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This blog is to share with you some of the highlights of my visits to Hawaii and miscellaneous Hawaiiana. Hawai'i has had a great impact on my life. To see more on why I keep this blog, see: The Impact of Hawai'i in My Life.

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"Aloha Oe": The Classic Hawaiian Song

Aloha Oe
by Queen Liliuokalani, 1878
More than a century ago, “Aloha Oe” became one of the first Hawaiian songs to achieve recognition outside of the Islands. Today, it remains Hawaii’s most famous composition. Since Liliuokalani composed the song in the late 1870s, its poignant words and melody have been sung on countless occasions, from sendoffs at Honolulu Harbor to final farewells at local funerals.
Says Hawaiian historian and singer Nalani Olds, “When I was with the Royal Hawaiian Band, we took a six-week tour of Europe, and it was amazing to hear Aloha Oe’ done in so many foreign tongues. All of these people knew it, even in the remotest places.”
Although the song has become synonymous with goodbye, the queen herself reportedly insisted that it was a love song. She is said to have composed the song during a tour around Oahu, shortly after witnessing a lingering embrace between a woman in her entourage and a man at the Edwin Boyd Ranch in Maunawili.
In the opening lines, the queen describes in Hawaiian the proud rain upon the cliffs, seeking out the lehua- flower. “The rain represents semen falling from Wakea, sky father, seeking out Papahanaumoku, earth mother,” explains Dr. Kekuni Blaisdell, who helped research and publish The Queen’s Songbook, a collection of 55 of her compositions. “It’s a poem about love and passion, man and woman. It’s much, much more than just goodbye.”
The queen was the most prolific among the royal composers, which included her siblings who lived to adulthood, Kalakaua, Likelike and Leleiohoku. Collectively, they are known as Na Lani Eha, the royal four, for their accomplishments as composers, musicians and perpetuators of their culture.
While Liliuokalani was imprisoned for eight months at Iolani Palace after the overthrow of the monarchy, she described composing as a “a gift of nature [which], never having been suffered to fall into disuse, remains a source of the greatest consolation today. ... Hours ... I might have found long and lonely, passed quickly and cheerfully by, occupied and soothed by the expression of my thoughts in music.” 

Hawaiian lyrics:

Ha'aheo ka ua i na pali
Ke nihi a'ela i ka nahele
E hahai (uhai) ana paha i ka liko
Pua 'ahihi lehua o uka

Aloha 'oe, aloha 'oe

E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace,
A ho 'i a'e au
Until we meet again 

'O ka hali'a aloha i hiki mai

Ke hone a'e nei i
Ku'u manawa
'O 'oe no ka'u ipu aloha
A loko e hana nei

Maopopo ku'u 'ike i ka nani

Na pua rose o Maunawili
I laila hia 'ia na manu
Miki'ala i ka nani o ka lipo      

English lyrics:
Proudly swept the rain by the cliffs
As it glided through the trees
Still following ever the bud
The `ahihi lehua of the vale

Farewell to you, farewell to you
The charming one who dwells in the shaded bowers
One fond embrace,
'Ere I depart
Until we meet again

Sweet memories come back to me
Bringing fresh remembrances
Of the past
Dearest one, yes, you are mine own
From you, true love shall never depart

I have seen and watched your loveliness
The sweet rose of Maunawili
And 'tis there the birds of love dwell
And sip the honey from your lips

See also:
50 Greatest Songs of Hawaii

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