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Sweet Lei Mokihana

John Reed

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Hey. My song today is a Hawaiian hit from approximately 1973 called “Sweet Lei Mokihana” performed by Hui Ohana (which means, “Family Group”). Enjoy:


I don’t really know anything about this song. I know that it was composed by George Manoa Huddy, and this particular version of the song  was very popular. The three-part harmonies in this song are possibly the most beautiful I have ever heard. They blend seamlessly together to the point where each person’s individual melody can no longer be distinguished. Hui Ohana is known for helping revive a more traditional form of Hawaiian music called “ka leo ki’eki’e”, or falsetto singing. This song is a prime example of flawless falsetto singing. Really perfect.

This song also has an impressively laid back groove.  The opening guitar riff lands dangerously far back on the beat yet never drags. The guitar strumming throughout is soft and inviting. If you can hear it on your soundsystem, listen closely to the bassist, because he is really laying it down. He’s playing quick riffs that jump all over the frets, a lot of octaves, some slides, some vibrato even, and yet he remains composed.

Last year in my writing seminar class, I wrote a monologue spoken by a guy who had moved to Hawaii after his significant other broke up with him. He had lived in Hawaii for two years already, but was still depressed from the break-up and drinking himself into oblivion. While he speaks to the audience he is sitting on the beach at dusk, trying to figure out how to play “Sweet Lei Mokihana” on the guitar. He’s really drunk so his words are muddled and he is not a good guitarist.  He complains about the way ukeleles sound while he drinks wine. He tries to explain why it was logical for him to move to Hawaii (from Denver) because of his job, but it becomes clear that his real reason for moving was to escape home and forget. By the end he becomes frustrated that his plan to forget has failed and he drops the guitar on his wine glass, which shatters on his feet. His feet bleed as he staggers off stage, humming the tune of “Sweet Lei Mokihana” (because he doesn’t really know the words).

I think the assignment was to have an object in your one-act break, so that’s why I added the last part with the wine glass. That monologue didn’t make it onto my laptop when I left home for college. But that’s probably for the best because I wrote it all the night before it was due so it was bad, anyways.

But that’s not all that this song reminds me of, I don’t want to depress people. I listen to this song a lot, especially late at night or early in the morning. It’s one of those kinds of songs for me. I like listening to it in my Jetta at night when I’m driving home from things and I’m not in a rush. I listened to it this morning on the way to class. I tried to think of a really touching, subtle way to end this with an inspirational message about not forgetting your problems but instead hitting them head on, but this was the only way I could think of slipping it in. A classic DJ Yung Tuggboat cop out. Smh.

I hope that by sharing this song, someone will hear it and relax a little bit. It’s a happy song.


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Sweet Lei Mokihana