The 25 Greatest Hawai‘i Songs of the New Century
As voted by a panel of experts. Plus, read the stories behind the music.
(page 4 of 5)
Paula Fuga’s childhood beach, Kaiona, in waimānalo.
COMPOSED BY: PAULA FUGA
PERFORMED BY: PAULA FUGA
APPEARS ON: LILIKO‘I
Photo: Elyse Butler Mallams
“I was so sad when I wrote that song,” Paula Fuga remembers. “There was this guy I was in love with, and I wanted to know how he felt about me. I had this feeling in my na‘au, in the deepest part of me, I was like, what’s up with you, man?” She composed lyrics that went, “Aloha wau ia ‘oe e Kalokuokamaile/Aloha pu ‘oe ia ‘u/E hana ana au na mea like ‘ole/Ma lalo o ka lani no ‘oe”—I love you Kalokuokamaile/Do you love me too?/Anything beneath the heavens, I would do for you. Things came to a head after she performed “Loloiwi” for a weekly radio show at the KTUH studio, and realized that the object of her affection would probably be listening when the song was broadcast. “I was like, I gotta go over and tell him,” she says. “He’s going to hear his name, it’s going to be weird. He needs to be prepared.” Long story short, the two are now married.
Composed by: Nathan Aweau
Performed by: Nathan Aweau
Appears on: ‘Io
Photo: Courtesy of Mountain Apple co.
In a literal sense, uhi wai means a heavy mist. But in Hawaiian poetry, it’s often used metaphorically to describe love. So when Nathan Aweau went out into his Kāne‘ohe backyard after a night of rain and saw mists clinging to the Ko‘olau Mountains, it sparked his imagination. “I had never seen the clouds and the mist settle in that way. It looked like long arms, hugging the Ko‘olaus,” he says. Coincidentally, his parents were about to celebrate their 50th anniversary and, from there, the melody and lyrics fell into place quickly.
The song starts at 1:08.
21. Ke Aka O Ka Li‘ulā
Composed by: Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole (lyrics), Kīhei Nahale-a & Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing (music)
Performed by: Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole
Appears on: Welo
When Kaumakaiwa Kanaka‘ole wrote “Ke Aka o ka Li‘ulā,” she was in her early 20s, a point when she was still figuring out her identity, her career, her future. “The title literally means mirage,” she says. “I was chasing an image that was quite far off, it was always at a distance. I don’t know why I was doing that. But I wanted people to see me. It was all in the pursuit of finding me. I was chasing my own mirage.” Kanaka‘ole may have been wandering in the mist, but the song also throbs with forward propulsion. Listening to the cresting energy of the chorus, it’s impossible to miss hearing an artist determined to find her way.