HILO, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The stadium where the Merrie Monarch Festival takes place is named in honor of Aunty Edith Kanaka'ole – a revered dancer, chanter, and composer – who is considered one of the preeminent kumu hula of Hawai'i.
The opening number each year at Ho'ike is given to Aunty Edith's family halau, Halau o Kekuhi – not only because of the support she lent to the festival from the very beginning, but for the standard at which the halau has set the bar for hula kahiko.
The halau considers their performance the first offering or sacrifice on the Merrie Monarch stage, which they compare to an altar. Wednesday night's 20-minute set, under the direction of Kumu Nalani Kanka'ole, is one of the most highly-anticipated performances of the year.
On Wednesday morning, Kuha'o Zane spoke with Hawaii News Now Sunrise about the Mele Wa'a Halau O Kekuhi plans to perform at the 2018 Ho'ike.
In keeping with this year's theme, the hometown Hilo halau's presentation will honor the Hokule'a's original crew and inaugural 1976 journey, and the recent Malama Honua homecoming, along with the treasured ancestral knowledge that fueled its humble way-finding.
All of the mele (songs) the halau will perform have a waa theme — whether it was for migration, fishing, accounting genealogical rank, voyaging quests, or seasonal star alignments.
Zane says in researching the mele wa'a, it is evident that the canoe is central to ancestral memory and found most terms in the Hawaiian language have wa'a or oceanic origins.