Community college combines mele, hula and Hawaiian culture into new online course

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 4:35 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 7, 2021 at 2:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Windward Community College has a brand new music program that blends Hawaiian songs and hula.

Music instructor Kamuela Kimokeo and kumu hula Kawaikapuokalani Hewett created the online course called Ka’ohekani, which means the “sounding bamboo.”

“To me, the more a musician knows about the hula, the better,” Kimokeo said. “The more the hula dancer knows about the music, the more opportunity they have to connect and have that synergy to really tell the story in the way it was meant to be told.”

Through a series of eight-week sessions, students learn the stories behind well-known Hawaiian songs, how to play them and how to interpret them in dance. Upon course completion they earn a newly created certificate in Hawaiian music.

“We start with the very basic hula steps. We are going to learn the mele, the songs. We are going to learn the mooolelo, the stories and the histories about those mele,” Hewett said.

The one-year program is comprehensive. In face-to-face lessons, it would take two years to complete. And it earns 25 college credits.

“It provides a balanced approach to learning Hawaiian music,” Kimokeo said.

Students will also learn how to compose their own songs, but no musical experience or knowledge of hula is needed.

“The motions of the hula are connected to the words of the song. And that’s really, really important,” Hewett said.

Windward tested the course in March, and it was well-received. Ka’ohekani is open to anyone in Hawaii and on the mainland, but enrollment is limited.

“If you love Hawaiian music, this is a program for you,” Kimokeo said.

The class starts Aug. 23. An online information session will be held on Friday.

To learn more, click here.

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