Grantee: Raiatea Helm
Raiatea Helm is a much-heralded musician with a singular and captivating voice, who possesses focused artistic vision and an innate and rhythmic giftedness.
Raiatea Helm was born into a musically talented family. Her first love was dancing hula from the age of three. Through hula, she developed a deep respect and appreciation for the Hawaiian language and art of interpreting the cadence of a mele. She has been playing professionally since the age of 16 and received two Grammy Awards nominations at 21.
Helm is a natural performer of leo ki`eki`e, a trilling falsetto style of singing that is a hallmark of traditional Hawaiian performance. She has recorded five studio albums, including one that pays homage to Hawaiian music from the 1950’s and early 1960’s, bringing songs that haven’t been heard in 60 years to life again with new arrangements and fresh voicing.
She founded the Raiatea Helm Hawaiian Music Foundation, a non profit dedicated to supporting young people. “In my face-to-face contact in reading programs and music classes, I hope to inspire children to pursue music both as a form of recreation as well as a career,” said Helm, who was awarded a 2012 NACF Artist Fellowship in Music, the first time an artist in the field of music has carried the award. “The principal of the Kailua Elementary School was so excited about how students reacted to a music class I participated in, that she cancelled the last period and asked me to perform with their ukulele class. The entire school gathered in the school cafeteria and listened to a series of Hawaiian songs. When I answered questions from students and provided autographs after, I learned over 60% of the school’s student population was Native Hawaiian.”
During her fellowship year, Helm performed for an audience of over 50,000 music lovers on Ala Moana Beach Park for the Annual Lantern Floating Festival at the Shinnyo-en Temple, one of the premiere cultural exchange events held in Honolulu.The non-denominational event is held in remembrance of those who have died. Participants share a moment of reflection at the close of Bon Season, before sailing over 5,000 lanterns into the sea. Her performance of “Kimo Henderson Hula” was broadcast to Japan for an estimated television audience of 25 million viewers.
Support from the foundation allowed Helm to participate in events without concern of financial compensation and concentrate on launching the next phase of her foundation: building support to begin launching a scholarship program. “From the bottom of my heart, mahalo for supporting Native Hawaiian music in general and my music in particular,” said Helm.