Kawika Keikiali'ihiwahiwa Alifche

Hawai'ian hula

Master artist Kawika Keikiali`ihiwahiwa Alfiche (right) and apprentice Eileen Maka Aniciete.  Kawika holds some of the hula implements which Eileen made as part of their 2008 apprenticeship.Hawai'ian hula is an indigenous dance form accompanied by oli (chant) and mele (song).   The oli and the hula dramatize and accentuate the mele, which carries valuable information: history, genealogy, religion, geography, geology, etc.

There are many styles of hula which have been divided into two main categories.   Kahiko (ancient), as performed before Western encounters with Hawai’i, is accompanied by traditional instruments. Hula as it evolved under Western influence in the 19th and 20th centuries is called ‘Auana.   It is accompanied by song and musical instruments such as the guitar, the ‘ukulele, and/or the bass.

Hula is taught in schools know has hālau and the teacher is called kumu hula, kumu meaning “source of knowledge.”

Kawika Keikiali'ihiwahiwa Alifche has been studying hula for over 20 years.  Beginning as a young teenager, he has learned from three kumu hula: Tiare Maka Olanolan of Hanalei, Hawai'i; Aunty Harriett Keahilihau-Spalding of Keaukaha, Hawai'i; and Rae Kahikilaulani Fonseca of Hilo, Hawai'i.  Kawika has taught hula to his own students for over 14 years.

Of the importance of hula, Kawika says, “As a culture we are bound by our ‘oleo (language).  Our mele are filled with ‘olelo no’eau (proverbs).  These ‘oleo no’aeu are guides and instruct how to conduct ourselves and how to live successfully: spiritually, physically, and mentally….  The great thing about our traditions is it’s just not a dance and movement.  It comes with great kuleana (responsibility) for it is the voice of our culture.”

In 2008, Kawika participated in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program with apprentice Eileen Maka Aniciete.  Their apprenticeship involved in-depth study of several hula, including puniu (coconut knee drum), ‘uli’uli (featherless gourd rattle), and the rare ‘ulili (triple gourd top) and lapaiki (small skinned drum).  Additionally, they also focused on the accompanying oli and mele for each hula, exploring their layered meanings and symbolism.


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Master artist Kawika Keikiali`ihiwahiwa Alfiche (right) and his 2008 apprentice Eileen Maka Aniciete (Photo: ACTA, 2008)

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