5. Moloka‘i Nui A Hina (attributed to Matthew Kane)—vocal and 12-string guitar, in C Major “Atta’s C” Tuning (C-G-E-G-C-E), tuned down three half steps to sound in the key of A.
Each island in Hawai‘i has its special chants and songs. They celebrate ali‘i (chiefs), winds, rains, tallest peaks, familiar landmarks, flowers, leis, historical events, and other important features that distinguish the island from all others.
This is the best-known song for Moloka‘i, child of the goddess Hina. The mele speaks of the legendary chief Pi‘ilani, the kukui nut lei, which represents the island, and important landmarks on the Friendly Isle, including the kukui blossoms of Lanikāula and the majestic Hālawa Valley set among the cliffs.
Hawaiian music melodies are sometimes adapted from other sources, as here. Anyone with access to the old American Civil War song “Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground” should easily identify its close relationship to this still-popular Hawaiian song. This shows us how adept Hawaiian composers can be at fitting Hawaiian words and sentiments to any kind of melody, and just how long good melodies survive in Hawaiian music.
When “Moloka‘i Nui A Hina” is performed live, Moloka‘i’s own will often rise and sing along. It has been recorded numerous times as both a vocal and instrumental. Cyril performed it as an instrumental in his D Major 6/9 Tuning (D-A-D-F#-B-E), on his album 6 & 12 String Slack-Key. His brother Martin did a lively version on his Dancing Cat album Ho’olohe (LISTEN).
Before he gathers steam on this version, Cyril starts things off with another beautiful rubato introduction, highlighting his soulful three finger rolls.
Ua like nō a like lā me ku‘u one hānau
Ke po‘okela i ka piko nā kuahiwi
Me Moloka‘i nui a Hina
‘ina i ka wehiwehi
E ho‘i nō wau e pili
E ho‘i nō wau e pili
Ua nani nā hono a‘o Pi‘ilani
I ke kü kilakila i ka ‘ōpua
‘O ku‘u pua kukui aia i Lanikāula
‘O ka hene wai ‘olu lana mālie
Honoring the beautiful place of my birth
The summit at the center of all mountains
And Hina’s great Moloka‘i
A land adorned with beauty
I shall return to stay
How beautiful are the bays of Pi‘ilani
That stand majestically in the billowy clouds above a peaceful sea
My kukui blossom is at Lanikāula
The pleasant coolness of the calm sea
All is calm and still