Though it is a more modern mele we have always associated “Holei” with Pele because the features it describes are her handiwork. As a child, my summers and weekends were spent on the sea cliffs of the Kalapana-Kehena area, listening to that great-voiced sea. With so much of Puna reclaimed by Ka Wahine Kapu, the mele takes on special poignancy. IN 2014, I spend a weekend in Kalapana with one of my dearest friends, and made video of some of the landscape with my cellphone. I made my very first music video with it! Though shaky, it captures, for me, much of my feeling about Kalapana.
In the journey of Hi`iaka to find Pele’s sweetheart, Lohi`au, at one point she is on the island of O`ahu, and stands on the height of Wahiawā. From there she can hear the surf pounding at Waialua, and can see Waialua and across the channel to Līhu`e.
O Waialua kai leo nui
Ua lono ka uka o Līhu`e
Ke wā ala Wahiawa e,
Kuli wale, kuli wale i ka leo
He leo no ke kai e.
At some time, possibly in the 1970s, someone changed the place names to Kalapana and Hōlei. It is believed to have been a woman with the surname of “Kay.”
A much-loved version of the mele was recorded by Dennis Pavao on his album All Hawai`i Stand Together, released in 1994.
The ever gracious Aunty Maria Hickling wrote in the on-line Hawaiian music resource “Taro patch” forum:
“. . . this is “The whole Hōlei story…straight from Led… [Ledward Ka`apana]
Mama Tina had a painting of Kalapana in their house, and below it was a poem
about Kalapana (written by someone with last name “Kay” — who received full
credit for the lyrics).
Led liked the poem, composed a melody for it — and added some text. Took it
to Hui `Ohana for recording, but no one wanted it add it to the album at that time.
Hui `Ohana never recorded the song.
So when Led joined with Alika Odom and Bernard Kalua as ‘Na Leo Kane O
Punahele,’ they were the first to record the song — and went on to be known as
‘Led Kaapana & I Kona’ on their later albums.
Dennis Pavao recorded the song on his album, ‘All Hawai`i Stand Together’. . .”
Since that time, the song has become a much-loved anthem of the Kalapana area.