Mele (Hawaiian term)

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Mele are chants, songs, or poems. The term comes from the Hawaiian language. It is frequently used in song titles such as "He Mele Lahui Hawaii", composed in 1866 by Liliuokalani as a national anthem. Hawaiian songbooks often carry the word in the book's title.[1] Mele is a cognate of Fijian language meke.

In practical usage, the word can be combined with other words, such as Mele Hula, a metered chant.[2] The word can either be a noun (He mele keia), or used as a verb to mean "to chant" or "to sing" (E mele mai...).

The 1,255 recordings of Hawaiian chants and songs made by ethnomusicologist Helen Heffron Roberts 1923–1924 are cataloged at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu as individual meles. The museum database has a separate search category titled "Mele Index".[3] The Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawaii at Manoa teaches multiple classes on various aspects of mele.[4]


  1. ^ Elbert, Samuel H; Mahoe, Noelani (1970). Na Mele O Hawai'i Nei: 101 Hawaiian Songs. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-87022-219-1.
  2. ^ Ho'omanawanui, Ku'ualoha (Spring 2005). "He Lei Ho'oheno no nā Kau a Kau: Language, Performance, and Form in Hawaiian Poetry". The Contemporary Pacific. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press. 17 (1): 29–81. doi:10.1353/cp.2005.0008. hdl:10125/13836 – via Project MUSE.
  3. ^ "Bishop Museum Database". Bishop Museum. Retrieved May 21, 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ "Catalog-Hawaiian Knowledge". University of Manoa. Retrieved May 21, 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)