The Hawaiian Language Lives in the Hula Academy


Read this article in ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi

Aloha friends of the Hawaiian language. Allow me to share stories.

At Kamehameha Schools, I was incorrectly enrolled in a Hawaiian language class by some computer for my language credit. French was my choice. The mistake changed my life from then until now.

One of my Hawaiian language classmates was Palani Kahala. While we were waiting for Mrs. Quick (Sarah ʻIlialoha Keahi), Palani asked me if I wanted to learn the hula. I immediately said no. Palani responded saying, “You know, Kalani, if you want to excel in Hawaiian then hula will help.”

Although I was hesitant, I joined Palani’s hula club. Hula has enlightened my understanding of the Hawaiian language since.

Upon graduating, I searched for a hula school and found Ka Pā Hula Hawaiʻi. Kahaʻi Topolinski was the kumu hula and this is his 50th anniversary of teaching hula. Congratulations Loea Kahaʻi Topolinski and Ka Pā Hula Hawaiʻi!

Aside from the Hawaiian language that Kahaʻi heard from his mother and family, he was not fluent in the Hawaiian language then. However, being immersed in the chants of the hula grounded him in Hawaiian.

As I was studying Hawaiian at UH-Mānoa, Kahaʻi often turned to me and my hula brother Keoni DuPont to edit his compositions. One of his songs, Lei ʻo Kohala, was nominated for a Nā Hōkū Hanohano award. This editing process also helped me.

Kahaʻi established a Hawaiian class in the hālau. Classes cropped up in other hālau. Many students of Hawaiian joined hālau and many kumu hula enrolled in the university to learn the language. There was great thirst for the language. This is how the Hawaiian language surely lives in the hula academy.