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Beamer shares her knowledge of the `ülili.
 Click to hear Audio transcript Click to see Video clip
Nona Beamer
Honolulu, 1999
In this clip, Auntie Nona shares her knowledge of the`ülili – how it is made, played, and learning about it from her "Sweetheart Grandma," Helen Desha Beamer.
Length: 3:25

MAILE LOO: So tell me about your new toy.

NONA BEAMER: Well, this is the `ülili, and it is a toy. [CHUCKLES] Na, na, na, na. We used to think so. And we'd do it like a yo-yo. My grandmother would say, No, no, no; that's not a toy. It's actually three gourds mounted on a stick. And the principle is like a yo-yo. You pull it and it revolves, and then it goes back in again. Uh-huh. It's actually a la`amia. And now I see a lot made of coconut. Which is all right. In the absence of the la`amia, the coconut is better than not having anything. But the coconut sound is dull. The la`amia is very bright. Uh-huh. So if we have a choice, we have them made of la`amia. M-hm. Sometimes it's hard to balance this la`amia, where both are about the same size. And Papa used to hold it in the middle to balance it. Gee, this is balanced nicely. Oh, yours is too. Uh-huh. I wonder if he made these. Did Papa make these? And of course, the uh, proper usage is holding the small one. And not to extend the finger so it touches either the top or the bottom. It must only hold the middle, so that the top and bottom would be free to spin unencumbered. Uh-huh. And then you would pull it [RATTLE], and then let it return [RATTLE]. So it has to be made in a very smooth fashion. Otherwise, the dancer is laboring and pulling and puffing and huffing. And it's supposed to be nice and smooth [RATTLE] so it doesn't deter the story, uh-huh, m-hm.

MAILE LOO: Is there a mawaena for this?

NONA BEAMER: It's just the out and in on a four-four rhythm. [RATTLE] One, two, three, four; two, two, three, four. Uh-huh. And always with a pull as even as ... your arms. Also, you wouldn't do them short or you wouldn't do them extended. You would do them in a comfortable movement for your body. M-hm. It's kind of a nice instrument. But if you have one that's a little difficult and a little heavy, oh, you can get tired clear up to your shoulder.

MAILE LOO: Yeah, just like this one was. It didn't rebound. I had to rewind it. Did you used to have to have that problem when you were-did you used to have that problem when you were-

NONA BEAMER: Well, Grandma said, Don't stop, keep going. And there's some, you know, that you change hands. And then you just do the um, um-like the ... tremble. You know, the trees are trembling in the wind. Uh-huh. Sweet, uh, movements. But sometimes you can't always [RATTLE] tremble as well with the left hand. [RATTLE] [CHUCKLES] You're good with your left, you're- You're more ambidextrous with both hands. I'm not very good with my left, uh-huh. But it's a neat instrument. M-hm. Although it's kind of unglamorous, but I think it's classic. Real classic. `Ülili. And they said-uh, this was uh, Great-Grandma saying that `ülili was reminiscent of the sound that the bird made. The `ülili bird. `Ülili, `Ülili, `Ülili. [CHUCKLES] I guess that's logical. M-hm. M-hm. I don't know why they didn't call them kölea. 'Cause the kölea has a pretty bird sound. [CHUCKLES]

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