The origin of Aloha 'Oe lies with the last Queen of Hawaii

Written by: 
Lindsey Ferrin

Aloha ‘Oe is a song heard frequently all over campus, yet few students know the story of the song’s origin. Out of 14 students interviewed, none knew the full factual story, but most had at least a little truth.

Joshua Wallace, a junior majoring in music from California, said, “Aloha ‘Oe is a song written by the last reigning monarch of Hawaii, to Hawaii and its people. I think it’s really deep because she sang until we meet again, knowing that Hawaii will never be the same again after the transition to American lifestyle. So every time I sing it, I think of that and it really hits home for me, and I kind of get teary-eyed.”

Elizabeth Huffaker, a senior majoring in TESOL from California, said, “Aloha ‘Oe was really written by the queen when she was trapped in the government building when the American government was trying to take over. Some people say it's about saying goodbye to the people of Hawaii in general and others said it was actually about a cousin of hers. Now it is applied to say goodbye to people that we love promising them the best.”

Miranda Lee, a junior majoring in English from Washington, said, “I don't really know anything about Aloha ‘Oe except that I sang it in choirs before I came to Hawaii and it's kind of a sad song.”

The true story of Aloha ‘Oe can be found in the Pacific Islands room of the Joseph F. Smith Library. A book titled “Aloha ‘Oe: The Song Heard Around the World” by Leslie Ann Hayashi reveals the history.

Aloha ‘Oe was composed by Queen Lili’uokalani in 1878. The queen was leaving Maunawili Ranch nestled against the Ko’olau Mountains on the windward side of Oahu. Riding horseback home towards Honolulu, the legend says Queen Lili’uokalani witnessed so much of what we now know to be part of Aloha ‘Oe. By the time she was home, the song was complete.

Five years later in August of 1883, Aloha ‘Oe made its mainland debut in San Francisco. Within a year, Aloha ‘Oe was published all over the world and could be heard from German harbors to the tallest peaks of the Swiss Alps. The song was sung as ships entered and left from Honolulu Harbor and became known as a bittersweet farewell song for the monarchy. Princess Lydia became Queen Lili’uokalani when she assumed her throne in 1891.

The book explains how some mistakenly believe Queen Lili’uokalani composed Aloha ‘Oe when she was arrested and tried for treason in 1895. She yielded the monarchy to the American Government but never stopped fighting to gain it back. The queen was sentenced to confinement in various places.

Aloha ‘Oe has been immortalized in other songs, literature, plays, movies, and even cartoons around the world with references in movies like, “Lilo and Stitch” to artists like Elvis Presley.

Uploaded June 5, 2015