Cody Pueo Pata
For Hawaiians, the word aloha has a multitude of meanings, including love, peace, compassion, and the “breath of life.” In his new CD, Cody Pueo Pata, a Maui high school teacher and hula master, offers a collection of chants old and new. Pata explains that his songs are a form of mana, or the spiritual force that imbues people and objects, according to Hawaiian tradition. Love songs retain deeply allusive meanings; as Para reminds us, the “physical is just a metaphor for the spiritual.” One song, “Awapuhi Puakea” (White Ginger Blossom), while ostensibly an evocation of roadside flowers, also recalls his beloved Maui hula teacher, Rowena “Nona” Mahilani Kaluhiokalani, who died in 2002. Another traditional song, “E Lili`u E” (Answer Forth, Oh Lili`u) calls up the spirit of Hawaii’s last monarch, the beloved Queen Lili`uokalani (1838–1917), who in addition to fiercely defending her people’s culture and traditions against U.S. economic imperialism, was also a skilled musician. Other songs combine reverence for the wind- and rain-swept landscapes of Maui, with exalted expressions of physical love. Backed by a lilting ensemble of background vocalists, piano, and Hawaiian steel guitar, Pata claims: “Singing for me is just as much a kuleana (responsibility) as it is for fun.” For his listeners, these culturally conscious, élan-filled melodies are undiluted delight.