It is not often that two artists who had never before met can come together and, in such a short period of time, collaborate in the creation of a work of art as moving, deeply personal, and exciting as “Where I Hold You.”
But in the case of Keola Beamer and Raiatea Helm, they did just that.
“In my own journey, I find that you have to love what you do,” says Keola. “I really enjoy working with Raiatea. And this project became a lot more than simply making a record.”
The two met in mid-2008. Raiatea, the young Hōkū Hanohano-award winning solo artist from Kalamaʻula, Molokaʻi, was in Honolulu and had met Cary Hayashikawa through a mutual friend. Cary, acting as talent coordinator for the upcoming annual tōrō nagashi lantern floating ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park and also a close friend of Keola, suggested that Raiatea should collaborate with Keola during the main event. Raiatea, however, had never even met Keola Beamer before. “Are you serious? Would he want to work with me?” Raiatea asked. “You mean, I could work with Keola Beamer, the legend?”
They performed “Iesu nō ke Kahuhipa,” an 1830s hymn translated into Hawaiian by Rev. Lorenzo Lyons of “Hawaiʻi Aloha” fame, only a few days later. “We put the whole thing together so quickly, and when we did it, we felt like there was an instant connection there,” recounts Raiatea. “At the time, I was planning on recording my next solo album, but the project seemed stalled for some reason.” Several months later, Keola, Moanalani (Keola’s wife), myself, Guy Sibilla, and Raiatea sat down together at Sam Choy’s restaurant, “and that’s how this whole thing was born!”
Keola also felt that same “instant connection” with Raiatea early on and was delighted by her willingness to explore new musical pathways. “When I heard her doing some of Sweetheart Grandma’s music,” — meaning the songs of Helen Desha Beamer — “I felt there was an older soul inside this young lady. This intrigued me, and I wondered if we could collaborate to create something new.”
Raiatea, however, had never worked in this type of collaborative partnership. “I never felt comfortable recording in the same room at the same time with anybody before. But the energy that Keola has just makes you feel so good, and he brings that out on an artistic level. Things just sort of clicked, and that’s when I knew, wow! I am so excited about this journey!”
“It’s a new me,” says Raiatea. “Starting something fresh. Starting all over again. Growing into a new woman. It’s beautiful and I feel comfortable in this new element. For me, even with the hard work that went into this album, it still felt quite effortless in comparison to my earlier ones.” Indeed, this album has given her the chance to try new styles, to make contributions to the creative process, and to mature in her understanding of her own musical talents.
Raiatea also feels connected to the songs. “I like how they sound and I like how they feel. They are pretty deep. And Uncle Keola makes them even more powerful. I mean, anyone can sing ‘Ka Makani Kāʻili Aloha,’ but to have it done in an arrangement by Uncle Keola, it makes it sound like a different song. He brings out the soulfulness for me. I feel comfortable in this type of spiritual and soothing sound.”
Asked if she could characterize this album with a color, Raiatea described it as a nice, soft, clear-sky blue. For Keola, however, the album holds a darker tone.
“This record has some deep personal reflections, ” says Keola. “It’s love and it’s loss. It’s the passing of the years as we go through life. That’s another reason I really like working with Raiatea: her voice has the capacity to take me places. I can journey with her. Her voice is powerful, yet has a ‘luminous’ quality. It’s like looking at the moon and seeing the light behind the physical body of it: it’s the aka, the luminous glow and the spectral shadow all at once.”
It was quite a coincidence to me that when I had previously asked Raiatea how she would describe this album in one word, she replied after a moment of reflection: “Brilliance.” And brilliant it is indeed, for the album has given Raiatea the chance to enlighten her musical life and explore new musical directions.
Here we have an album that deals with letting go and with answering some of life’s hardest questions. Keola went through some very difficult times following the loss of his beloved mother in 2008, and perhaps due in some part to the experience of working with Raiatea, he has transcended that dark abyss of sorrow and come out once again into the light.
“Working with Keola makes me feel so humble and proud. I feel like we are ʻohana.” - Raiatea
MUSICIANS & INSTRUMENTS
Bobo Butires - Well-known local percussionist Bobo Butires has performed with Hawaiian artists such as Darren Benitez, Kahiau, and Inoa ʻOle. He also performed on Keola and R. Carlos Nakai’s joint album, “Our Beloved Land” (2005) along with John Kolivas.
Moanalani Beamer - Moanalani Beamer is a hula dancer and plays native Hawaiian percussive instruments. Her sensitive nature, her understanding of technique, and her spiritual and philosophical approach all combine to make her an excellent teacher. She remains firmly committed to sharing her cultural knowledge worldwide and travels regularly to the US, Europe, Japan, and China with husband Keola to perform and teach.
Geoffrey Keezer - Jazz pianist Geoffrey Keezer comes from a musical family and thus was exposed to music at a very young age. He took his formal music training at Berklee College of Music and then went on to work with numerous jazz musicians. He has explored many musical stylings and has performed with such groups as the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra. He has recorded with Diana Krall, Joshua Redman, Christian McBride, and Barbara Hendricks, and he has produced several of his own albums including “Falling Up” (2003) which featured several pieces with Keola Beamer.
John Kolivas - John Kolivas has been a professional bassist for over 28 years and is the founder of the Honolulu Jazz Quartet. He has performed with countless artists over the years and also notably backed vocalists including Rosemary Clooney, Lea Salonga, and Wayne Newton. He moved to New York for an eight year period in the ’80s, during which he performed on Broadway. John recorded bass for Keola and Kapono Beamer’s album Honolulu City Lights in 1978, and has performed with Keola since he was 18 years old. Along with his busy schedule doing performances and going on tours, John is a music instructor at Punahou School in Honolulu.
Mark van Wageningon - Marc van Wageningen was born and raised in Amsterdam, Holland and started playing bass guitar at the age of 16. He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1980 and started playing with jazz greats Eddie Marshall, George Marshall, Larry Schneider, and Mel Martin. He has played music on television, Broadway, movie soundtracks, and performed with many artists including Tower of Power, Cornelius Bumpus, Keiko Matsui, Stan Getz, Diane Reeves, and Steve Winwood.
Paul van Wageningon - A three-time Grammy nominee, Paul was originally from Amsterdam, Holland. He moved to New York in 1976 to be “closer to the American Jazz scene.” Since relocating to the San Francisco area several years later, he has gained recognition as a premier multi-cultural drummer and has perfomed with musicians such as Pete Escovedo, Andy Narell, Jovino Santos Neto, and the Caribbean Jazz Project.
Harry Willemsen - Harry Willemsen lives in The Netherlands and after an early start with classical piano, electric guitar, keyboards, and vocals rediscovered the “endless melodical lines” in classical Central Javanese gamelan (Soerakarta style). He currently performs vocals, siter, and rebab with ensemble Widosari which is considered to be among the very best in Europe.
The Spring Wind Quintet
Flute: Claire Starz Butin
Oboe: Scott Janusch
Clarinet: James “Kimo” Moffitt
Horn: Jonathan Parrish
Bassoon: Marsha Schweitzer
Chamber Music Hawaiʻi’s nationally known Spring Wind Quintet has been a major force in the development of chamber music in Hawaiʻi for well over a quarter-century. They first worked with Keola when they collaborated to create “Malulani: ’Neath the Shadows of Stars” a musical suite for the unusual combination of kī hōʻalu and wind quintet, commissioned by the City and County of Honolulu and premiered in its complete form at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo in April 2008 under the auspices of the Hawaiʻi Concert Society.
Of their relationship with Keola, Marsha says, “The Quintet has really enjoyed and been honored to work with Keola on all of the various projects over the past few years. It has helped expand our horizons and further our artistic growth, and also brings back warm memories of our first connection to the Beamer family, our residency at the Kamehameha Schools in the 1980s when we played for Aunty Nona’s hula classes.”
The kāʻekeʻeke is a hollow-bodied instrument used for rhythmic accompaniment. There are two kinds of kāʻekeʻeke: one a drum with a wooden body, and the other a bamboo stamping tube with one end closed naturally by an internal node plate. The type used in the making of this album is the bamboo one. Made by family friend Calvin Hoe of Hakipuʻu, Oʻahu, Moana’s kāʻekeʻeke is about 3’ long and is played by stamping the closed end vertically down upon a small pad to create a note with a pitch directly related to the length of the tube. Keola has a set of bamboo kāʻekeʻeke, each one tuned to a particular pitch, which allows him to use this uncommon instrument in any key.
Typically made from a hollowed-out gourd or Hawaiian kamani seed with a hole cut into its top, the oeoe is swung around the head of the player in a horizontal plane to create an eerie low-pitch whistle sound which varies in pitch as the instrument changes speed. The oeoe used by Moanalani was made by friend Calvin Hoe based on his investigations of ancient Hawaiian oeoe housed at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. The name oeoe is most likely a Hawaiian onomatopoeia.
pahu and pūniu
The pahu and pūniu are often found as companion instruments in hula circles, for they are complementary instruments played one alongside the other. The pahu is the larger of the two: it is a standing drum made of coconut wood with a skin head. It played with the hands. The pūniu on the other hand is a small drum made from a coconut shell and played with a short braided length of coconut sennit. It is bound to the player’s thigh by a braided cord.
‘ohe hano ihu
This demure instrument is a simple length of thin-walled Hawaiian bamboo with one end closed at the node. There is a small hole near the node and several more holes a little further along its length. It is played by holding the base end slightly beneath the nose, and with one hand pinching one nostril closed and the other hand variously covering or uncovering the holes in the top of the bamboo, one blows with the open nostril into the flutelike body of the ‘ohe. The sound is haunting, unforgettable, and direct; indeed it is said that the ʻohe hano ihu was used for wooing lovers in the days of old. This instrument has been used by Keola in his performances for over 40 years, and has been used in the Beamer and Desha families for well over 100 years.
The siter is a plucked string instrument used in traditional Javanese gamelan percussion ensembles. It is related to the kacapi used in Sundanese gamelan. The name “siter” comes from the Dutch word “citer,” which corresponds to the English word “zither.”
The ʻūkēkē is a small thin stringed instrument played while held in the mouth, which acts as a resonating chamber to amplify the sound produced by plucking the strings. It is an old Hawaiian instrument that has almost completely fallen out of use, but thanks partly to the work of Aunty Nona Beamer, the instrument and its story has survived into this new millennium: she taught countless children about the ʻūkēkē during her four decades of instructing at Kamehameha Schools. The ʻūkēkē played on this album by Moana is about 18 inches long, made of koa, and has three strings. It was created by Keola’s friend Steve Grimes, an outstanding luthier on Maui, and includes a mini microphone pickup certain to make this particular ʻūkēkē the world’s first and only to be “electrified!”
kī hōʻalu - slack key guitar
Brought to Hawaiʻi’s shores by the Spanish cowboys of the 1800s, the guitar became an instrument used in family gatherings, evening serenades, and when relaxing after-work. The technique of slacking, or loosening, the strings slightly to create alternate tunings has become known as “kī hōʻalu” in Hawaiian. There is a copious amount of information now available on the internet and in books about kī hōʻalu. This style of playing has enjoyed a great revival since the 1960s, when it was almost lost in obscurity. Keola has played a large role in its recovery.
Keola Beamer’s double ported, koa guitars are custom made for him by Steve Grimes of Grimes Guitars, P.O. Box 537, Kula, Maui, HI 96790. www.grimesguitars.com
Keola Beamer’s ‘ukulele are made for him by Dennis Lake of Pō Mahina ʻUkulele & Guitars, P.O. Box 845, Nāʻālehu, Hawaiʻi, HI 96772. www.konaweb.com/mahina/
Keola Beamer’s traditional Hawaiian instruments were made for him by Calvin Hoe, P.O. Box 5432, Kaneohe, Oʻahu, HI 96744.
KĪ HŌʻALU TUNINGS USED IN THIS RECORDING
CFCGCE : Kī hōʻalu masters refer to this tuning as “Leonard’s F” as it was so deftly explored by the legendary slack-key guitarist, Leonard Kwan.
DADGAD : This tuning is utilized more in the continental U.S. than in Hawaiʻi. Keola says of this tuning, “I appreciate the dark coloration of its tonal palette and sometimes select it for more pensive explorations.”
DGDGBD : “G” or “Taro Patch” tuning is the most common tuning used when playing slack-key. It is regarded as a kāne, or male, tuning. In “Days of my Youth,” Keola plays his steel string koa guitar in Taro Patch tuned down to the key of F.
CGDGBE : This “C Wahine” tuning is popularly referred to as “Keola’s C” because of his extensive repertoire in this tuning. For “Where I Hold You,” Keola’s C was tuned down ½ step to the key of B.
CGDGBbE : This is Keola’s special G minor tuning played in the key of E for the song “I Kīlohi Aku Au.”
CEbCGCEb : Keola uses his Eb tuning played in the key of C minor for “Ke Aliʻi Hulu Mamo.”
Produced by Keola Beamer
Engineering: Justin Lieberman, Keola Beamer, Gaylord Holomalia
Recording: Studio Trilogy, San Francisco, California / Avex Honolulu Studios, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi
Mastering: Bernie Grundman Mastering, Hollywood, California
Project Coordination: Cary Hayashikawa
Artist Management: Guy Sibilla
Cover and Graphics: Jon DeMello
Liner Notes: Kaliko Beamer-Trapp
Keola wishes to thank his beautiful hānai niece, Raiatea, as well as Shinnyo-en Hawaiʻi, Nā Lei Aloha Foundation & Lantern Floating Hawaiʻi, John Paulsen, Donley Smith, Cindy McSherry, Cindy Lance, and Dan DelNegro.
Raiatea wishes to thank “Ke Akua for Your continued guidance and strength. Thank you Mom and Dad for always supporting me without question. I love you both unconditionally. I want to thank the remainder of my family and friends for their love during this beautiful journey. Guy, you are the inspiration for this project - and when I sing, I think of you. Aloha wau iā ʻoe. Uncle Keola, you have opened my eyes to a world of music that only a few people will ever know. I am so thrilled to have shared this path with you. You are a genius! I love you. Last but not least, thank you to all my fans! You are the reason I continue to sing and without whom none of this would be possible. Mahalo nui for all your loyalty and love throughout the years.”
For more information on Keola Beamer, slack key instruction, and discography, please visit www.kbeamer.com. Visit www.raiateahelm.com for music, photographs and more information on Raiatea Helm.
© 2010 Starscape Music & Raiatea Helm Records. All Rights Reserved.