E LEI HOʻI, E LILIʻULANI Ē
By Moon Kauakahi
On September 2, 1838, Princess Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha was born to Kapaʻakea, her father, and Keohokālole, her mother. She ascended the throne as Queen Liliʻuokalani in January 1892, upon the death of her brother, King David Kalākaua, becoming Hawaiʻi's last reigning monarch.
Queen Liliʻuokalani, along with her siblings King David Kalākaua, Prince William Pitt Leleiōhōkū, and Princess Miriam Likelike, were musically inclined. Occasionally, they would hold friendly competitions and compose songs to see whose would be deemed victorious among their friends, fraternity members, and subjects. Several of the songs composed by "Na Lani Tha" — the four Royal Ones — are standards today, sung and recorded by some of Hawaiʻi's most noted musicians. Of all the siblings, the Queen composed the most songs, some during her adolescent years, but most during her imprisonment in ʻIolani Palace and upon her release. Only a few of Queen Lilʻuokalani’s 150 compositions have been sung, recorded and re-recorded; many of the songs written by and for her have not yet graced the ears to be heard, nor the lips to be sung.
In 1999, with the support of the Liliʻuokalani Trust and its trustees, Hui Hānai published The Queen’s Songbook, a collection of 60 songs written by or for Her Majesty, Queen Liliʻuokalani. The idea of publishing such a book to perpetuate the memory of the Queen and her accomplishments began in 1969. A concerted effort was made to collect and publish the Queen’s songs, "to give some insight as to her thoughts, moods, feelings, and emotion...to show the Queen as a human being and talented composer." (Agnes C. Conrad, from the Preface of The Queen's Songbook)
Most of the songs came from an unpublished book entitled He Mele Buke Hawaiʻi, which the Queen prepared in 1897 with the intention that it be released and made affordable to all Hawaiian people; she hoped to show those who opposed everything she stood for that she was more intellectual than that for which they gave her credit.
It is my intention, and the intention of those I have had the privilege of working with on this project, to honor the memory of our beloved Queen Liliʻuokalani and reflect the emotions that she put into each composition to tell the story of a people — Her People — whom she loved dearly. "Wear this lei, O Liliʻulani — E lei hoʻi, e Liliʻulani ē!”
*Compiled by Michael-Thomas Foumai. Digitally published for the Hawaiʻi Symphony Sheraton Starlight Series on July 2-4 2021.