Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine September-October 2014 - September-October 2014
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Giving Voice to a Culture

For more than a millennium, Hawaii relied on was an oral culture. It’s not mere chance that the spoken word has regained its importance today.

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It’s a winter night on Kahului Bay. The sea breezes please the skin as they puff through this almost-empty hall. Outside in the moist darkness mild waves roll audibly, and each slushy crescendo is long and easy and slow to fade. Inside the hall, ceiling fans tick quietly. The bare concrete floor seems to have been polished to a shine. Twelve students pull their chairs in a line that curves slightly around the figure of their kumu—their teacher—a young Hawaiian man who sits solidly on the edge of a simple wooden stage. “Listen,” says the kumu, and he begins to oli. To chant.