A musical masterpiece 3 years in the making, Hokulea has a symphonic homage

A legendary canoe has inspired a thrilling symphony

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It took Hawaii composer Michael-Thomas Foumai three years to complete a symphony that honors Hokulea and those who sailed aboard the legendary vessel.

"Hokulea is such an inspiration. All I could hear was melody," Foumai said.

His work is called “Raise Hawaiki,” the phrase used frequently by former Hokulea crewman Eddie Aikau.

“His dream was to raise the mythical homeland of the Polynesian people as if you were voyaging on a canoe. You see the land rise from the horizon,” Foumai said.

The common four-note refrain heard throughout the composition evokes visual images of the vessel.

"We have a starting note, then a second note that's a little lower, then another one that's a little lower, then it comes back to that first note. What you get is the shape of the canoe hull," he said.

The idea for a musical tribute came from Elizabeth Wong who contacted the University of Hawaii Foundation who then contacted Foumai.

"She wanted to celebrate it with a huge symphonic piece," he said.

The music and choral accompaniment culminates with a tribute to Aikau, who was lost at sea in 1978 while paddling for help after the canoe capsized.

"The whole piece ends with Eddie's song "Hawaii's Pride," which is his own song inspired by Hokulea," Foumai said.

The Honolulu Symphony Orchestra performs Raise Hawaiki Thursday night in the Blaisdell Concert Hall.

"I would love for the audience to feel like they were on Hokulea," Foumai said. "I would hope this could be a vehicle for wherever Hokulea voyages next that this piece could accompany them."

Tickets for the performance are available at the concert hall box office and online.

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