Celebrating hula and the Merrie Monarch Festival

The lei are being prepared, the instruments being tuned; it’s that time of the year for Merrie Monarch! This year’s festival is particularly special because it marks the 50th anniversary of the hula festival which began in 1963 in Hilo with the main purpose to perpetuate, preserve, and promote the art of hula and the Hawaiian culture through education. The festival led to and was part of the Hawaiian Renaissance in which Hawaiians reclaimed their culture and language through music, dance and protest. The festival is named for King David Kalākaua who was named the merrie monarch. King Kalākaua recognized the importance of ho‘oulu lāhui (grow the nation) and strengthening the nation through arts, culture and genealogy through the Hale Nauā genealogy society. On his silver jubilee (50th birthday) Kalākaua celebrated with a two week party which included parades throughout Honolulu, hula and oli for their merrie monarch. In the spirit of Merrie Monarch, below are some clips focusing on hula. Be sure to check out our hula theme as well. Happy Merrie Monarch everyone!


Hula Kahiko, Kauaʻi Moʻolelo, Oli, Keaīwa Heiau (1985). Juniroa Productions collection.

O’Brian Eselu was Kumu Hula of Hālau Ke Kai o Kahiki whose kāne brought viewers sharp and aggressive hula and won the competition year after year. This is the second year without Eselu who passed away in 2012, however his hālau will compete this year.


Kumu Hula Kawaikapu Hewitt and Hālau Hula (1986). Juniroa Productions collection.

Hula and chant are the vehicle in which Hawaiians pass on their history, spirituality, and other aspects of their world view. This hula is about Hopoe, friend of Hi‘iakaikapoliopele the sister of Pele. Much of the hula in Merrie Monarch is centered around the story of Hi‘iaka which teaches important Hawaiian lessons.


Leinaʻala Heine : Chant and Hula. Center for Labor Education and Research, Pilot Project collection.

This clip features Leina‘ala Heine who is kumu of Hālau Nā Pualei O Likolehua and the footage is part of the “Cowboys & Canoes” program from the Rice and Roses series.

By Koa Luke


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s