Mālia Ko’iulaokawaolehua Helelā is multi-talented young woman who grew up in the Micronesian island of Yap and in Kailua, O’ahu. She enjoys composing mele with her father, professor Dave Bird of Leeward CC, whom she credits as her greatest inspiration. She and Dave composed “Ka ‘Awa No Wai’awa,” a mele inoa name chant to honor Professor Kay Porter upon her retirement. Malia is kumu hula of Na Hula O ka Ola Aloha. Her “baby hula” classes encourage baby wellness and strengthen the ties between parent and infant.
Dave Manu Bird began teaching college writing classes at Honolulu Community College in August 1974. After five years in Yap working for the department for education and the governor’s office, he returned to Hawai’i in 1986 and began teaching at Leeward CC. Manu is the author of several books and numerous shorter pieces. He takes special delight in co-authoring oli and mele with his daughter, Mālia. In other roles, he has provided pro bono public notary service to Leeward CC faculty, staff, and students and their families for more than 20 years. He also propagates plants for lei and hula, runs a small experimental aquaculture set-up, and cares for his birdbrained chickens.
Mo’olelo: Comments on Kaona and Composition by Dave Manu Bird
Throughout her long tenure at Leeward Community College, Kay Porter was a fierce advocate for her students and colleagues. She listened, counseled, instructed, argued, and battled as appropriate on behalf of her constituents. She affected thousands of person’s lives in positive, supportive ways.
When I sat down to write this mele inoa to honor her in her retirement, I struggled at first to find an appropriate thematic metaphor because I had myriad possibilities. Then I focused my mind on the college and the area around it, traditionally called Wai’awa, and how for more than a quarter century I have watched the trade winds blow over the Ko’olau, bringing rain showers to the Pearl City uplands and finally to our arid campus. I chose nourishing rain as the metaphor that best exemplified Kay’s legacy as a nurturing and caring educator.
As I often do, I consulted Mary Kawena Pukui for inspiration. Two of her ‘ōlelo no’eau are incorporated into the lyrics of this mele.
I cannot finish this review without acknowledging my daughter, Mālia,. She composed the music to this mele and preformed it, bringing my silent words alive in joyous sound and celebration of Kay’s lasting legacy. To quote Pukui once again, “He lei poina ‘ole ke keiki.”