From Student Handout to Published Work

13559190_1750388698569942_2581600734050592331_oAlmost 35 years ago we moved to California from Honolulu and (luckily for me) landed in Uncle Joe Kahāʻulelioʻs hālau. After he passed away a few years later I began to teach hula. I noticed one thing right away. Those of us who were from Hawaiʻi had a very different perspective on the hula from those who were not.
Many of my students were well meaning, but simply had no idea of the depth of what they were getting involved with.
This is why I began to collect notes and essays on the cultural underpinnings of the hula for my students. I combined them into a spiral bound “book” that I self published. The first edition was released in 1999. Three years ago I revisited the project to refine the information and self-published in a more professional way. The latest rewrite of the Haumāna Hula Handbook was just released by Penguin Random House!

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Celebrating The Unifying Power Of Traditional Dance

photoUchiyama grew up within the Hawaiian hula tradition of her hometown, Washington D.C. Her love for the practice later brought her to places like Hawai’i, New Zealand and Tahiti, where she studied dance and immersed herself in local culture. She spoke to KALW’s Jen Chien.

Listen to the interview.

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On Competition

For the second consecutive year, I am preparing my hālau to enter the upcoming Kū Mai Ka Hula Competition in Kahului, Maui.


This is a wonderful event which features award-winning hālau from Hawaiʻi, Japan and California competing in solo and group performances. We were awarded Second Place for our Kūpuna performance in 2015. This year, we will be participating in both the Kūpuna and Wahine Division.


I began competing back in the mid 1980ʻs with the old Kaleponi Hula Competition at Fort Mason Center, and on with Iā ʻOe E Ka Lā, ONIPAʻA, the San Francisco Tahiti Fete, and the Tahiti Fete of San Jose. I have also participated in competitions in Hawaiʻi over the years, most notably the King Kamehameha Hula and Chant Competition and one time as a hoʻopaʻa for Hālau O Kuʻuleinani at the Merrie Monarch back in 1986.


Though we have placed more than not, I have to say that the most valuable thing for me about these experiences is not coming in first, second or third. It has way more to do with learning a new aspect of history and culture, and then working hard to understand how to most respectfully represent it through our movement, regalia and song. When it comes to competing in Hawaiʻi, this requires a level of immersion from all of us which is, due to our being here in California, challenging to say the least. What I most treasure about the experience of bringing a company of dancers to step up into competiton in Hawaiʻi is for them to be there on the land from which the tradition springs and to see the transformation in how they perceive their hula. Once there, they directly experience the caress of the wind and waves, the inspiration of the features of the land, and most importantly, the warmth of the community.


Make no mistake, winning is fantastic! But more valuable is the opportunity to deepen our foundation, flesh out our contextual understanding of the tradition, and obtain extremely valuable feedback from the master teachers who will carefully evaluate everything we do.





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Ndoro Dze Madzinza (2010)

Conceptualized over 1,000 years ago, the mbira is used in ceremonies of healing and personal meditation, and incorporates a canon of songs that are offered as prayers. The mbira is particularly associated with the ancestors, spirits of loved ones who no longer walk the earth but are still among us offering guidance and comfort.

The ndoro is an emblem personified by the spiral shape of the mollusk shell. These shells were rarely found in land-locked Zimbabwe. Because of their rarity, the ndoro spiral became an insignia of spiritual power and are considered a link to the ancestral realm.

Ndoro Dze Madzinza (“emblem of Africa’s clans, linking us to our ancestors”) is a collection of mbira songs and an expression of appreciation for the richness and beauty Shona and Pan-African traditions.

Song List and Descriptions
Click on title to hear a sample!

  • Chigwaya – 
In honor of the Njuzu, (mermaid Spirits) who are much loved because they bring wealth and protection.
  • Chipembere – The name means “rhinoceros”.
  • Kanhurura – The name alludes to “something small used to get something big”, such as an object utilized to pick fruit off of a high branch.  May be used in ceremony to entice the Spirit to come, because the melody is considered to be so beautiful that they cannot ignore it.  This is also an example of nhetete style – soft music played toward the end of a ceremony as everyone gathers to hear what the Spirits have to say.
  • Shumba Ya Ngwasha The song refers to an in-law who works very hard.
  • Nyama Musango “There is meat in the forest.”  So, go out and get what you need.  Don’t wait for what you need to come to you.
  • Chimentengure One of the five types of lamellophones typically played in Zimbabwe, it has a very different key arrangement and repertory than the mbira dza vadzimu. Karimba are typically played for entertainment, rather than for ceremony.
  • Mukai Tiende “Wake up, let’s go!”  Played to awaken us to do what it is we need to do.
  • Nhema Musasa One of the oldest and most popular songs in the 1000 year old canon of repertoire, the name means ‘to build as temporary shelter in the forest’.
  • Baya Wa Baya “Stab after stab”.  Played for Kurova Guva ceremonies to welcome home the wandering Spirit of a deceased relative.
  • Karigamombe “Undefeatable, one who cannot be knocked to the ground.”  Although this song is typically the very first one learned by new mbira students, it is regularly played in ceremonies.
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A Walk by the Sea (2007)

A Walk by the Sea is an offering of thanksgiving. Water, as a vessel of healing, connects us to each other, to the natural world, and to the Divine.

Song List and Descriptions

He Mele No Na Aumakua An offering of love to our ancestors.
Mihi Au A traditional Tahitian love song.
Na Hoku ‘Elua “The Two Hokus”, a song in celebrating Mahea’s son and Tahitian Godson, both with the name Hoku (star).
Shumba yaNgwasha An mbira song in celebrating community.
A Prayer at Sunset Based on the mbira song ‘Kuzanga’ this song is dedicated to the ancestors.
Cherokee Morning Song This is a song which one would chant while entering the river in the morning to give thanks for the new day, and to wash away any feelings separating you from your family, neighbors, or the Creator.
Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)/Huli Ka Honua “Huli Ka Honua” a Hawaiian adaptation of “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”.
Uaro Composed by Aaron Sencil.
A song for the Shore Goddess.
Pahupahu A fusion of Tahitian ‘Ote’a with the West African rhythms of Lamba (for healing) and Manjiani (for celebration), this performance is a celebration and call of support for all of us who walk in two worlds.
He Kamahele Au Home resides in the heart.
Te Arohanui A prayer calling on the Ancestor Spirits for strength and perseverance.
Walk in Balance A hidden track” not included in the liner notes.

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Tatau (2004)

Song List and Descriptions
Te Moana We are all connected by the ocean. ‘Ote’a Heivari’i Featured on the 2009, Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards! Pua Noanoa Weave a flower hei to entice the beautiful one to dance! Kaveka The legend of the bird Kaveka. Ua Ro’ohia Ta’u Tino it Te Ati “I am caught up with difficulty.” ‘Ote’a Kahaia, Taura o Te Here Give thanks and praise to the creator for each other. Tapa’o No Te Here The Sacred Fire is the sign of love. Taure’are’a A call to the youth of today to step forward. Morning at Mo’orea A song of love for the island of Mo’orea ‘Ote’a Nahiti Na Manu ‘Erua An ‘ote’a telling the legend of the Dual-Spirit Bird

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Moemoea (2000)

Song List
Pua O Pauoa,
He Nani Ha’upu,
Teahi Ura,
Kaimuki Hula,
Miti Rapa,
Ai’a O Tahiti,
E Fa’aro’o Mai,
Rere Te Manu,

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Mele Hula (1998)

Song List

A collection of classical Hawaiian Mele Hula.

E Ho Mai,
Ho’opuka E Ka La,
Aia La ‘O Pele I Hawai’i,
Lili’u e,
Ula No Weo,
‘Ano’ai Ku’u Wehi,
Ke Lei Mai La,
E Ho’i Ke Aloha I Ni’ihau,
No Ke Ano Ahiahi,
Halehale Ke Aloha,
He Mele No KaUaTuahine

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Tuahine Rain (1998)

Song List

Ori Tahiti,
He Hula No Ka Mo’i Kalakaua,
‘Aparima Medley:
(Tupa’ipa’i, Manina To Ma’a Tino, Pakakina, Bora Bora, and Takaroa),
Hole Waimea,
Na Keiki O Ke Anuenue,
‘Aparima Medley,
Tiare ‘Apetahi, Miti Rapa, Te ‘Ai’a O Tahiti, Horohoro Tatahi,
‘O Hawai’i ‘Aina Aloha,
‘Ote’a O Te Va’a,
Hokule’a No Tahiti

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