Hula and mele are two very important parts of traditional Hawaiian music, and are the most widely known outside of Hawaii.
With no written language, the ancient Hawaiians recorded their histories, genealogies, legends, and the phenomena of their gods through the creation and memorization of chants, known as oli, and dances called hula.
Mele is a more general word that refers to any type of song or chant. An oli is a chant that traditionally was not accompanied by dance. Often long phrases were chanted in a single breath, with each phrase ending with an ‘i‘i (trill).
Hula dancers are trained by a hula master, or kumu hula, in a school called a hālau. The dancers are trained not only in the dance movements but also in the philosophy of the hula. In ancient Hawai‘i, one who trained from childhood in the art of chanting was known as haku mele, a prestigious accomplishment that gave the person a high ranking status in the society.
Considered a narrative movement, hula embraces the meanings of the chants while releasing the grace and spirit of the dancer. The essence of hula is to go inward, to touch one’s center. Dancers are especially aware of their feet touching the earth, and of the earth itself, which is felt to be the source of the power of the dance.
The videos on this card are from the 2010 Merrie Monarch Festival, the largest hula competition in the world that takes place in Hilo, Hawaii.
Hope you enjoy!