When Twinkle, Twinkle goes horribly wrong

Have you heard Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”? The first time I heard it was when I purchased IZ in Concert: The Man and His Music in 1999. I loved the sweetness of the mele (song), and learned how to sing the hui (chorus) of Ahi Wela, the song that it is intertwined with.

I played that CD a lot when I was pregnant with Emery. After she was born in 2002, I would sing Ahi Wela/Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to her when she was fussy (and she was fussy a lot). It always seemed to calm her down.

It wasn’t until years later when I was taking hula and discovered Huapala: Hawaiian Music and Hula Archives that I bothered to look up the translation to Ahi Wela (written in 1891 by Lizzie Doirin and Mary Beckley) .


Ahi wela mai nei loko
I ka hana a ke aloha
E lalawe nei kuʻu kino
Konikoni lua i ka puʻuwai


Like a hot fire inside
The action of love

Going through my entire body
And throbbing in my heart 

Um, oops.

I know that my daughter didn’t suffer any emotional damage from hearing a provocative song sung to her repeatedly in Hawaiian, but it was still a facepalm moment. We’ve been involved with a hula hālau since Emery was 2, so I have a much better grasp on a big handful of Hawaiian words and I lean on my kumu hula and Huapala for song translations. Maybe it’s time to seriously study ‘ōleo Hawai’i so I know what I’m singing the next time I need to calm a fussy baby.

Or maybe I should just stick to humming.



The Milky Way at Rialto Beach, Washington | Photo: Easton Lemos | Instagram: @eastonlemos






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