Rich with history, the KS Song Contest underscores the value of tradition (and competition)

Rich with history, the KS Song Contest underscores the value of tradition (and competition)
The senior men move diligently through their final moments before singing 'Kailua,' a song that speaks of Oahu's east side. (Dillon Ancheta)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -Maybe it’s the luck of the green lei — or just pure musical ability.

The Kamehameha Schools junior class had a lot to celebrate at the 99th annual song contest held at the Blaisdell Arena Friday night.

But the celebrations weren’t limited to the jolly juniors. The awards were almost evenly spread amongst the classes at this year’s competition with each class earning at least one win.

The juniors however, squeezed out just one celebration more than the rest.

The men and women of the junior class erupt in celebration after winning one of the class awards.
The men and women of the junior class erupt in celebration after winning one of the class awards.

After the mele were sung and scores filed by the judges, the class of 2020 was recognized for best men’s performance, best musical execution and an outstanding song leader, Taisamasama Ka’imina’auao-Eteuati.

Ka’imina’auao-Eteuati tied for the outstanding song director award with Chase Kamikawa, which gave the freshmen class a taste of celebration.

Also stealing the hearts of the judges in a surprising upset was the sophomore women.

With their rendition of the song Haili, they took home the New England Mother’s cup and tied for the Olelo Makuahine, or best language execution award.

They shared the tie with the senior co-ed performance of ‘Auli’ikolomanu.

The Ho'ike performance highlights hula and tells the story of the night's honoree. This year, the theme was Na Mele Ohana, which honored the life and legacy and Aunty Vickie Ii Rodrigues.
The Ho'ike performance highlights hula and tells the story of the night's honoree. This year, the theme was Na Mele Ohana, which honored the life and legacy and Aunty Vickie Ii Rodrigues.

“Tonight was amazing,” Interim Kamehameha Schools Principal Debbie Lindsey said. “To have so much competition to the point where we had so many ties, to have every single class be honored ... It only goes to show the quality and the growth of these young individuals.”

“I just can’t believe it,” Ka’imina’auao-Eteuati said with tears in his eyes shortly after the awards ceremony. “We put in all this work as a class and to see it come to fruition like this is amazing.”

“Every class has this dedication, but it’s the willingness to not only go 100 percent, but to go 120 percent for your class,” he added.

Of course the awards and bragging rights are nice for the students of Kamehameha, but at the core of song contest is much more.

“A long time ago, we weren’t allowed to speak or sing Olelo Hawaii, so it’s kind of a privilege to let the whole world know that our culture is still alive and that we can perpetuate it through mele,” sophomore women’s song director Keila Mokulehua said.

Most aspects of song contest are organized by the students. It’s the celebration of music and culture that has secured this 99-year-old tradition into the foundation of Kamehameha Schools.

“Traditions in general are foundational to who we are as individuals,” Lindsey said.

“The tradition of Hawaiian language, Hawaiian music, Hawaiian dance and the things that we do at song contest is essential for us to perpetuate our culture in the future,” she added.

As the school looks toward the 100th anniversary of the event, they hope the values instilled in the students go beyond just pure musical ability.

“Probably one of the biggest things I hope they learn is how to love one another. How to care for one another. How to work together as a group,” Lindsey said. To develop this kind of tradition and to develop this kind of commitment in our youth allows us to be able to carry it forward for generations."

The senior class erupted in cheers after winning two awards of the night.
The senior class erupted in cheers after winning two awards of the night.

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