An interview with Rev. Dennis Kamakahi

“Ka Manu” and conversations with the past


  • Joseph Keola Donaghy University of Hawai‘i Maui College



Hawai‘i, Hawaiian, Hawaiian music, Hawaiian language, ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i, haku mele, mele, transmission


In this Riff article, Keola Donaghy interviews the now late Rev. Dennis David Kahekilimamaoikalanikeha Kamakahi (b.1953-d.2014), one of the most renowned and beloved Hawaiian composers and performers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. This interview was originally arranged to discuss and examine elements and characteristics of mele(Hawaiian language poetic or song compositions). Over the course of their discussion, however, we learn about the important process of knowledge transmission from his elder mentors (composers who were native speakers of Hawaiian) to Kamakahi, particularly in relation to the nineteeth century composition “Ka Manu”. Today, Hawaiian composers look to the past for knowledge, inspiration, and models from which they can create their own compositions. This interview with Kamakahi reveals insights into an otherwise undisclosed Hawaiian musical ‘past’, concerning his mentors and the central character of the mele.

Author Biography

Joseph Keola Donaghy, University of Hawai‘i Maui College

Joseph Keola Donaghy holds a PhD in Music from the University of Otago. He is the faculty coordinator of Music Studies and the Institute of Hawaiian Music at University of Hawai‘i Maui College, where he teaches a variety of Hawaiian music, applied music, theory, and world music courses. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts, and has received many nominations for the Academy’s Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards as a recording artist, producer, composer, and liner note annotator. His mele (Hawaiian language poetic/song compositions) have been recorded by Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award-winning and Grammy-nominated artists such as Keali‘i Reichel, Kenneth Makuakāne, The Pandanus Club, Amy Hānaiali‘i and Willie K., Kainani Kahaunaele, Mailani Maka‘īna‘i and others.


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How to Cite

Donaghy, J. (2015). An interview with Rev. Dennis Kamakahi: “Ka Manu” and conversations with the past. Perfect Beat, 16(1-2), 101–119.