Kanakaole, Edith K. (1913–1979)

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Kanakaole, Edith K. (1913–1979)

Hawaiian composer, chanter, dancer, teacher, and entertainer. Name variations: Aunt Edith; Kanaka'ole. Born Edith Ke'kuhikuhi-i-pu'u-one-o-na-ali'i-o-kohala Kenao on October 30, 1913, in Honomu, Puna district, Hawaii; died on October 3, 1979; daughter of John Kanaele Kenao and Mary Keliikuewa Ahiena; married Luka Kanakaole on January 21, 1933; children: six, including daughtersNalani Kanakaole andPualani Kanakaole , who studied and then danced with her.

Instructor at Hawaii Community College (1971–79) and University of Hawaii at Hilo (1973–79); pioneeredcourses and seminars in ethnobotany, chant, mythology, genealogy, land ownership, and ohana (extended Hawaiian family), Polynesian history, and the Hawaiian oral arts; trained in oli chanting, choreographed hulas for many of her chants.

Edith Kanakaole believed that the oli chant (the unaccompanied chant) formed the basis of Hawaiian culture and history. She learned this art first from her mother Mary Keliikuewa Ahiena and then from Akoni Mika , the well-known dancer and chanter. In order to better understand this ancient art, Edith Kanakaole became fluent in Hawaiian so that she could ascertain the hidden meaning of a chant or its kaona. Her compositions encompassed all the major styles of delivery. She performed in many places, often choreographing hulas for many of the chants, and founded her own halau (hula school) Halau O Kekuhi in 1953. Kanakaole received the Distinction of Cultural Leadership award in 1979. She represents women throughout the world who for millennia have handed down history and culture through oral story and song.

Her record albums Haakui Pele I Hawaii ("Pele Prevails in Hawaii," a selection of traditional and original chants) and Hiipoi I Ka Aiina Aloha ("Cherish the Beloved Land") won the Na Hoku Hanohano (Stars of Distinction) award for best traditional albums in 1978 and 1979.


Cohen, Aaron I. International Encyclopedia of Women Composers. 2 vols. NY: Books & Music (USA), 1987.

Peterson, Barbara Bennett, ed. Notable Women of Hawaii. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia