili’uokalani about her home in Waikīkī. Kamehameha Schools alumnus U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka from Hawaii gave a talk about the national significance of King Kamehameha who united the Hawaiian islands into one kingdom in 1810.

After the program, my husband and I had the honor of taking a picture with Senator Akaka and U.S. Representative Neil Abercrombie (from Hawaii) in front of King Kamehameha’s statue draped with leis. The Kamehameha Day ceremony has been happening at our Nation’s Capitol every year since 1969 when the statue of King Kamehameha was unveiled in Statuary Hall.

In 2008, the Kamehameha statue was moved to the new Visitors Center where the Kamehameha Day ceremony hosted by Hawaii State Society continues to this day.

On May 30, 2018, I will be presenting a talk about Kamehameha Day as part of my Hawaiian History and Song Series on the 5th Wednesdays of the month at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better. We will be singing a few songs about King Kamehameha and more.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Sing Flower and Lei Songs for May

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Sing Flower/Lei Songs in May

Join in singing flower and lei songs to celebrate May Day is Lei Day (May 1st) for the monthly Sing-Along with Mele Fong series on Thursday, May 3 from 10 a.m. – noon at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better on Maui. Learn the history behind May Day in Hawaii.

My sing-along program is one of a monthly series that evokes the feeling of sing-along with Mitch Miller programs as the lyrics and ‘ukulele chords are projected on the large screen in the front of room for everyone to follow. ‘Ukulele players are invited to bring instruments to play along as I lead everyone by singing and playing my ‘ukulele while my husband accompanies us on ‘ukulele-bass. Don’t worry if you don’t know the ‘ukulele chords or the unique strumming pattern for the songs. The focus is on singing the songs, finding out the stories behind them, and enjoying the group experience.

Why are people returning? “It’s fun!” is what I’ve heard.

Lunch is optional and recommended as a good time to meet people who enjoy learning the Ukulele Mele Way. Kaunoa Senior Center is located in Spreckelsville, Maui.

SIGN UP NOW by calling 808-270-7308.

Aloha, Mele Fong, aka Ukulele Mele

Review Hula Songs Sing-Along Program

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23 Signed Up for Hula Songs

“Singing these songs brought back memories of my sister learning hula when we were growing up,” commented one lady after the Hula Songs program. June Jones visiting from Arizona commented how excited she was to take ukulele classes again from Mele Fong after many years (see photo).

Twenty-three people signed up for my monthly Sing-Along with Mele Fong Series – Hula Songs on Thursday, April 5, 2018 at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better on Maui.

During the new “Hawaiian history moment of the month” I talked about April 1-7 being the 55th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival, a week-long event in Hilo, Hawai’i that features an internationally acclaimed hula competition and more dedicated to the memory of King David Kalākaua, also known as the “Merrie Monarch” for his fun loving ways and support of Hawaiian music and hula. Read more by clicking here.

The “Sing-Along with Mitch Miller” format of projecting the song lyrics and ‘ukulele chords on a screen at the front of the room, and having my husband provide the u-bass line to fill in the lower tones to the higher pitched ‘ukulele worked great! New for this program I changed the graphic layout, background color, and font to Arial after learning this font is the easiest to read at a distance. These changes were in addition to a slide showing the strum graphic and ukulele chord shape images before each song. We continued the routine of learning how to pronounce any Hawaiian words in the songs, the story behind each song whether it was Hawaiian or not, and playing each song twice to reinforce what we learned.

We sang all ten songs that we had prepared for the 75-minute program including Hawai’i Aloha (in the Hawaiian language) that is traditionally sung to end a public event in Hawai’i. Here is the song list with my unique ‘ukulele strums:

  1. Keep Your Eyes on the Hands – I Wanna Rest Strum and 4And Strum.
  2. Papalina Lahilahi – ‘Ōlapa Strum.
  3. Hula Lolo – I Wanna Rest Strum and 4And Strum.
  4. Ka Ulu Wehi O Ke Kai – Latin Strums.
  5. Hukilau Song – Hum Ding-Ah Strum.
  6. E Huli Makou – ‘Ōlapa Strum.
  7. My Little Grass Shack – I Wanna Rest Strum.
  8. Sophisticated Hula – Boom Shaka I Wanna Strum.
  9. Lovely Hula Hands – I Wanna Rest and 4And Strum.
  10. Hawaii Aloha – Morse Code Strum.

Stay tuned for the next Sing-Along with Mele Fong Series – Flower and Lei Songs on Thursday, May 3.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Sing Hula Songs on April 5, 2018

www.UkuleleMeleOnMaui.com

Sing Hula Songs in April

Hula songs to celebrate the 55th Annual Merrie Monarch Festival from April 1 -7 at Hilo, Hawaii is the theme for this month’s Sing-Along with Mele Fong series on Thursday, April 5 from 10 a.m. – noon at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better on Maui.  Learn more about the Merrie Monarch Festival by clicking here.

My sing-along program is one of a monthly series that evokes the feeling of sing-along with Mitch Miller programs as the lyrics and ‘ukulele chords are projected on the large screen in the front of room for everyone to follow. ‘Ukulele players are invited to bring instruments to play along as I lead everyone by singing and playing my ‘ukulele while my husband accompanies us on ‘ukulele-bass. Don’t worry if you don’t know the ‘ukulele chords or the unique strumming pattern for the songs. The focus is on singing the songs, finding out the stories behind them, and enjoying the group experience.

Why are people returning? “It’s fun!” is what I’ve heard.

Lunch is optional and recommended as a good time to meet people who enjoy learning the Ukulele Mele Way. Kaunoa Senior Center is located in Spreckelsville, Maui.

SIGN UP NOW by calling 808-270-7308.

Aloha, Mele Fong, aka Ukulele Mele

History Behind the Merrie Monarch Festival

“Hula is the language of the heart, therefore the heartbeat of the Hawaiian people” — King David Kalākaua.

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World Hula Competition in Hilo

In 1963, the Hawai’i Island Chamber of Commerce began the Annual Merrie Monarch Festival to perpetuate, preserve, and promote the art of hula and the Hawaiian culture. The week-long festival features an internationally acclaimed hula competition, an invitational Hawaiian arts fair, hula shows, and a grand parade through Hilo town. Five years later, a community non-profit organization was formed “that honors the legacy of King David Kalākaua, who inspired the perpetuation of our traditions, native language and arts.”

Kalākaua was the seventh and last king of the Hawaiian Nation. He was elected in 1874 and reigned until he died in 1891. During his day, Hawaiian beliefs and traditions were suppressed after many years under Christian missionary teachings. Ancient Hawaiians had no written language and used chants and hula to record such things as genealogy and to pass on stories. Kalākaua was a patron of the arts, especially music and dance, and advocated for a renewed sense in all things Hawaiian. At Kalākaua’s royal coronation in 1883, there were public displays of hula for the first time since the missionaries’ arrival in 1820. In 1886, Kalākaua celebrated his 50th birthday known as the Silver Jubilee with two-weeks of festivities including chant and hula dancers performing in public.

Kalākaua was also a supporter of ‘ukulele playing. In 1879, three fine wood craftsmen from Madeira, an island off Portugal, immigrated to Hawai’i and brought with them the braguiha or machete that evolved into what we know today as Hawai’i’s official instrument, the ‘ukulele.

Learn more about the Merrie Monarch Festival held during the week after Easter by visiting their website.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

March Birthdays of Hawaiian Royalty

In March, Hawai’i celebrates the birthdays of two alii (royalty): Queen Ka’ahumanu (March 17, 1768-June 5, 1832) and Prince Kuhio (March 26, 1871-Jan. 7, 1922). Both birthdays are honored – one with a royal program and one with a state holiday.

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In March, Hawaii celebrates the birthdays of two royalty: Queen Kaahumanu on March 17 and Prince Kuhio on March 26.

More than any other woman in Hawaiian history, Queen Ka’ahumanu effected changes that live on today. She converted to Christianity, learned to read, ordered schools built on all the islands, overthrew the traditional kapu system, created the government position of kuhina nui or co-ruler and more.

Elisabeth Ka’ahumanu was born in a cave in Hana, Maui during the period of war between ruling chiefs. Her name means “feather cloak.” Her mother, Nāmāhana of Maui, married High Chief Ke’eaumoku of Hawai’i Island, Counselor to King Kamehameha I. Promised in marriage to Kamehameha, Ka’ahumanu went to live in the King’s household at an early age and became the King’s favorite wife. After the king died in 1819, Ka’ahumanu created the position of kuhina nui with the king’s young son Liholiho, and thus moved from influence to power.

In 1864, the Ahahui Ka’ahumanu, a royal society of Native Hawaiian women was founded and named after Queen Ka’ahumanu. In September 2004, the president of the Maui chapter sponsored me into the organization. Today, the statewide organization continues to honor the Queen and her legacy. Every March on a date near to her birthday, members of the Ahahui celebrates the Queen’s birthday with a special program open to the public at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center followed by a special church service at Ka’ahumanu Church in Wailuku.

Prince Kuhio served as Hawai’i’s second congressional delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives for 10 consecutive terms lasting 20 years and led the passage of the Rehabilitation Act that created the Hawaiian Homes Commission in 1921 that set aside almost 200,000 acres for homesteading by Native Hawaiians. He succeeded in obtaining federal funding for the creation of Pearl Harbor and a long list of other Hawaii projects.

Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole was born on Kauai and named after his two grandfathers who were high chiefs of Hilo and Kauai. His mother was Queen Kapi’olani’s sister and his father was the ruling chief of Kauai. After his mother died, Kuhio and his brother David Kawananakoa were adopted by their Aunt Queen Kapi’olani and Uncle King Kalākaua. Prince Kuhio lost his chance of ascending the throne when the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893 when he was 22 years-old.

Prince Kuhio was of royal blood and always fought for the welfare of his people. Today his legacy lives on in two Native Hawaiian organizations, the Royal Order of Kamehameha and the Hawaiian Civic Club.

In 1949, the legislature of the Territory of Hawaii established Prince Kuhio Day on March 26 as an official holiday. When Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959, the state continued this recognition which is only one of two state holidays that honor Hawaii’s ali’i on their birthday.

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele

Review Hawaii’s Last Queen Program in January

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Twenty people signed up for Lili’uokalani, Hawaii’s Last Queen, the first program in the new Hawaiian History and Song Series for 2018 on Wednesday, January 31.

Twenty people signed up for Lili’uokalani, Hawai’i’s Last Queen, the first program in my new Hawaiian History and Song Series for 2018 on Wednesday, January 31 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Kaunoa Senior Center for adults 55 and better. The focus was on learning about Queen Lili’uokalani, the kingdom of Hawai’i’s last monarch, and the stories behind some of her compositions that we sang and played. Part one lecture took 30-minutes, followed by Part two taking 45-minutes to get through four songs. We omitted one planned song as we ran out of time (had to allow for lunch).

Afterwards, one lady commented how much she enjoyed the singing part of the program because it “made the subject come alive”. Another lady expressed how much she loves learning about Hawaiian history.

Here is the list of 4 songs with my unique ‘ukulele strums that we played:

  1. Queen’s Jubilee – Morse Code Strum.
  2. Ku’u Pua I Paoakalani – Pick in 4 Strum.
  3. Sanoe – Waltz Strum and Pick in 6 Strum.
  4. Hawaii Aloha – Morse Code Strum.

The Hawaiian History and Song series continues on the 5th Wednesdays of the month for the year. The next program is May 30 and is titled State Holidays (about Kuhio Day and Kamehameha Day).

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele