Thursday, July 12, 2007

Last Chant Learned

The last new chant I learned was the Kamanomano chant. There was an unusual prolonged torrential downpour that drove Lani and I indoors. We were in the gymnasium near the tennis courts. Lono was off somewhere else. I begged Lani to sing a chant and he lost patience and reminded me that the chants are spiritual. You just don't sing them any place, any time.

I must have looked really hurt and made him feel horribly guilty, because he immediately came up with a chant that he could feel comfortable singing in a gym. Years later I found it performed twice on tracks 13 & 14 of the Smithsonian Hawaiian Drum Dance Chants album. It was translated by Mary Pukui in the notes this way:

1. 'Eia o Kalani Kamanomano
[Here is the heavenly one Kamanomano]

2. Kamanomano heke o ke kapu
[The highest and strictest of the tabus]

3. Ka honu pe'ekua wakawaka
[The thick horny shelled turtle]

4. Pip'i ka unahi ma ke kua
[With scales up the back]

5. Hiolo ka unahi ma ke alo
[And scales that come down the front]

6. Ma ka maha 'opi o Kalani
[Along the sides of the heavenly one]

7. Kalani ka hiapo, kama kapu
[The first born, a tabu child]

8. Hānau mua o Hawai'i
[First born chief in Hawai'i]

9. Ka 'īlio nūkea ma ka lani
[A snout raised up to the heavens]

10. 'Eia la ke 'o nei
[Lo, here he is!

Lani's interpretation was unusually clear and specific. He said it was about something you could see in the sky at night. He gave a different translation of line 6, saying it meant, "in the cleft temple of the sky." That referred to a place where the Milky Way appeared to separate and return to itself. So it isn't a constellation, but a relative void of stars. The song is describing it as looking like a fabulous long necked turtle with snout raised and jewels sprinkled over and under it, and suggesting that he is an apparition of a great ancestor.

He touched the right side of my head at my temple, to explain the meaning of the word "maha." The touch reminded me of the car's strike, and it burned Lani's meaning into me.

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