Kamehameha Schools Maui pays tribute to Lahaina at ‘Aha Mele

Apr. 22, 2024

Kamehameha Schools Maui is gearing up to honor Lahaina at this year’s ʻAha Mele song competition. Themed “No ka Malu ʻUlu o Lele koʻu aloha,” the ʻAʻapueo campus will ring with meaningful mele about the West Maui region devastated by fires. Guided by kumu Kalei ʻAʻarona-Lorenzo KSK’85, the students are preparing for more than just an annual class competition but a poignant tribute to a beloved hometown.

“This is a theme that's so close to me and a lot of my classmates and teachers who call Lahaina home,” Kawēkiu Palakiko KSM’25 said. “This is an opportunity to show our pride.”

Palakiko, whose family traces its roots in Lahaina back six generations, feels a profound kuleana as a conductor in this year’s concert. When she first heard “ʻO Olowalu i ke Kai Mōpua,” she knew it was destined for her class. She diligently researched the piece, even consulting her uncle, Cody Pueo Pata, the composer.

“The most important thing I did was understand the song,” Palakiko said. “You need to have an understanding so that you can make sure your class has an understanding and you can show that in your performance.”

Pata wrote the song about the community advocating against a sea wall that would prevent the shorelines and waters of Lele from flowing naturally.

“Through the mele, I wanted to extol those efforts and what unity amongst community can accomplish but also reinsert names and history back into contemporary generations,” Pata said.

With more insight into its origins and meanings, she grew confident that the tune would resonate with her classmates. That metaphor of a collective voice is what Palakiko will achieve when the Māhele Luna haumāna take the stage this Friday. Whenever they sing together to honor a historically and culturally significant place, she knows it will be powerful.

KS Maui haumāna (from left to right) freshman Amy Simpson-Kane, senior Haylee Pruse and junior Kawēkiuaumoaikaohukaukuahiwi Palakiko pose for a photo atop Puʻu Kukui during filming for videos to be shown at ʻAha Mele. The three haumāna along with sophomore Kahaliʻaokuʻuhāola Kana-Yarborough are serving as nā alakaʻi (conductors) for their classes this year.

“Using our leo and singing this mele, the message will internalize in us,” Palakiko said, “All of that mana will not just be felt on campus but in those lands back in Lahaina.”

From old to new, songs have a unique ability to unify people across space and time. Pata believes this is why mele holds such significance, especially when performed with purpose.

“The importance of mele to Hawaiian culture cannot be overstated,” Pata said. “You have access to all this data embedded in every minute. Our haumāna take part in history and culture in ways that no other people practice.”

Kamehameha Schools Maui ʻAha Mele

April 26, 2024 at 7:00 p.m.
Ka Hale Haʻuki ʻo Kaʻulaheanuiokamoku
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Ka Papa ʻEiwa
Mea haʻiʻōlelo: Kayla Baptist ‘27
Ke Alakaʻi: Amy Simpson-Kane ‘27
Mele: Haʻaheo ʻo Honokōwai

Ka Papa ʻUmi
Mea haʻiʻōlelo: Abou Diallo ‘26
Ke Alakaʻi: Kahaliʻaokuʻuhāola Kana-Yarborough ‘26
Mele: Lei Hiwahiwa

Ka Papa ʻUmikūmākahi
Mea haʻiʻōlelo: Makealani Hoʻoikaika Mansanas ‘25
Ke Alakaʻi: Kawēkiuaumoaikaohukaukuahiwi Palakiko ‘25
Mele: ʻO Olowalu i ke Kai Mōpua

Ka Papa ʻUmikūmālua
Mea haʻiʻōlelo: Kamalei Pahukula ‘24
Ke Alakaʻi: Haylee Pruse ‘24
Mele: Wai Hiwahiwa o Mokuhinia