Sharing Mana’o Through Song

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - July 29, 2009
Mailani Makainai releases ‘Mailani’

Lyrics or melody? I choose lyrics. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I can only truly appreciate a song if it has well-written lyrics. And I always give bands/musicians added props if they write all their own music.

Clearly you need both to achieve a great song,but I am convinced that many side with one more than the other.

Which is why it’s great to hear that Brown Bags To Stardom is adding a Keiki Teen Composition and Songwriting Contest to its lineup. The contest, which doubles as a fundraiser for Brown Bags, gives kids the opportunity to exercise their creative writing skills in not just songwriting, but also in the categories of poetry and short story.

“The contest was originally a songwriting contest only, but I recently read in the newspaper of Hawaii’s low ratings in reading and writing in comparison to the higher-ranked states, and decided to add short story and poetry to the mix,“says Johnny Kai, executive producer of Brown Bags To Stardom.

Students can enter up to three original short stories, poems or songs. Maximum lengths are 1,500 words for short stories, 500 words for poems and 2.5 minutes for songs. Registration costs $20 for one entry,$35 for two and $50 for three. Deadline for entries is Dec. 31.

Prizes include a vacation to Disneyland, gifts and cash. After the winners are announced, the 50 winning entries will be included on a DVD, which will be offered to the schools to sell to support their libraries and programs. For more information,visit ...

Another great songwriting opportunity is the first-ever Hawaii International Song Contest.The contest was created in support of an initiative set forth by the Mayor’s Office of Culture and the Arts to send a representative from Hawaii to Tahiti in 2010 to compete in the Himene Patitifa International Final.

Register online at and submit up to three entries. Deadline for entries is also Dec. 31.

First place wins a round-trip ticket to Tahiti (transportation and accommodations included) and second place wins round-trip tickets for two to Las Vegas sponsored by Vacations Hawaii (hotel accommodations and meals included) ...

Here’s a local talent who knows a thing or two about songwriting: Mailani Makainai has recorded more than a dozen of her own songs. If you check out her resume as co-talent of the group Keahiwai, their CDs are filled with original pieces penned by Makainai and her longtime friend/band mate Lei Melket.

“It’s always important to put my own mana’o (insight/knowledge) into any project that I do, and so writing original songs is always very important to me,” says Makainai.

A handful of hit albums, a Na Hoku Hanohano win and another band (Mighty J) later, Makaikai has teamed up with Mountain Apple Company to produce her first solo album. The newly released CD Mailani is a step away from the sounds with which she has been long associated,returning to what she considers her first love.

“I decided to do a contemporary Hawaiian album because I’ve always wanted to do Hawaiian music,“says the Maryknoll grad.“Lei and I actually started out performing Hawaiian music, so this was a chance for me to finally do it.”

Her new album, which released this month, features 12 tracks, four written by

Makainai and one co-written with Keola Donaghy, Penei Iho, Penei A’e, Penei No.

“I was never really much of a cover artist, so it was interesting coming into Hawaiian music because with Hawaiian music, when you do songs written by other people, you do them honor,” adds Makainai. “It was so much more comfortable for me to do that with Hawaiian music than when doing a cover in English.”

Hihia Ke Aloha is a song Makainai explains she wrote about the realities of love and life.

“I always like that olelo noeau (wise proverb) where you are entangled in love,and sometimes love can be messy, sometimes it can be OK, and sometimes it can be boredom,but that’s how it should be.I don’t want it to be something survivable, I want love and my life the best I can.”

Makainai wrote He Mele No Kahulu’u in honor of one of her hometowns. And the two English songs she wrote also speak of the passion and emotions of love and love lost.

“By Yourself I wrote because I’m coming out on my own,and sometimes you have to do things by yourself to really find out what you’re made of,” says Makainai. “My past failed relationship I dealt with last year was gut-wrenching. But the thing with pain is,the truth is that the only way to get through it is going through it.You gotta feel it, then you move on to the next feeling or emotion. That’s what this song is about.

“And Stay for the Day, the mana’o is the same that I clung to through the album, which is longing, learning and wanting to love,and giving all of myself.”

For more on Makainai and her busy performance schedule, visit


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