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Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani


Hilo, Hawai'i

"Hula & oli reminds us that we are reflections of every big & little being in the world”.

- Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani

Kekuhi has trained in the tradition of Hula ʻAihaʻa* & Hula Pele*, chant & ritual for 39 years under Hālau O Kekuhi*, named for her grandmother, Edith Kekuhi Kanakaʻole. She has co-produced some of the Hālau O Kekuhi’s most significant contributions to oral and ritual arts stage performances.

In an effort to service people beyond the walls of the Hālau, Kekuhi has developed Ulu Ka ʻŌhiʻa-Hula Consciousness Seminar & Hālau ʻŌhiʻa-Hawaiʻi Stewardship Training to teach basic Hawaiʻi practices that can connect anyone, anywhere, to their inner and outer landscapes.

Hula and chant is the piko or the center of all of Kekuhi`s present activities. Kekuhi claims, “It’s what I know how to do, it’s what I’ve heard all my life. My voice doesn’t know to do anything else I guess.” 


*‘Aiha‘a is a low-postured, vigorous, dynamic style of hula that springs from the eruptive volcano persona Pele and Hi‘iaka, characteristic of Hawai‘i Island’s creative forces.

*Pele is the Fire Goddess, is the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes and the creator of the Hawaiian Islands.

*Hālau O Kekuhi is the hālau hula (hula school) and the center of cultural knowledge for Edith Kanaka’ole Foundation. It is celebrated for its mastery of the ‘aiha‘a style of hula (dance) and oli (chant).

Back in Jul' 2016 at rim of the Kīlauea volcano...

We first met Kekuhi just before dawn at the Wahinekapu (sacred women) steam vents on the rim of Kīlauea volcano, the most active of the five volcanoes on the island of Hawai’i. Wahinekapu and the surrounding area are commonly used by the Hawaiians to give offerings to Pele via oli (chant) hula (dance) and puolo (bundle/gifts) or lei (adornments), as well as cleansing the spirit and body. Kekuhi guided us to stand at the top of the steam vents to cleanse us all before we went up to the Uwe kahuna, the Kīlauea lookout, just as the first golden hues of dawn had appeared.


Finding her spot on the rim of the Kīlauea crater overlooking the stream and the glowing red lava from the active Kīlauea volcano, we all prepared ourselves for the session. As we did, pairs of Nene (endangered Hawaiian goose) flew up from the crater directly over us, greeted each time with a “good morning” from Kekuhi.


Once ready, the sun was just up and Kekuhi performed the Ke Haʻa Lā Puna, a sequence of Mele (Traditional Hawai’ian song), believed to be the first recorded hula in the Pele and Hi‘iaka saga, ‘Hi‘iaka performed the hula to this mele to please her sibling, Pele’. This mele focuses on nature’s movement as it appears in the winds dance with the trees, the waving grass across the fields and the oceans beating onto the islands coastline. So the fact the wind was such a technical obstacle to a clean recording, made sense when we learnt this Mele is about Puna the source of regenerative forces is calling the wind to create new land, to heal the Earth, it couldn’t have been much stronger as Kekuhi sung out to Pele and Puna, you can hear it’s rumble in some of the recording.


It was powerful and grounding to experience. How fortunate we were being guided to her.

Ke haʻa lā Puna i ka makani

Haʻa ka ulu hala i Keaʻau

Haʻa Hāʻena me Hōpoe

Haʻa ka Wahine

ʻAmi i kai o Nānāhuki

Hula leʻa wale i kai o Nānāhuki

ʻO Puna kai kuwā i ka hala

Paʻē paʻē ka leo o ke kai

Ke lū lā i nā pua lehua

Nānā i kai o Hōpoe

Ka wahine ʻami i kai o Nānāhuki

Hula leʻa wale i kai o Nānāhuki

He inoa no Hiʻiakaikapoliopele

Puna dances because of the wind

The hala grove dances at Keaʻau

Hāʻena dances along with Hōpoe

The Woman dances

The current of Nānāhuki gyrates

There is only pleasant dancing at the sea of Nānāhuki

The sea of Puna reverberates through the hala

The sound of the sea strikes the ears

Lehua flowers are strewn about

Looking towards the sea of Hopoe

The Woman who gyrates at the sea of Nānāhuki

Blissfully dancing at the sea of Nānāhuki

We call on the renerative powers of Hiʻiaka

Kekuhi explained, at the surface, the scene before us is the animation of the landscape, the trees, and the ocean all initiated by the movement of the wind.  The story of Pele & Hiʻiaka tells us that this is the first hula that HiʻIaka learns from her friend Hopoe and performs for her sister Pele.  In the hula Pele practice, this simple poetic text reminds us that our relationship with nature is core to who we are because the ocean, the wind, the flowers, the trees. THEY are the FIRST dancers.

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