Friday, April 04, 2008


I almost forgot to mention....The time of year is upon us again for The Merrie Monarch Festival which is held every year the week of easter in Hilo on the Bid Island.

Above is last years kahiko kane winner. Simply boggles the mind and I am so envious to not be a part of one.

The festival is dedicated to the memory of King David Kalakaua, known as the Merrie Monarch. King Kalakaua came to the throne of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1874 and reigned until his death in 1891. He was a patron of the arts, especially music and dance.Kalakaua almost single-handedly restored many of the nearly extinct cultural traditions of the Hawaiian people. These included myths and legends, and the hula, which had been forbidden by the missionaries for over 70 years. The term hula refers to movement and gestures. Hula, however, cannot be performed without mele (poetry), the most important component. Mele are records of cultural information ranging from sacred mele pule (prayers) and mele inoa (name chants, many for chiefs) to topical mele ho'oipoipo (love songs) and mele 'aina (songs praising the land); the type of mele used is one way of classifying the dances. Allusion is greatly valued in the poetry, and hula gestures are a secondary level of abstraction; they do not tell the entire story but rather interpret key aspects of the mele. The concept of hula therefore involves mele and its recited realization in performance (there was no concept of "music" in Hawaiian culture). The chants, songs and dance tell stories of the Hawaiians' relationship with nature-the birds and fish, trees and flowers, mountains, oceans, rivers, wind, rain and Hawaii's active volcanoes.

American Protestant missionaries who arrived in 1820 introduced Christianity and prevailing Western values. With the support of converted high-ranking chiefs, they denounced and banned the hula as heathen. Declining numbers of hula practitioners therefore taught and performed clandestinely through the mid-nineteenth century. The art of ancient hula was nearly wiped out. The reign of King David Kalakaua (1874-1891) was a transitional phase for Hawaiian performing arts. Over the objections of christianized Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians, known experts were gathered at his court and encouraged to practice the traditional arts. In this favorable era, hula practitioners merged Hawaiian elements of poetry, chanted vocal performance, dance movements, and costumes to create a new form, the hula ku'i (ku'i means "to combine old and new").

Excerpts taken from International Encyclopedia of Dance.

You can watch the Merrie Monarch Festival Live tonight and tomorrow on KITV here in Hawaii.

No comments: