Add to Book Shelf
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Book

Buke Mele Lahui (Book of National Songs)

By Hawaiian Historical Society

Click here to view

Book Id: WPLBN0002096765
Format Type: PDF eBook:
File Size: 11.97 MB
Reproduction Date: 7/12/2011

Title: Buke Mele Lahui (Book of National Songs)  
Author: Hawaiian Historical Society
Language: Hawaiian
Subject: Non Fiction, Music, Collection of Hawaiian National Songs
Collections: Music, Authors Community, History, Military Science, Political Sociology, Medicine, Literature, Economy, Naval Science, Most Popular Books in China, Government, Law, Language, Political Science, Social Sciences
Publication Date:
Publisher: Hawaiian Historical Society
Member Page: Hale Kuamoʻo Hawaiian Language Center


APA MLA Chicago

Historical Society, B. H. (n.d.). Buke Mele Lahui (Book of National Songs). Retrieved from

This volume brings together expressions of abiding devotion to Hawai i—the land, the ruling monarchs, the independent and sovereign kingdom. Many of these expressions are direct responses to the turmoil of the late 19th century, in particular the 1887 promulgation of the Bayonet Constitution that disenfranchised so many subjects of the Hawaiian kingdom, the 1889 revolt that attempted to reverse the erosion of those civil rights, the 1893 overthrow of Queen Lili uokalani, and the counterrevolution in 1895 by loyalists trying to restore the Queen to the throne. In late 1895, Francisco Jose Testa, editor of Ka Makaainana, collected 105 mele together in one volume to be published as Buke Mele Lahui. Testa, known as “Hoke” in Hawaiian, refers to these compositions as “mele aloha aina,” patriotic songs or songs of loyalty. Outpourings of such loyalty to the kingdom and monarchy were cast poetically and published regularly in pro-royalist Hawaiian-language newspapers of the time, especially Hawaii Holomua, Ka Lei Momi, Ka Leo o ka Lahui, Ka Makaainana, and Nupepa Ka Oiaio. Although Testa's introduction states that these texts were drawn from published sources, only about half of the texts have been identified thus far in earlier publications. These sources are shown in the table appended to this reprint. The publication of Buke Mele Lahui was augmented by dozens of advertisements placed throughout the book, all of which are reprinted here. These advertisements, a fascinating topic in their own right, give insight into the small businesses of the time and their operations, while illuminating how they presented them- selves and their allegiances to the public during a politically volatile period. In that way, the advertisements open windows on unique ways that royalist efforts were supported across certain segments of Hawaiian society during the period. Texts, especially in the first half of the volume, are explicitly nationalist, giving rise to the term mele lahui, or national songs. In fact, some texts were composed in the days immediately follow- ing the 1895 civil war or counterrevolution. Rebels were still en- gaged with forces of the government, which had been proclaimed the Republic of Hawaii on July 4, 1894, but was still being referred to as the Provisional Government. There are topical texts that specifically address the military logistics of the 1895 counterrevo- lution: examples include repeated reference to “pu raifela,” rifles, sounding at Ka alawai Beach on the east side of Diamond Head; the “P.G.” Provisional Government, i.e., Republic of Hawaii, whose soldiers fought the loyalists; and the sites of the revolution- aries' gradual retreat into Kaimuki, Manoa, and Nu uanu. Other [ xv ] texts present nationalist oaths of allegiance to the deposed Queen Lili uokalani, invoking terms and phrases such as “kupaa” stand firm, “mahope makou o Liliulani” we support Lili uokalani, and the slo- gan “no ka poe i aloha i ka aina” of the people who love the land. The second half of the volume contains mele with a broader range of poetic topics, some of which are not directly related to the political events of the time, yet are recast with new political meaning by their inclusion in this collection and in light of politi- cal events of the 1890s. Examples include three mele lamenting the cholera epidemic and a pair of honorific songs for Kalakaua, the brother and predecessor of Queen Lili uokalani. Some of the texts lauding the heroics of Robert Wilcox are actually drawn from his earlier biography honoring his leading role in the 1889 revolt, but they are presented again in 1895 restructured and with new implications. Two songs for Ko olau, the Kaua i renegade with Hansen's disease who evaded all P.G. military efforts to capture him, honor his rebel nature and evoke comparison with the Hawaiian rebels of Honolulu in 1895. The latter portion of the book also contains 20 seemingly apo- litical songs—love songs, teasing songs, and honorific songs mixed among the more clearly political and loyalist expressions. These miscellaneous songs may have been well-known mele of the period and thus perhaps included in Buke Mele Lahui to increase its popu- larity and fill out its page count. The case may also be that these various songs do contain political connections that aren't apparent to us today, either by their content, their composers or the context from which they were drawn. Hopefully, such uncertainties will be addressed in future research spawned by the renewed availability and familiarity of this text. Names of poets accompany a majority of the texts. It is worth noting that the names attributed in Buke Mele Lahui do not always correspond with names printed in earlier publications. Certainly the shifting political climate must have contributed to concerns over possible repercussions for adversarial stances taken publicly. These and other circumstances could have contributed to the wide- spread use of pseudonyms and pen names. Two names in particular carry great historic significance. First, the name “Haimoeipo” can be linked to Queen Lili uokalani. Two texts reprinted in Buke Mele Lahui and attributed to Haimoeipo also appear in the 1897 manuscript of her songbook, He Buke Mele, where the Queen claims authorship. A total of five texts in Buke Mele Lahui are attributed to Haimoeipo, thus giving us insight into the Queen's own poetic response to the circumstances. Second, the name “Kekoaohiwai- kalani” attached to the first item in the collection, “Mele Aloha Aina” now commonly known as “Kaulana Na Pua,” allows us to identify Eleanor Kekoaohiwaikalani Wright Prendergast's numer- ous other poetic compositions published in newspapers. The many other names to whom texts are attributed suggest that the identi- ties of fervent patriots remain in anonymity, their labors yet to be recognized. The texts in Buke Mele Lahui incorporate the range of poetic devices found in earlier Hawaiian poetry. Imagery of flowers and lei often refer to people; attributes of lofty altitude or brilliance may celebrate rank, status or magnificent achievement. Typical of traditional compositions, there is no rhyme, but there is extensive use of echoing syllables and links between lines through shared meaning or opposition. Importantly, the density of metaphor and allusion found in poetry prior to the era of Kalakaua's reign (1874—1891) is much reduced by the end of the 19th century, in favor of a greater narrative sense that relates the unfolding of an event or action. All of the texts in Buke Mele Lahui share two important traits: the texts are divisible into couplets, and the first line of the final couplet signals the conclusion in a recognizably conventional way. While the most often used concluding statement is “Haina ia mai ana ka puana,” (Let the story be told in the refrain), texts in Buke Mele Lahui demonstrate very clearly that poets created a wide variety of expressions to signal conclusion. Examples include “A hea aku au o na pua,” (I call out, let the flowers/people respond), “Haina ka puana i loheia,” (Tell the refrain, that it be heard), “E ola o Liliuokalani,” (Long live Lili uokalani), and “E ola kuu lei kuu kama,” (Long live my precious one, my child). This full couplet structure, which has been referred to as “hula ku i,” is one of two broad genres of Hawaiian music that were widespread at the time Buke Mele Lahui was produced. The other genre, using the alternating verse and chorus structure, is known as “himeni.” The songs in Buke Mele Lahui all use the cou- plet format with no chorus, and although this structure is also seen in more traditional chants, the presentation of these mele were as songs. Like other songbook collections of the era, melody lines aren't included in the text, but melodies were published elsewhere for some songs included here, and other unpublished melodies were widely known and sung at the turn of the century. While these texts are understood to be songs, rather than chants, in the context of this volume's original publication in 1895, it doesn't preclude them, now and in the future, from being used in other ways: e.g., oli, implement hula, and so forth. The compositions in Buke Mele Lahui represent a rich palette of Hawaiian expression, and while some of the aspects of this col- lection and its contents are readily grasped, it is clear that ongoing research into the historical materials of the time will continue to illuminate these mele. It is our hope that making this precious legacy available once again will stimulate interest in the work of bringing to light the long submerged perspectives of our kupuna. It is also our hope that this precious legacy will inspire our own creative approaches to song composition, hula choreography, and historical interpretation in ways that make these songs—and our history—fully ours, as we face the future. … no ka po e i aloha i ka aina

This book contains a selection of compiled national songs of Hawaii.


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.