Ka Pilina

Ka Pilina
Composed By: Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett
Performed By: Sean Na’auau

Ka Pilina – By Frank K. Hewitt
`Ö`io`io ka `elepaio

I ke kulu o ke aumoe


Kani a`e ka `apapane

Me kona leo nahenahe


Lohe`ia ke ao

He mele ko ka `i`iwi pölena


Eia a`e ka wahine

Halihali `ia mai e nä manu


`O ka pilina ä käua

`O ka pilina ä käua

The elepaio chirps

As midnight approaches


The `apapane sings

With his beautiful voice


Heard at dawn,

A song of the `i`iwi pölena


Now approaches the woman,

Attended by the birds


Our love and intimacy

Our love and intimacy

Source: J. Overton Collection – Recorded by SeanNaauaohttp://www.huapala.org/Ka/Ka_Pilina.html


“Ka Pilina” is the first mele (song) I learnt from my kumu(teacher).  Until now, this mele is still my favorite one.

“Ka” – can be translated as “the”, “pilina” – can be translated as relationship, connection.

So, we know this mele is about relationship.

Let’s look inside the lyric to know more! 🙂



The story

This mele is based on the story of La’ieikawai. Some said she is the goddess of twilight and rainbow.

the legend of La'ieikawai

The legend of La’ieikawai (Source: http://www.amazon.com/Laieikawai-The-Houlu-Hou-Project/dp/0976089262 )


Two must-see painting of La’ieikawai:




“Laʻieikawai – was a beautiful princess from Laʻie Oahu. Hidden away from her father, who killed all of his newborn daughters because he wanted a son, she was kept in a cave which was only accessible by diving into a pool of water, called Waiapuka. Soon there was word that royalty was near by because of the tell-tale rainbow that graced the sky above her cave dwelling.
Secretly her grandmother, Waka, smuggled her to Paliuli in the Puna district on the Big Island. On their way there, rumors of Laʻieikawaiʻs beauty traveled throughout all the islands. Aiwohikupua, a young handsome chief from Kauaʻi, decided to pursue her. At her home in Paliuli, Laieikawai was attended by supernatural birds such as the ‘i’iwi polena. It is said she could float on the wings of the birds. While other royalty in Hawai’i had mere feather capes and cloaks, Paliuli had a house made of the sacred feathers. A beautiful rainbow formed over her home in Paliuli. After a series of misfortunes, she becomes known as Kawahineliula (“woman of the twilight”).” Source : http://blog.bnb-aloha.com/2013/12/legends-of-hawaii.html


short story 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La%CA%BBieikawai

short story 2: http://people.tribe.net/renee/photos/eb609719-689a-42bd-8ce7-8d7fa6127474

Full story: http://www.sacred-texts.com/pac/hm/hm41.htm





Home of La’ieikawai, equivalent of the garden of Eden. It is located in the Puna district of Hawai’i.


You can only dive through this pool to get access to the cave La’ieikawai was kept.




There are 3 different birds mentioned in the lyric: `elepaio,  `apapane , `i`iwi pölena.

1. `elepaio


Photo taken by Eike Wulfmeyer, Keauhou Bird Conservation Center (KBCC), Volcano HI, circa 03-SEP-2002.


The ʻelepaio is the first native bird to sing in the morning and the last to stop singing at night; apart from whistled and chattering contact and alarm calls, it is probably best known for its song, from which derives the common name: a pleasant and rather loud warble which sounds like e-le-PAI-o or ele-PAI-o. It nests between January and June.” – Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E2%80%98Elepaio

That’s why the lyric said ‘elepaio chirps as midnight come.


2. `apapane


‘Apapane (Himatione sanguinea) on ‘Ohi‘a Pihea Trail, Kaua‘i  © 1999 Peter LaTourrette

The ‘apapane are beautiful singer, they eat honey. May be that’s the reason why they sing so loud.

Know more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CA%BBApapane


3. `i`iwi pölena


‘I’iwi on koli’i, a native lobleia. Photo © Jim Denny


c. 1893_1900 Frederick Frohawk, Native Hawaiian Birds, Vintage painting of Red Hawaiian Honeycreeper or I´iwi Polena Vestiaria coccinea.

“The ʻi’iwi is a highly recognizable symbol of Hawaiʻi. The ʻiʻiwi is the third most common native land bird in the Hawaiian Islands.” – Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%CA%BBI%CA%BBiwi




ʻō ʻio ʻio – chirps

kulu – approach

aumoe – midnight

kani – sing

kōna – his

leo – voice

nahe nahe – soft, sweet, melodies

pilina – relationship, connection

lohe – to hear

ao – dawn

he mele – a song

wahine – woman

halihali – to transport

manu – bird






One Reply to “Ka Pilina”

  1. Thank you for this beautiful page, for putting all this information together to convey the meaning of this lovely song.

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