Throughout Na Leo’s musical journey, we’ve come across many different people, Hawaiian artists and cultural experts, if you will. The song “Nani ‘o Wai‘anae” came to the table when considering mele to do for our album, and I really wanted to share that particular song because of the importance of sharing with people what Wai‘anae is all about. This particular song was written by Kenneth Makuakāne, Manu Boyd, and Robbie Cabral, and I think the goal was to capture the essence and the beauty of Wai‘anae.
I live out in the Wai‘anae community. I love “Nani ‘o Wai‘anae” because of the beauty that the song brings to the community, talking about how beautiful the land is and how we are the last ones to see the sun set and such; how the people are truly warm and welcoming. I feel that the song really is a representation of what Wai‘anae was back in the times of ancient Hawai‘i, and what it continues to be now. The legends depicted in the song are still proudly shared because they are legends of Wai‘anae. Ka‘ena is still that sacred place for a lot of people: Some people scatter ashes there, some people go there to reflect, some go there to make important decisions. The song just truly describes what the community of Wai‘anae is about.
At my age now, I’m trying to immerse myself in a lot of our history here in Hawai‘i. You know, what are the legends of the places, and what are the stories you hear, not only in book-learning but if you’re sitting with kūpuna and they tell you stories that they heard from their grandparents. Just knowing that there was so much activity in Wai‘anae, that our ancestors thrived here, that every ahupua‘a flourished and the communities took care of each other—I think that’s my favorite part of the song, having that ancestral tie to the people that walked this community before me.
There’s one part in the song where it talks about “the ancestors tread the heavenly path amongst the billowing cloud banks, it is an evening journey led by the makani (the winds).” I like that, because I feel as a people we need to not only move forward, but we need to remember our past, so that we can move forward and be stronger. And, to remember the simple things in life, like the fact that I can go down to the beach and just sit and breathe and close my eyes and enjoy the warmth of the sun, even when the sun is setting, and the water, which is two minutes away from my home. You know, a lot of people don’t get that in other parts of the world.
I think the music of the community—the music of Wai‘anae and of Nānākuli and of Mākaha and of Mā‘ili and even of Ko Olina—all that music can definitely bring a sense of pride and a sense of continuing to thrive. I would hope that our mele touches people in a way that makes them reevaluate where they live and what they’re doing in their life—and how they can create a better place.