HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's kahiko night at the Merrie Monarch Festival! 23 hālau from all over the state, including three from California, have been invited this year's competition. Tonight their mele, or songs, will feature the traditional style of hula.
All eyes will be on last year's overall winners: the kāne of Halau Hula 'O Kawaili'ulā who dance under the direction of kumu hula Chinky Mahoe in Kailua, O'ahu. They will be debuting a style of hula that has never before been seen on the Festival stage: the pa'i kū. Their kahiko is about Hawai'i Island chief Kalaunui'ohua, who, prior to Kamehameha, tried to unite the Hawaiian Islands under one rule traveling from one island to the next conquering their soldiers and wa'a, or canoe, and then moving along to the next. Kumu Mahoe says the halau is dedicating their performance to the Merrie Monarch, which is celebrating traveling from its first fifty years into the next fifty. The kāne are also paying tribute to Hōkūle'a & Hiki'analia's upcoming Worldwide Voyage.
Another group everyone will be watching is Hālau Mōhala 'Ilima under the direction of kumu hula Māpuana de Silva in Ka'ohao, O'ahu.
They took first place in the wahine kahiko category, along with wahine overall. Their kahiko "Kakuhihewa (Aia i Honolulu Ku 'u Pohaku)" celebrates the 16th century chief Kakuhihewa.
The competition continues Saturday with 'auana night, followed by the awards presentation.