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Kai Andersen | Photo: Adam Jung | April 18, 2014
Songstress Raiatea Helm opens up the next chapter in her career by stepping back in time.
Raiatea Helm is at a crossroads, and what an exciting one it is. Sliding up to the piano at Halekulani’s Lewers Lounge, wrapped in a lush red blouse and skirt by CH Carolina Herrera and bijoux by Georg Jensen, Helm is at once the incarnation of a glamorous time gone by, all the while looking of this moment.
It’s hard to even think that this Moloka‘i native was once a tomboy. (“I really was!” she insists.) One thing is for certain: After over 10 years in the music industry—one that includes a Grammy nomination and several Nā Hōkū Hanohano awards—Helm is ready to show a whole new side of herself.
As for 2014, Helm has already embarked on an exciting course. In June, she returns to Japan for a monthlong tour. “I truly enjoy performing in a country where people enjoy Hawaiian music so much,” she says.
Afterward, it will be time to head back into the studio to record one of her most personal projects. Helm will delve into a golden era of traditional Hawaiian music from more than 80 years ago, when then-emerging genres from jazz to cha-cha intertwined with a distinctively Hawaiian sensibility. “I’ve been fortunate enough to meet with mentors who are still alive and carry on these traditions,” she says. Among them is living treasure Mahi‘ai Beamer, grandson of legendary composer Helen Desha Beamer. But the album isn’t just a case of nostalgia. Collaborating with musical talents like Dave Tucciarone and Kit Ebersbach, Helm aims to bring the past into our fast-paced present.
As Helm discusses her life and her passions, the 29-year-old artist certainly radiates a new confidence, paired with a gentle humbleness. “Now that I’ve learned more and I’m aware of what to expect in the music industry, I’m excited for the future,” she contemplates. With that comes a sense of responsibility behind her music, as Hawai‘i continues into the 21st century. “I try to think far ahead and how I can contribute with the knowledge that I have, so that we still have these mele (songs) and traditional Hawaiian music years from now,” she says. “Music is part of our culture and values, and affects all things.”
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