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?