Kapālama Song Contest

This year Kamehameha Schools Kapālama celebrated their 103rd annual Song Contest. The theme for this year was Nā Mele Paniolo, a rich and unique heritage that goes back nearly 200 years. Countless mele have been written about the paniolo, bringing out the proud lifestyle of our cowboys and cowgirls, as stewards of the land and livestock. These songs also praise our ‘āina and pu‘u that continue to provide food and protection for our paniolo and livestock.

The night opened with historian Dr. Billy Bergin who shared the paniolo history along with a brief summary of the song selections. Local paniolo who were honored that evening included Sonny Keakealani, Jr. and Kimo Ho‘opai, Jr. Both were joined by their ‘ohana.

The judges for this year’s contest were:

  • Mia-Amor Kehaulani Evaimalo Porreca (Choral Judge)
  • Kala‘i Stern (Choral Judge)
  • Jeremy Kamakāneoaloha Hopkins (Language Judge)
  • Kainani Kahaunaele (Language Judge)
  • Louis Moon Kauakahi (Overall Judge)

Miss Laura Brown, director of music at Kamehameha from 1926-1947 said, “The objectives of the song contest are to build up the repertoire of the best in Hawaiian music for the cultural heritage of any student who attends Kamehameha; to develop leadership, cooperation and good class spirit; and to give students the use of their singing voices and to give them pleasure in singing as a means of expression.”

2023 KS Kapālama Song Contest

The first song contest was held in 1921, however it was only for the boys. In 1922, the girls joined the competition, but the two were performed separately. It wasn’t until 1952 that the boys and girls song contest was held together in Kekūhaupi‘o.The song contest was then moved to its current home, Neal Blaisdell Center, in 1964. Seats continue to be filled with ‘ohana and visitors who come to honor the legendary Kamehameha Schools Kapālama song contest, where student talent continues to astonish and take our breath away.

At the end of the performances, the excitement builds to a crescendo as the awards are announced. Below is an explanation of these coveted titles and this year’s recipients.

2023 KS Kapālama Song Contest

George Alanson Andrus Cup (Boys Competition): In 1921 the first song contest for male students was held. The George Alanson Andrus Cup was named in honor of the former director of music at Kamehameha School for Boys. His passion, love and musical talent inspired the idea of an annual song contest.

2023 Award Winner: Seniors
By: Rose Simerson
Arranged by: Justin Ka‘upu

New England Mothers’ Cup: (Girls Competition): In 1922 they added a girls song contest; this was the first year both boys and girls sang. Mrs. E.G. Scoville from Watertown, Connecticut was visiting and attended the song contest. She was so touched and moved by their talent, she donated the New England Mothers’ Cup to the school for the Girls competition.

2023 Award Winner: Juniors
Words by: Thomas Lindsey
Music by: David Nape
Arranged by: Bowe Souza

Charles Edward King Cup: (Co-ed Competition): In 1967 an additional award was added by the Trustees in honor of Charles Edward King. This trophy is awarded to the class winning the coed competition.

2023 Award Winner: Juniors
(Kilakila Nā Roughrider)
By: Bill Ali‘iloa Lincoln
Arranged by: Taisamasama Ka‘imina‘auao-Eteuati

Louise Aoe McGregor Cup: (Outstanding Director): In 1972 the Louise Aoe McGregor Award was added. This award recognizes the student director who has gone above and beyond for their class.

2023 Award Winners:
Freshman Co-ed Director Brennan Agcaoili
Junior Co-ed Director Taitea Sunaoka

Richard Lyman, Jr. ‘Ōlelo Makuahine Award: Mr. Lyman, Kamehameha Trustee from 1959 to 1988 had a keen interest in the preservation of the Hawaiian language. This award, founded in 1989, recognizes excellence in the Hawaiian language.

2023 Award Winner: Senior Co-ed
Arranged by: Bowe Souza

Helen Desha Beamer Cup: (Best Musical Performance): The Helen Desha Beamer Award has been awarded since 1993. This award highlights the best musical performance. Helen was a Kamehameha school graduate of 1900 with great musical talent.

2023 Award Winner: Juniors Co-ed
(Kilakila Nā Roughrider)
By: Bill Ali‘iloa Lincoln
Arranged by: Taisamasama Ka‘imina‘auao-Eteuati

In this mele, the Junior coed class shared the exploits of the three paniolo from Hawaiʻi: Ikua Purdy, Archie Kaaua and Jack Low, who competed in the 1908 Cheyenne, Wyoming rodeo. Purdy was named World Champion and Kaaua placed third. The lyrics and translation are listed below.


(Kilakila Nā Roughrider)
By: Bill Ali‘iloa Lincoln
Arranged by: Taisamasama Ka‘imina‘auao-Eteuati

‘Akahi ho‘i au a ‘ike maka
Nā roughrider ka helu ‘ekahi
A ke inu i ka wai aniani
E ma‘ū i ka pu‘u ke moni

E hu‘i ē, hu‘i ē lā
Hu‘i konikoni i ka pu‘uwai
E hu‘i ē, hu’i ē lā
Hu‘i konikoni i ka pu‘uwai

Kilakila nā roughrider
Me ka ua Kīpu‘upu‘u
Me ka nani a‘o Pu‘u Kalani
Me ka hae o ka lanakila

Hanohano wale nā cowboy
Ka maku‘u noho i ka lio
Hālena pono ‘oe i kaula ‘ili
I ka lae o ka pipi ‘āhiu

I have just seen with my own eyes
The roughrider champions
They drink from sparkling waters
Quenching the thirst

The ache
The tingling in the heart
The ache
The tingling in the heart

Famed are the roughriders
As the rain Kīpu‘upu‘u
And the beauty of Pu‘u Kalani
Carrying the banner of victory

Glorious are the cowboys
Proudly mounting their saddles
Pull taut now your lassos
On the brow of the wild cattle

Information from the 103rd Kamehameha Schools Song Contest Program