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Beamer describes the papa hehi and the käla`au.
 Click to hear Audio transcript Click to see Video clip
Nona Beamer
Honolulu, 1999
In this clip, Auntie Nona details the description and use of the papa hehi and the käla`au in her hula tradition.
Length: 6:20

NONA BEAMER: This is the papa hehi. "Hehi" is uh, to treadle. And of course, papa is um, a surface. It could be the floor or table and- I rather prefer this shape for the papa hehi, because it conforms more to the foot. And of course, the cross piece that lays flat on the floor, and then the dancer would treadle back and forth on this. Uh-huh. And I rather like the indentation, because then it kinda gives your foot a little more stability. Then you don't slide off the, off the board. 'Cause papa hehi is not uh ... [CHUCKLES] that easy to do when you have to be so controlled. Uh-huh. But the other type is the more square, which is fine too. Uh-huh. Maybe this is a little longer than it need be. Well, you have small feet too.

MAILE LOO: I have a big foot.

NONA BEAMER: No, dear. I have big lü`au feet. [CHUCKLES] And then sometimes, the dancer would dance away from the-the papa, and to the side, and tell something, then come back in and pick up the rhythm. Uh-huh. So it's very interesting. M-hm. I hope we can encourage more teachers to teach these and pass them on, 'cause they'll "make die dead" if we don't.

MAILE LOO: Well, I know that um, as a beginner to this, um, I first started to learn with this one where the treadle is attached.

NONA BEAMER: Well, this was just done as a convenience in the classroom. But traditionally, the papa would just rest on this cross piece, uh-huh. So it wasn't attached. Uh-huh. But I see them made with the, the glued cross piece. M-hm. And this, of course, is a little precarious, because the dancer can slip off. Uh-huh.

MAILE LOO: It's a lot harder.

NONA BEAMER: Yeah. So this is the easier, but I don't think we should take those shortcuts. I think we should en-encourage teachers to use the traditional type. We talked about the different shape of it. The contour of the foot, or the uh, uh, more straight type. M-hm. And we talked about the freedom ... with the cross piece, uh-huh, and the foot resting here. As opposed to the cross piece glued to the um, bottom that makes it a little static. Uh-huh. But the sound is pretty, uh-huh, and you can make a nice treadle movement. M-hm. But this is the traditional, with the removable cross piece, with a flat bottom. And the treadle rests on that, and then rocks forward and back, forward and back. M-hm. Ingenious, these Hawaiians, yeah?

MAILE LOO: When was the first time you saw this being played?

NONA BEAMER: Treadle board, when did I first see that? In my teens. M-hm. Uh, `Iolani Luahine was a great, uh, artist with papa hehi. M-hm.

MAILE LOO: So you were a teenager before you-

NONA BEAMER: I was a teenager, yes.

MAILE LOO: --learned this from Sweetheart Grandma.

NONA BEAMER: M-hm. M-hm. Yeah. Well, my father was the craftsman of the family, but he was so young. He was eighteen when I was born. My mother was sixteen. So he kinda learned the craft as we were learning the dances. And we needed flutes and we needed this, so he learned how to make them to accommodate us. M-hm.

MAILE LOO: So he made this one for you when you were-

NONA BEAMER: Yes, m-hm, in my teens, yeah.

Käla`au section:
NONA BEAMER: The käla`au. "Ka," the, "lä`au," wood. The first käla`au we used as children were of equal length, two the same. And then later on in our teens, we were given ... varied lengths. So one is about half the length of the-the long one. And even later on, longer ones that we used from the uh, uh ... underarm to the uh, center of the palm. Uh-huh. And used them in more um, uh, animated ways. Uh-huh. But something interesting-and I don't know if any kumu do that uh, today, was the opening and closing of the hand. So that the closed hand would present kind of a dull sound, and the open hand would be more lively. [CLACKING] M-hm. So with the mawaena [CLACKING] ... as opposed to [CLACKING]. You hear the difference in the sound? It's brighter with the hands open, with the fingers open. Both fingers of both hands. Uh, or closed, open, closed. But I prefer the open. [CLACKING] To the open and closed. Yeah. The closed is a little dull. M-hm. And of course, the story takes precedent. Yeah, m-hm. And then using this as a primary instrument, and the treadle board as a secondary rhythm. So you have our counterpoint. [CHUCKLES] Not easy. Keeping this rhythm going and then another rhythm with your feet. M-hm. And then the dancer has to chant it, and tell the story. Ooh, hard. That's why more people don't do these, I think. They're too difficult. Well, the ki`ipä. Uh-huh. Each instrument has its own interlude, its own rhythm pattern, and its own set of motions. The movements for the käla`au, the Beamer style now- Remember, I don't speak for any other hälau, 'cause I only know my own. [DEMONSTRATING] Out, in; out, in, out; one, two, three, and four. Uh-huh. With the loose fingers. Uh-huh, uh-huh. And there's a lot of wrist work that enters into these.


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