Interviews with the Hula Experts

For more than a decade, the Hula Preservation Society has been interviewing, and videotaping, hula’s most respected elders, capturing their knowledge, their memories and their stories. The result is a treasure trove of history and culture; here, we present just a few excerpts from the hundreds of hours of footage.


Published:

(page 3 of 4)


Nona Beamer and Maile Loo-Ching spend time with interviewee Emma Kauhi (in the center) in 2001.

Before we went up, my aunt, Mom’s sister, told me that when we go, we have to take hookupu (ceremonial offering). It was the first time I heard about hookupu. Just about a half a mile from Halemaumau, there’s an area, almost like a garden of ohelo berries. The saying is that that was Pele’s favorite, ohelo berries. And I was forbidden by my mother to eat the ohelo berries. That’s for Pele. So I never tasted the ohelo berries.

We stopped at this place. And Auntie Luika, Mom’s sister, said, “OK, each child take a little bouquet of these ohelo berries, this is going to be your hookupu.” Then we go over there, and we’re all praying down to the edge of the crater. Auntie is mumbling something and then she tell us to throw our hookupu, and we throw our hookupu in Halemaumau.

Later, I had my own children. So my mom and I, we saw the glow at night. Mom said, “Okay, Pele is back, so let’s take the children up to see the volcano.” And so we went. Mom told my brother, driving, “Stop at the liquor store.” Mom got out of the car, and I followed her. I’m very inquisitive, you know. And I heard Mama tell the sales lady, “Give me the most expensive gin you have.” So the lady got it, and she said, “Wrap it up in a nice wrapper for a gift.”

So we went onto Halemaumau. Got out of the car, open the trunk, and I watch every move she made. Get this liquor bottle, and get the ti leaf, and wrap it around this liquor bottle. Make it real nice, you know. So we walk up to the edge of the crater and she was chanting in a soft, soft tone. And then she threw it; this was her hookupu.

And then all of a sudden, Gail said, “Ma, Ma, look at that; look the paper, look the paper!” And when I looked, you know, the paper that was wrapped around the liquor bottle was fluttering up, like it had been torn in bits.

When that was all over, we went to the car, and Mom told me, “That was a sign. Pele has accepted the gift.” And that’s the way Mom was.


George Naope, the founder of the Merrie Monarch Festival, was always a character. Here, he appears in two of his numerous oral history sessions with the Hula Preservation Society.

George Lanakilakekiahialii Naope

1928 – 2009

A legendary kumu hula and Hawaiian chanter, George Naope is perhaps best known for founding the Merrie Monarch Festival in 1964. In this 2008 interview, he explains the origins of the festival.

I was appointed as promoter of activities by Mrs. Hale who was then elected chairman for the County of Hawaii Island. And she said, “We gotta do something, George.” So she sent me to Maui, where they had the Whaling Spree, in Lahaina.

All I saw was a drinking brawl. All drinking, nothing Hawaiian.

Related links:
Hula Preservation Society
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