An ode to paniolo: You’ll hear lots of ‘giddyup’ and ‘yeehaw’ at this year’s Song Contest

Kamehameha Schools Song Contest is set for this Friday!
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 5:51 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2023 at 5:53 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Along with musicality and Hawaiian language, Kamehameha Schools students must understand the meaning behind their songs.

So the three junior directors went on a huaka’i (trip) to Waimea to meet real paniolo (Hawaiian cowboys) and learn about their lifestyle and music.

“My song is ‘Waimea Cowboy’ also known as ‘Kila Kila Rough Riders’ and talks more about the rough riders of the Waimea community,” said Taitea Sunaoka, junior co-ed director.

This Friday, watch the Song Contest live on K5 or streaming online.

“Song Contest is really important to me because I think it is one of the best ways and one of the most unique ways that we can perpetuate our culture and perpetuate our language through these mele,” he added.

Junior men’s director Logan Ledesma is getting into the spirit.

“A paniolo’s lifestyle is very free so we really try to capture how free range it is and you know giddyup and weehaw,” he said with a laugh.

SPECIAL SECTION: Kamehameha Schools Song Contest

Selah Fronda will direct the junior women who’ll show the softer side of these rugged cowboys.

“This paniolo was in a relationship and then it went south so it talks about his journey of love and loss,” she said.


From the ranch lands to the stage, it’s a paniolo journey and a ride of a lifetime.

“It’s a blessing to be able to be to represent such a special group of people like the paniolo and they are a very special part of Hawaii,” said Fronda.

The Kamehameha Schools 103rd Annual Song Contest is Friday on K5 and also streams online.

The pre-show begins at 7 p.m with competition at 7:30 p.m.