Mī Nei Police
na Kīhei de Silva

I was at the Bishop Museum Archives the other day working on some chants for Ka‘ū when -- as so often happens in the process of paging through the mele collections of Roberts and Mader -- something completely unrelated and totally irresistible popped into view, ‘o ia ho‘i, the following explanation attached to Charles E. King’s "Mī Nei." The note is handwritten and unsigned, but its neat script, careful diction, and early mention of "my husband . . . Pukui" identifies it incontrovertibly as belonging to the sharp pencil and subtle wit of Mary Kawena Pukui:

"My husband was a friend of Charles King and whenever Charlie had a show, Pukui was the back stage property man. The first person to dance this hula, Mi Nei, was Lydia Kaloio, under the direction of Mr. King himself. At this line, ʻAlawa mai ‘oe, aia i lalo ia nani,ʻ Lydia made a gesture toward her feet. Sometime later I saw other dancers put a hand at the waistline and put on a naughty look -- indicating that ʻaia i lalo ia naniʻ was somewhere else. I asked my husband to ask Mr. King just where this ʻnaniʻ was. Poor Mr. King was shocked at the question -- there was but one ʻnaniʻ that he had in mind, just as he himself had taught it to Lydia -- the ʻnaniʻ of pretty feet. The composer should know what he means -- don’t you think so? So I am passing this on to you as received from Charley King himself."

No laila, e ke hoa hula aloha nui ‘ia, i kou kuhilima ‘ana i kēia laina o kā Kale Kini mele, aia i hea ka mea nani o lalo? In light of Mrs. Pukui’s straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth explanation, where, dear hula friend, is your "nani" located? And what is that naughty expression doing on your lovely face?

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Comment by Leina'ala 259 on May 4, 2008 at 8:15pm
SING TOO - Aiya...my audience would throw bananas and guavas at me! No way! Maybe I can lip sync ...but not my own voice - goodness grief. I only can sing when I have a few drinks and with my sisters and dad at HIS HOUSE - karaoke...Blue Bayou, Delta Dawn...like that. You're being a little kolohe here aren't you?!
Comment by Kihei de Silva on May 4, 2008 at 7:27pm
E Leinaʻala e, eia kekahi mea hoihoi e aʻe: if you really want to perform "MI Nei" as King intended, youʻll have to do a little bit more than dance. His notes to the 1948 edition of Kingʻs Book of Hawaiian Melodies identify two points in the text where the "hula dancer sing[s] the song": "Ke hone nei ihu / ‘Olu ‘oe ‘olu au" and "Lilo ia mi nei." No pressure.
Comment by Kihei de Silva on May 4, 2008 at 8:11am
Ha! So poʻe puni wāwae (foot fetishers) are still allowed a naughty look when they do the proper motion. Poor Mika Kale Kini!
Comment by Leina'ala 259 on May 3, 2008 at 4:46pm
Oh - that was priceless! Thank you for that insight! I'll make sure next time I dance Mi Nei - not to have that naughty look (well - foot fetishes will love this) because of the "nani" feet!

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