Sailing the high seas
Adapting to the currently icy temperatures, our recent focus is on the mele “`Alika”.
This composition by Charles Kapa`a translates as “Arctic” and is said to have been inspired by the landing of a sailing ship of the same name in Hawai`i between 1787 and 1792.
Musically, it is a bravura for female falsetto voice, inspiring generations of Hawaiian singers such as Genoa Keawe or Raitea Helm to deliver breathtaking performances quite literally.
The lyrics are a prime example of “kaona”, the double-entendre or artistic word play that is typical of so many Hawaiian songtexts.
On a superficial level, the song tells of a ship sailing the oceans in stormy weather.
But is this tale really about the firm prow of a ship and its anything but slack sails, that sets out for the heights of the Himalayas to rest calmly afterwards ?
Employing some mischievous spirit, we can easily spot the innuendos to human anatomy and understand this as a story about a stormy encounter of the more intimate kind.