AWARDEE: Raiatea Helm
NATIVE HERITAGE: Kanaka Maoli
LOCATION: Honolulu, HI
AWARD: 2021 SHIFT – Transformative Change and Indigenous Arts
SOCIAL MEDIA: Instagram
Kealakai Center for Pacific Strings – BIO
Growing up with her family on the island of Molokai, Raiatea Helm gained a deep love and appreciation for her surroundings and culture. Today, she strives to share her experiences and knowledge of Hawaiʻi’s rich history through traditional song and dance. She is musically trained in the style of “leo kiʻekiʻe” (female falsetto), and is currently completing a Degree in Music with an emphasis in Hawaiian music, language and culture at the University of Hawai’i, Mānoa. She aspires to educate, encourage and influence future generations to preserve the authenticity of mele “Hawaiian Music.”
Helm’s success as an artist also features six full albums and many prestigious awards, including two Grammy nominations and six Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards. Helm started her music career when she was sixteen. At eighteen, she released her first album, Far Away Heaven, which was critically acclaimed and won her the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Female Vocalist of the Year Award and the Most Promising Artist Award. Her second album, Sweet and Lovely, earned her four more Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards, as well as a Grammy nomination for Best Hawaiian Music Album, making Helm the first Hawaiian female vocalist nominated for a Grammy. Her third album, Hawaiian Blossom, earned her further Na Hoku Hanohano awards, as well as a second Grammy nomination. Her 2016 album, He Leo Huali, A Pure Voice, also won her a Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award.
When we want to teach the ‘ōpio (youth), we want to make sure they are reminded that our kupuna (ancestors) left us with so much ‘ike (knowledge). Just have patience and understanding, listen to your heart and you will discover your gift.
― Raiatea Helm (Kanaka Maoli)
Helm’s SHIFT project, “A Legacy of Hawaiian Song and String” will explore 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.
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.