Kealakai Center for Pacific Strings

AWARD:  2021 SHIFT – Transformative Change and Indigenous Arts
Raiatea Helm BIO

Kealakai Center for Pacific Strings Traditions (KCPST) was established in 2019 with the mission of researching, restoring and celebrating the pivotal role that Hawaiian and Pacific music and musicians have played in the evolution of popular music, a legacy of global influence that endures today. KCPS facilitates and promotes the restoration and conservation of historic stringed instruments and their legacy of recorded music in collaboration with a team of world renowned scholars, luthiers, conservators, musicians and audio engineers. Through an online digital resource portal, exhibitions, historically informed concerts, and documentary films, KCPS is working to bring this legacy of innovation, excellence and influence to life for a global community of students, researchers, scholars and practitioners of luthiery and the Musical Arts.


Kealakai Center for Pacific Strings is partnering with 2021 SHIFT Awardee Raiatea Helm to co-produce A Legacy of Hawaiian Song and String, exploring the music of Mekia Kealakai, a late 19th century musical prodigy who helped design the world’s most iconic and widely played acoustic guitar, the famous Martin “Dreadnought.” The musical stylings of Mekia, and his generation of virtuoso multi-instrumentalists known today as the Royal Hawaiian Troubadours, would find international fame while spreading the message of the colonial theft of the Hawaiian Kingdom. This project will uncover truths heretofore hidden by a long running colonial media campaign dedicated to the denigration and disenfranchisement of the Hawaiian people through an aural and visual journey accompanied by the narration and stylings of Helm, an album, virtual museum, and written journal. The project will be co-produced with Kealakai Center for Pacific Strings.