Hāna, Maui. Raw and seemingly untouched. Honest and hospitable. Pristine, gorgeous, rugged, vibrant, majestic and ripe. Hāna is the embodiment of easy-living. And in the words of songwriter and musician CJ Helekahi, a place where you can see the stars at night, the dark side of the moon, and a place you never leave.
Born and raised in Hāna, Maui, the remote small town of approximately 2500 people on Maui's scenic east coast, emerges a singer/songwriter named CJ Helekahi who has a sound like no other. CJ Helekahi comes from a very large and musical Hawaiian family with a long lineage of talented people. His Grandmother, the late Clara Tolentino, was a famous Hāna entertainer, along with his Aunty G-Girl Keli'iho'omalu, a well-known recording artist, and his mother, Lovey Helekahi, a renowned and long-time performer in Hāna. There is a real pureness to CJ's voice; an originality that could only come from a place like Hāna. In this land of love of family and sharing, true community closeness and old Hawaiian ways are abound.
Because of a separation from his hometown to attend school, CJ's interests moved away from music for a short time. But as soon as he moved back home to his roots in Hāna, all those musical memories from listening as a kid came flooding back. He loved to just sit and listen to all the talented people of his community. CJ started by playing reggae songs he liked, but fell in love with the truth of Hawaiian music. He was drawn to how real it is and how raw emotions can be expressed in music. Anyone, male or female, big or small can sing this style of music and it will touch people. Visitors leave with the music and feel connected to Hawai'i anytime they listen, and locals will sing along to every song. CJ acknowledges many special people for their influence in his music. Uncle Kaleo and Uncle Francis Kaina, Val Pu and many others have made him the performer he is today.
CJ Helekahi, known to many as "Boom", has gained a reputation far and wide for the beauty of his voice - from his soaring tenor to his caressing falsetto. He captures the heart of his audience regardless of what kind of music he's singing or where he might be playing, whether that is at the beach with his 'ohana or on the big stage. His love of all kinds of music is apparent in his versatility as an artist and songwriter and really comes from being raised in a place like Hāna. CJ was always surrounded by kupuna playing country and old Hawaiian songs and he loves listening to all kinds of music and musicianship. Learning by listening so intently is what has made his sound so universal.
CJ has a long list of accolades, among them: he won the Hāna Hawaiian song contest; toured the mainland United States playing music with the Maui Visitors Bureau; he has performed with Raiatea Helm and Vince Esquire in 2006 at the Maui Arts and Cultural Centre; again in 2010 with Leokāne Pryor for Keali'i Reichel and Hālau Ke'alaokamaile; and has been a featured artist at numerous festivals and hālau hula competitions in Hawai'i and California. CJ appears regularly with Leokāne Pryor and contributed to Leokāne's recently released album Home Malanai. CJ has a long history performing with many prominent Hāna musicians including Kaiolohia Funes Smith, Pekelo Cosma, One Vibe, Glenwood Tolentino and many others. For many years, CJ has been a featured musician for Hotel Hāna-Maui where you can often catch him performing, and has been written about in several publications such as: Connections, Maui Chamber of Commerce, Spring Edition, Volume 76; Via, AAA Traveller's Companion; Frommer's.com May 1, 2007 article by Robert Haru Fisher; and in the Hawaiian Airlines in-flight magazine Hana Hou.
In 2007, CJ decided it was time to work on an album. By late 2009, CJ had finished recording his first CD with multiple Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award winning Engineer and Producer Dave Tucciarone. The CD, titled Ka Mahina, is due to be released in early 2010. It is a wonderful collection of traditional Hawaiian songs and includes four of CJ's originals. I Will Never Leave You Hana, Maui is a beautiful ballad written from the heart that truly reflects the spirit of Hāna and how close he is to his birthland. Mahina Malamalama was written and generously gifted to CJ by Kaiolohia Funes Smith. Mahina Malamalama is a magical song about the radiant moon of Hāna with an interesting melody created by CJ that again showcases his versatility as an artist. What Aloha Means to Me was co-written by his wife Tanya, has a fun almost Caribbean sound to it and speaks about the beauty and their love of Hawai'i from two perspectives. And lastly, Never This Lucky, a song with a contemporary sound about a dream that CJ wrote many years ago.
The CD includes contributions from many talented people, such as: Leokāne Pryor, Kaiolohia Funes Smith, Pekelo Cosma, Dave Tucciarone and CJ's first cousins Glenwood and Mon Tolentino. It is truly a Hāna 'ohana effort.
And so, from this place called Hāna comes an artist with a purity and honesty that can't be matched. A product of true aloha, simplicity and beauty, CJ has an unforgettable voice and he wears his heart on his sleeve every time he sings. He is Hāna in a song.