Maui men just miss kahiko title

The men of Maui’s Halau Kekuaokala’au’ala’iliahi came within a point of capturing the kahiko, or traditional hula, title at this weekend’s Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo.

“We knew that the boys did the best they could,” said ‘Iliahi Paredes, kumu hula of the halau with his wife, Haunani, on Sunday afternoon.

“We are glad that we got to the stage,” he said, noting a few hiccups in their performance. “It was a pleasant surprise. . . . We feel so honored and blessed and praise the Lord.”

The Wailuku-based halau scored 565 points and actually topped La’akea Perry’s Ke Kai O Kahiki from Waianae, Oahu, in a tiebreaker. The Maui halau finished a point behind Chinky Mahoe’s Kawaili’ula, which scored 566 points.

Kawaili’ula ended up capturing the overall title at the 50th Merrie Monarch Festival.

Paredes’ halau, the only Maui halau in the men’s competition, performed “Malie ‘O Maui,” “a song that honors the Hana side,” said ‘Iliahi Paredes, who performed the “classic hula” while a dancer under kumu hula O’Brian Eselu in his Ke Kai O Kahiki.

He told his men that they “could do a better job” than when his halau from Oahu danced the mele in 1992.

“The great part about it is that it is a Maui mele by Maui boys,” he said of the mele that means “Maui calm.” “The storytelling is even more powerful because our boys could take ownership. . . . It is their land and their history.”

They took the dancers out to Hana “to soak in the beauty” and to view of all the places the song talked about. His dancers were encouraged to “take a mental picture of the view” of Hana and the places they had seen.

“That is what they need to put out on the stage,” the kumu hula told his dancers. “They need to make the hula express the vision” of the scenes of Hana.

The men of Halau Kekuaokala’au’ala’iliahi also made the stage in the auana, or modern hula, competition, finishing fourth. They danced to “Laupahoehoe Hula,” another classic number chosen in honor of the 50th anniversary of the famed hula festival, said ‘Iliahi Paredes.

He said that the mele, with words by Mary Pukui and music by Irmgard Farden ‘Aluli, is a “good fun song” that every male dancer of hula would know. The mele tells the story of a young man who likes to climb hills, catch oopu in the streams and paddle in the ocean off the Big Island.

Many of his dancers are still in high school, and “I wanted to find a classic song that would capture the age and energy” of his group, he said.

The Paredeses were pleased with the performance of their men, who have made the stage twice to collect their honors at the Aunty Edith Kanaka’ole Tennis Stadium in what has been described as the “Olympics of hula.”

Before the awards were announced, ‘Iliahi Paredes said he and his wife told the dancers that whatever the outcome, they were proud of them, they loved them and they did what they wanted of them.

“We feel so blessed,” he said. “The awards are just the icing on the cake for us.”

A television commentator covering the hula festival lauded the fresh young kumu hula, adding that they will return home and work harder for the next competition.

‘Iliahi Paredes concurred with that assessment.

“The boys are hungry, and they really want to go back and be better on the stage,” said the kumu hula, whose halau finished fourth last year in kahiko and auana divisions in its first appearance.

“I see them wanting to be better individually and as a group . . . We want to come back and bring the best on the stage,” he said.

Also competing at Merrie Monarch Festival in the wahine division was Kula’s Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka, led by Napua Greig and her sister, Kahulu Maluo.

On Thursday, the first night of the festival, Manalani English of the Kula halau captured the Miss Aloha Hula title, finishing ahead of the Paredes’ Sloane Makana West.

* Lee Imada can be reached at