Contributor- Malule, Hanapēpē Valley, Kauaʻi.

This mele was composed after the Chinese introduced the gambling game of chee-fah, and its widespread popularity among the Hawaiians of Honolulu was amazing. A country Hawaiian learned it quickly enough upon coming to town.

Riddles, dreams, hunches, all played their part in this game, and many an hour was spent in guessing whether the lucky word of the day was ‘horse’s head’ (poo lio), ‘dragon’ (moo-lani), ‘prostitute’ (wahine laikini), and so forth. Then each player submitted his guess to the chee-fah­ bank with a sum of money, through an agent whose business it was to collect them. A lucky guess yielded $1.50 for every nickel paid, and after deducting his 10 percent, the agent paid the money over to the winner.

I’ve sat and listened to Hawaiians by the hour discussing chee-fah. Some got themselves hopelessly in debt with this game.

(Translation and excerpt by Mary Kawena Pukui)

Aloha ka luna o Hāʻupu,

Greetings to the heights of Hāʻupu,

ʻUpu mai ka manaʻo e ʻike iā Hulēʻia,

My mind has a longing to see Hulēʻia,

Ka waiho kāhela a Niumalu,

To see Niumalu lying stretched out,

I ka mālie, mālie ka mamaka nō.

In the clear, calm weather.

Nānā ʻia aʻe o ka ulua me na ka liʻi,

Where one watches for ulua fish for the chief,

O hōʻea mai auaneʻi kaikoʻo o ka moana.

Before the sea becomes rough.

Kau aku ka manaʻo nō ka hua kīpā,

The mind then concentrates on a chee-fah number,

Kahi pola laiki hoehoe ka waha.

And a bowl of rice to be “paddled” to the mouth.

Hoʻi nele au i ke kula o Malumalu,

I return empty-handed to the plain of Malumalu,

HUa malu kuʻu kino,

My body untouched,

Ua pā i ka leo.

For I am restrained by your command.

Ka noho nō a ka ua kēwai i ka uka,

The light shower remains in the upland,

Makani aloha o kuʻu ʻāina.

With the beloved wind of my land.

Ke huli hoʻi nei au ke kula wale o Puhi.

I now turn to go back to the plain of Puhi.

Ka waiho kāhela i ke kula o Hololā,

Yonder lies stretched out the plain of Hololā,

Ke ālai ana a Kahoaea ma mua.

Hidden out of sight by Kahoaea.

He kula maikaʻi kula o Waikanono,

A fine plain is the plain of Waikanono,

Kū nō a Kapalikea he ihona o Lawaʻi,

Where Kapalikea stands above the descent of Lawaʻi,

He piʻina ikiiki o Kalāheo,

Steep is the ascent to Kalāheo,

Hoʻoheo ana me he wahine manuahi ala i kuʻu poli,

Teasing me like a paramour held against the bosom,

I ka ʻī aʻe, kau aku ka manaʻo no Wahiawā.

By reminding me of the distance to Wahiawā.

Ka noho mālie no aka ua ili.

I shall remain quietly, for I am chagrined.

He wahi aloha noʻu a no ia lā kekahi.

But it has some love for me and for her too.

Amamau.

Now hold on.

[MS SC ROBERTS 3.4  p. 1-4]

Mele are an invaluable primary resource for Hawaiian scholarship and cultural connection. The Welo Hou: Building Connections to the Roberts Mele Collection project, funded in part by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, will improve the digitization, indexing, and accessibility of a unique and treasured collection of mele dating from pre-Western contact to the early 1900s. This pilot project will serve as a model for improved access to and increased engagement with the Bishop Museum Library & Archives’ other mele collections.

Welo Hou, or to unfurl once again, aims to provide more opportunities for researchers of all levels of Hawaiian language and cultural fluency to access the Roberts Collection with ease, and honors the connections between Hawaiian voices of the past and our community of the present.


This project is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services NG-04-17-0218-17