Kealaikahiki or the Way to Tahiti is a work exploring the 1976 maiden voyage of Hōkūleʻa to Tahiti. The musical material and themes are borrowed from the composer's larger choral-orchestral work Raise Hawaiki, which recounts the origins of Hōkūleʻa and the dream of Eddie Aikau.
The triptych opens with a hymn and scherzo to the star of joy (Hōkūleʻa) as she and her crew embark on the dream of reviving the legacy of exploration that brought the first Polynesians to the archipelago of Hawaiʻi.
The middle movement is a slow long melody colored by rhythmic figures and chordal blocks. Much as a navigator must read the tides and currents, the melody emerges with more clarity from the sea of orchestration. Pwo is a sacred ceremony in which men who have successfully concluded a rigorous course of training are initiated into the secrets of master navigators. In 1951, Mau Pialug was the on of the last pwo navigators in the world. Without Mau, teaching the ways of traditional way finding for generations to come would be impossible.
When Hōkūle‘a arrived at the beach in Pape‘ete Harbor, over half the island’s people were there, more than 17,000 strong, and there was a spontaneous affirmation of what a great heritage they shared and also a renewal of the spirit of whom they were today. Hawaiki is the name of the mythical homeland of the Polynesian people. This final movement is a slightly expanded version from fifth movement of the composer’s larger choral-orchestral version. Among the multiple meanings of Hawaiki Rising include the dream of the legendary Hawaiian waterman, Eddie Aikau, of seeing Tahiti rise from the sea, just as his ancestors once did long ago.
1. Spirit Guardians
2. The Living Song
3. Lei Kaʻapuni Honua