Pua ʻAʻala Kenikeni - Words & Music by Elizabeth Elia Kulia Kaholo Kealoha

ʻO ʻia ka lei no ka lei
He pua Kenikeni
No ka uʻi hoʻoheno
I ka poli

Ahe lei onaona
He pua pumelia
I wili ʻia me ka
Maile lau liʻi liʻi

Ke ʻike i ka nani
ʻO ʻia pua
Ha mama i ka ihu
O ka lei hiwahiwa

Maemae ʻole iho
ʻU ʻa ka lanakila
Ho ʻa ka poʻo ʻeha
Liʻa a nui ʻia

Puana kuʻu mele
He pua kenikeni
No ka uʻi hoʻoheno
I ka poli

This lei of all other lei's
Is my sweet kenikeni
The very young one cherished
Here in my arms

A distinct fragrance
Is the plumeria
Intermingled with the scent of the
Small leaf maile

Seeing its beauty
This certain flower
Strikes the nose
That's why it's precious

When not wanted, it never fades
Stirs about its best
It gets all of my attention (crazy in love)
And too overwhelming

Again I sing
A kenikeni flower
A young beauty
I hold here in my arms.

Source: Ata Damasco, great grandson of the composer, Elizabeth Elia Kulia Kaholo Kealoha, affectionately called "Tutu Kaholo" of `Puu Uala, Maui, known today as Puʻu Ohala.
As Ata was going through his "Tutu nui's" mele haku collection, he found the original words to this love song she wrote for her husband, in 1935. The lyrics, in her handwriting is on a piece of paper, old, faded, torn and written in the old Hawaiian style of syllables with no ʻokina. Ata has added diacrytical markings for today's readings.
The mele was composed for John Kealohapauʻole Kealoha I of Pihanakalani, known today as Happy Valley on Maui, who is the Pua Kenikeni of the mele. Verse 1, stanza 3, she sings of his youthful beauty and although he is younger than her, in her eyes, he's the best. Tutu John was the last boy of 21 brothers and sisters. He was born when Ata's tutu kuamoʻo (great-great grandfather and grandmother) were in their ripe old ages of 68 & 71. The baby of the 21 siblings, he was never raised by them, for they had passed on. Verse 3, stanza 1, his beauty and fragrance, stanza 3, strikes her nose and she falls in love with him. Verse 4, stanza 1, "Maemae ʻole iho" explains that he is not wanted figuratively because he has no mama or papa, but it brings out the best in him to the point she's overwhelmed by it. Verse 4, stanza 2, ʻU ʻa is a strong, passionate feeling like love or jealousy. She becomes the mother figure in his life; she mothers him and loves him at the same time, and writes and sings this song for him.
Tutu Kaholo as she was called by her grandchildren, always shared the story of this mele of how and why she came to write it. It reminded her of the days of their first meetings as teenagers that were spaced apart to as often as 3 times a year, until she ran away from home to get married. Tutu Kaholo would set the next meeting with Tutu John, by (3) three moons. Three months they would not see each other, by the 3rd moon from their last meeting they would meet and make love, spend time with each other for three days beneath the full moon under a "Pua Kenikeni" tree. So amidst the love-making, the scent of the "
Pua Kenikeni", maile and plumeria would constantly waft and engulf them. The area where they would meet at a half-way marker, was far away from where they both lived. Tutu Kaholo would run-away from her home for the meeting of three days with Tutu John. The area of their meeting was in Kahaikapuna Valley, a little past Waiheʻe on Maui. Ata Damasco will be featuring this mele on his next recording, coming soon!