The Liliʻu Project: Investigating Song Selections and Kaona ("Hidden Meanings")

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | Ethnomusicology | Music | Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


The Liliʻu Project is a proposed musical installation that is to be premiered in the spring of 2014. It will use some of Queen Liliʻuokalani's musical compositions as a vehicle toward understanding her life. Part of the author's role in the project was to research Liliʻu's life and songs. This paper discusses song lyrics from thirteen of Liliʻu's Hawaiian-language compositions for kaona (i.e., hidden meanings). This is largely a hermeneutical/semiotic/interpretive process. It is argued that there are alternative meanings in these songs beyond their conventionally rendered translations as published in The Queen's Songbook (1999). Portions of songs texts are reconfigured and roughly translated to illustrate the presence of kaona. The original song texts are also included for reference.


Presented at the annual Hawaii International Conference on Arts & Humanities (HICAH) in Honolulu, Hawaii, on January 13, 2014. The full conference proceedings are available at http://www.hichumanities.org/proceedings_hum.php.