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The Lili'u Project

Feature Documentary Film

Trailer Video

Project Description

There has never been a film made solely about the music of Queen Liliʻuokalani and her impact as a composer. Our film celebrates her legacy by interweaving two narratives: 1) the biography of the Queen’s life in music, and 2) the personal journey of present-day vocalist Starr Kalāhiki, as she researches and performs Liliʻuokalani’s compositions both at home and abroad, and in so doing, reveals why these songs remain relevant today. Using archival media, animation, and short reenactments, we tell our story through interviews with experts in the field as they chronologically analyze significant mele written by and for the Queen. Additionally, while intercutting Kalāhiki and her ensemble performing these songs in concerts and international festivals, we reveal Starr’s personal journey in discovering the impact of Liliʻuokalani’s legacy in the 21st century. Given the unprecedented challenges we face in the world today, the Lili‘u Project documentary film illustrates how Queen Liliʻuokalani’s music has the power to transcend time, offering a message of strength, hope, and steadfast commitment to the lāhui.

Project Description


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Aaron Mahi

Aaron Mahi- Conductor, performer, and lecturer on Orchestral, Choral, and Hawaiian Classical music. For 24 years Mahi held the position of Bandmaster of the Royal Hawaiian Band. He has also held the position of associate conductor with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra of which he was also a section Bassist. As Bandmaster of the Royal Hawaiian Band, he was the first director to feature the band at the renowned Carnegie Hall in New York City, in 1988, and in 1989 led the ensemble in the newly constructed concert hall at the Peace Park in Hiroshima, Japan. Mahi was honored in 1983 by the Association of German Musicians with the Golden Ring of Honor for conducting and in 2003, was awarded the German Order of Merit and given the title, “Bundesverdienstkreuz.” 

Nola Nāhulu

Nola Nāhulu is a prolific conductor, educator, and clinician with over four decades of contributions to the choral field in Hawai’i and the promotion of Hawaiian music. She has devoted herself to educating Hawai‘i’s children since 1978 at the Our Redeemer Lutheran School, the Kamehameha Schools, and the University Lab School. Since 1982 she has directed the Hawaiian Chorus at the UH Music Department. Her broad choral experience also includes Hawai‘i Children’s Chorus, Moloka‘i Children’s Chorus, and the Bishop Memorial Choir. She is currently the choral director for Pearl Harbor Hawaiian Civic Club, Kawaiaha‘o Church, Hawai‘i Opera Theatre, Ka Waiola o Na Pukanileo, and has served as the Executive Director for the Hawai‘i Youth Opera Chorus since 1986. 


Alfred "Kula" Abiva

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Alfred “Kula” Abiva is an historian, culturalist, storyteller and kumu hula who studied under the “mother of the Hawaiian Renaissance” hula master Ma’iki Aiu Lake.  Abiva graduated as an olapa, from Papa Kukui of Halau Hula o Ma’iki in 1979 at the Johnson estate at Hakipu’u, Kualoa.  After Lake’s passing in 1984, Abiva continued his studies with Halau Hula o Ma’iki graduate Edward Kalahiki and himself graduated as kumu hula in the ‘ailolo tradition in 1997 at Ahuimanu, Kaneohe.

Abiva also studied under the musical tutelage of the Hawaiian gentleman, master musician, and historian Haywood Kahauanu Lake, stepson of David Kalakaua Kawananakoa.  Through Lake and Auntie Ma’iki, Abiva learned the mele of the 19th century and the mannerisms of the Hawaiian monarchy as well as the genealogy of the ali’i.  
Abiva also values his association with the former kahu of Mauna ‘ala, Auntie Lydia Namahana Taylor Maioho who graciously shared the mana’o of the Hawaiian royal class and its various protocols.  It was through Maioho’s encouragement that Abiva created the 
Hawaii’s Royal Heritage Tour for GrayLine Hawaii that won the first Hawaii Tourism “Kahili” Award in 1994 for cultural integrity in Hawaii Tourism.
Abiva has over 40 years of professional marketing expertise.  He has worked for Hawaiian Airlines, GrayLine Hawaii, Molokai Ranch and Bishop Museum in various executive positions.  He currently operates ABIVA Consulting, a Content and Copywriting company.

Kilin Reece

Kilin Reece was raised in a community of musicians and grew up playing string instruments, including Hawaiian-style slide guitar, pedal steel, and dobro. Reece studied jazz history in Brooklyn with Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra director Loren Schoenberg, and jazz guitar with Gene Bertoncini. He also worked toward a degree in history from Friends World College while interning with the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. After moving to O‘ahu in 2001, Reece became steeped in Hawaiian instrument-making traditions while working at the Ko‘olau Guitar and ‘Ukulele Company. In time, Reece founded, KR Strings earning himself a place among Hawai‘i’s top luthiers. As his knowledge of the history of Hawaiian instruments expanded, Reece learned that the Martin Dreadnought acoustic guitar that he had been playing for decades traced its origins to the Hawaiian kingdom. Further, the first electric guitar ever made was a Hawaiian-style lap steel guitar. Reece, inspired to learn more, began working with the C.F. Martin Guitar Company Archives, the Library of Congress, Bishop Museum, and the Hawai‘i State Archives, spending hundreds of hours unraveling the compelling story of our musical partners of wire and wood. In 2019, Reece founded the nonprofit Kealakai Center for Pacific Strings with a mission to research, restore and celebrate the pivotal and enduring role that Hawaiian and Pacific music and musicians have played in the evolution of popular music - a legacy of global influence.


Meleanna Meyer


Meleanna Aluli Meyer was born and raised at Mōkapu, Kailua, on the windward side of the island of O'ahu. A Native Hawaiian, Meyer is a freelance visual artist and arts educator who works in an outreach capacity in various community settings throughout the islands. As a filmmaker, she has three documentaries to her credit. In 1978 she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in design and photography from Stanford University, winning the prestigious Borelli Arts prize while there. Meyer was mentored by renowned painter/printmaker Nathan Oliveira and also studied in Italy. She received her master's in educational foundations from the University of Hawai'i, Mānoa. Being a fellow of the East-West Center, Asian Pacific American Women's Leadership Institute and Salzburg Institute afforded Meyer opportunities to interface in national and international arenas regarding Hawaiian issues. The recipient of numerous awards, she has exhibited her work and films throughout Hawai'i; on the continent in New York, Tennessee, California, Illinois, and Washington DC; and abroad in Japan, Germany, France, Aotearoa New Zealand, and Australia

Kealohi Reppun

Dr. Ke‘alohi Reppun is a kupa of Windward O‘ahu, born and raised on a taro farm in the back of Waiāhole Valley. She is a graduate of Punahou School, UH Hilo's Hawaiian Language College-Ka Haka ‘Ula o Ke‘elikōlani, and UH Mānoa‘s College of Education. Dr. Reppun is currently one of two Co-Directorʻs of Kuaihelani Learning Center for Hawaiian Studies at Punahou School.


Leilani Basham

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Dr. Leilani Basham received her doctorate degree in political science in 2007 from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where she also earned a bachelor’s in Hawaiian studies and a master’s in the history of the Pacific Islands. She is an assistant professor in the Hawaiian-Pacific Studies program at the University of Hawai‘i – West O‘ahu, teaching both Hawaiian language and Hawaiian studies. Her research centers on understanding Hawaiian history, political and cultural knowledge, and practice from a Hawaiian perspective, using predominantly Hawaiian language resources. Specific areas of research include mele lāhui, Hawaiian identity, and value systems, as well as Hawaiian sexuality. Her book project is entitled "Nā Mele Lāhui: E Mau ke Ea o ka ‘Āina i ka Pono," and it analyzes hundreds of mele lāhui (nationalist poetic texts) published between 1893 and 1898. In addition to her university studies, Basham spent fifteen years studying hula under her kumu (teacher), graduating as an ‘ōlapa (dancer) and a kumu hula. Currently, she is the kumu hula of her own hālau (private hula academy).

Noenoe Silva

Noenoe Silva is an American academician who currently serves as a professor in Political Science at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa. Born in Hawai‘i of Kanaka Maoli descent, Silva grew up in California, returning to the islands to complete her higher education. She began lecturing at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa with research interests in political science and indigenous Hawaiian history and literature. In 2004 Silva published her first book, Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism. In it, she outlines, among other acts of resistance, the struggle by a group of indigenous Hawaiians against annexation to the United States. She uses a number of Hawaiian-language sources from throughout the state's history and looks at the role missionaries played in censoring the local media.

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Raiatea Helm

Growing up with her family on the island of Moloka‘i, Raiatea gained a deep love and appreciation for her surroundings and culture. Today, she strives to share her experiences and knowledge of Hawai‘i’s rich history through traditional song and dance.

She is musically trained in the style of “leo ki‘eki‘e” (Female falsetto) and is currently working towards creating a University Degree in Musicology with an emphasis in Hawaiian music, language, and culture. Eventually, she hopes to teach future generations and encourage others to preserve the authenticity of mele “Hawaiian Music.”

Raiatea’s success as an artist also includes many prestigious awards including two Grammy nominations, six Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards, and Native Arts & Cultures Fellowship.

Aaron Salā

Aaron Salā is President and CEO of Gravitas Pasifika, a boutique firm intent on harnessing the power of creative storytelling to advance Native Hawaiian, local Hawai‘i, and Pasifika worldview and talent through the exploration and integration of, and experimentation with, creativity in production. He is also the founder of The Native Imaginative, a not-for-profit corporation committed to the engagement with, education about, and elevation of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) communities through curriculum development and cultural consultancy, arts advocacy, creative professional development, and festival production focused upon the celebration of NHPI everything. Defending a Ph.D. dissertation in ethnomusicology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in September 2021, his academic research in Hawaiian music, language, and culture has informed a robust portfolio inclusive of work, especially around cultural consulting, creative direction, and media production.


Louise "Gussie" Schubert

Louise "Gussie" Schubert is the great-granddaughter of Queen Lili‘uokalani and the current president of the Washington Place Foundation, which was established to perpetuate the Hawaiian language, music, and culture following Queen Lili‘uokalani's vision.

John Berger

Berger is the editor of the second edition of Hawaiian Music and Musicians, the definitive one-volume 1000-page encyclopedia on Hawaiian music and musicians published by Mutual Publishing in 2012. He is also a Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award-winning liner notes writer.

Berger’s career as an entertainment journalist began in 1972 when he became a full-time contributor to Sunbums, Hawai‘i’s ‘70s era equivalent to Rolling Stone. An invitation from Kamasami Kong in 1977 to become part of Kong’s radio show was the start of an 18-year career in local radio that included eight years as a member of Michael Qseng’s Morning Maddness Crew on KQMQ. He has also appeared as an entertainment news reporter on local television stations co-promoting the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Berger has reviewed local recordings of all types since 1988 and continues to review major theatrical productions as well as writing about books, concerts, movies, and big events in local entertainment. His weekly column, “On the Scene With,” in the Sunday Honolulu Star-Advertiser, profiles interesting people from all parts of society.


Ian O'Sullivan

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Proclaimed by Classical Guitar magazine as “a player of great depth and sensitivity” as well as a “composer who is forging a unique repertoire that honors both his Hawaiian roots and his many years of formal training”, Ian O’Sullivan is a classically-trained guitarist and composer from the North Shore of O‘ahu. Well-versed in Hawaiian music and the ‘ukulele, in addition to the Western classical repertoire, Ian has performed internationally and across the United States both as a soloist and with various groups. His past performances include Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall, New York Guitar Society, Minnesota Guitar Society, Tokyo Dome, and all major Hawaiian Islands. In 2016 Ian released his second album “Songs for the North Shore,” featuring all original compositions about the North Shore of O‘ahu where he grew up. From 2012-2016 Ian taught at the University of Hawai‘i, and since the fall of 2016 is the Director of Guitar/Ukulele at the Kamehameha Schools, Kapalama Campus. 

Jerald "Kimo" Keaulana

J. Kimo Alama Keaulana can account for 7 generations of chanters, dancers, teachers, singers, musicians, composers, and recording artists before him. Kimo is one of two living persons who have learned hula kuahu, religious hula. He has given many workshops, presentations, and lectures over several decades with the Bishop Museum, Kamakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, Kawaihuelani Hawaiian Language Center, DOE kūpuna and mākua program, Lili‘uokalani Trust, Lei o Lanikūhonua, and for several Hawaiian civic organizations and societies. Kimo also sits as a board member at the Wai‘anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Lei o Lanikūhonua, the Mary Kawena Pukui Society, Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame, King Kamehameha Celebration Commission, and Waihona o na Mele No‘eau. As a Hawaiian music historian, Kimo has published books and radio series on Hawaiian music and songs and has a biography in Hawaiian Music and Musicians, the definitive encyclopedia on Hawaiian music. Most notably, the “Kimo Alama Keaulana Collection” housed in the Bishop Museum Archives is “the Museum’s most widely used collection” and contains almost 1,000 Hawaiian language songs with their translations, annotations, and cross-references. In 2005, Kimo garnered two Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards and has served on its panel of judges for many years. Also, Kimo has been a judge at major hula competitions in Hawai‘i and abroad. Kimo is currently a kumu ‘Ike Hawai‘i and Kumu Hula at Punahou School.

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Puakea Nogelmier

Puakea Nogelmeier is a Kumu Hula, linguist, scholar, researcher, writer, and Hawaiian composer who is Professor Emeritus of Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and Executive Director of Awaiaulu. His translation of The Epic Tale of Hi‘iakaikapoliopele won the 2008 Samuel M. Kamakau Award for books of the year.
Nogelmeier was born Melvin Nogelmeier. He was given the Hawaiian name, Puakea, by Kumu Hula Maiki Aiu Lake.[2] "Puakea" translates to "fair child." Nogelmeier was trained in hula by Mililani Allen and learned Hawaiian chant from Edith Kanaka‘ole and Edith Kawelohea McKinzie. He learned much of the Hawaiian language and culture from Theodore Kelsey, Sarah Nākoa, and Kamuela Kumukahi.

Jace Saplan

As a Kanaka Maoli advocate, artist, and culture bearer, Dr. Jace Kaholokula Saplan is the artistic director of Nā Wai Chamber Choir, a vocal ensemble based in Hawai‘i dedicated to the preservation, propagation, and innovation of Hawaiian choral music. Under Dr. Saplan’s direction, Nā Wai recorded a Global Music Award-winning album entitled "Eō Lili‘uoklani" under the Mālama Music label and performed for the 2021 Chorus America Summer Conference, the 2021 National American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Conference, and the 2020 ACDA Western Region Conference in Salt Lake.

Dr. Saplan’s research focuses on the performance practice of Pasifika choral traditions and Queen Lili‘uokalani’s choral compositions; decolonial approaches to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the choral classroom; intersections of choral pedagogy, gender, and sexuality in communities of color; and trauma-informed practice and boundary building with BBIA (Black, Brown, Indigenous, and Asian) music educators. Their scholarship on these topics has also led them to lead clinics at the state, regional, and national levels for the American Choral Directors Association, National Association for Music Educators, National Collegiate Choral Organization, and the LGBTQ Studies in Music Education Conference. Dr. Saplan serves as Director of Choral Activities and Associate Professor of Music Learning & Teaching and Choral Conducting at Arizona State University where they oversee the graduate program.

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Vicky Holt Takamine

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Vicky Holt Takamine is the Kumu hula of Pua Aliʻi ʻIlima, a school of traditional Hawaiian dance. She graduated through the ʻūniki rituals of hula from Maiki Aiu Lake.

Vicky is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools. She received her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Dance Ethnology from the University of Hawaiʻi. She is presently a lecturer at the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa Campus, Leeward Community College, and the University High School.

In addition, Vicky is the poʻo (president) of ʻĪlioʻulaokalani, a coalition of traditional practitioners who are committed to protecting their Hawaiian customs and traditions, the president of KAHEA: The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance, a coalition of Hawaiian and Environmental organizations committed to protecting the natural and cultural environment of Hawaiʻi and co-founder and president of Aloha ʻAina, a new Hawaiian political party.

Pua Aliʻi ʻIlima, under the direction of Kumu hula Vicky Holt Takamine, participates in many cultural festivals throughout Hawaiʻi. Pua Aliʻi ʻIlima is committed to perpetuating, preserving, and promoting Hawaiian culture, art, music, and dance.

Jamaica Osorio

Dr. Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio is a Kanaka Maoli wahine artist/activist/scholar born and raised in Pālolo Valley to parents Jonathan and Mary Osorio. Jamaica earned her Ph.D. in English (Hawaiian literature) in 2018 from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Currently, Jamaica is an Assistant Professor of Indigenous and Native Hawaiian Politics at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Jamaica is a three-time national poetry champion, poetry mentor, and published author. In 2020 her poetry and activism were the subjects of an award-winning film, This is the Way we Rise which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2021.  In 2022 she was a lead artist and Co-writer of the revolutionary VR Documentary, On the Morning You Wake (To the end of the world), which premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2022 and won the XR experience Jury award at SXSW 2022. She is a proud past Kaiāpuni student, Ford Dissertation (2017) and Post Doctoral (2022) Fellow, and a graduate of Kamehameha, Stanford University (BA), and New York University (MA). She is the author of the award-winning book Remembering our Intimacies: Moʻolelo, Aloha ʻĀina, and Ea which was published in 2021 by The University of Minnesota Press.

Documentary Filmmakers

Starr Kalāhiki

Producer, Subject

Starr is a Hawaiian singer, born and raised in Moanalua Valley on the island of O‘ahu.  A recipient of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Fellowship, her professional experiences include being a featured vocalist on multiple award-winning theatrical productions including ‘Ulalena and Don Tiki (both shows ran for years in Waikiki and on Maui). Her debut album Salt was honored with two Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards and she received a third as a contributor to Henry Kapono’s compilation album. Since the publication of The Queen’s Songbook in 1999, Starr and her Lili‘u Project ensemble have performed the compositions of the Queen from Europe to Washington DC to the summit of Mauna Kea. Her work has also extended to community activism on the frontline of the 2019 Mauna Kea standoff, singing Ke Aloha O Ka Haku at the backs of elders holding the front line. It was there, in connecting to ‘āina and resonating with her kupuna, Starr’s process of reclaiming her Indigenous language and culture kicked into high gear; she learns chants and dances by practitioners held in the highest cultural esteem. These practices continue daily in Kanaenae Together, a life-giving daily gathering of chanters, and also in her continued singing and sharing of her Queen’s songs.

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