KEOLA BEAMER AND RAIATEA HELM COLLABORATE ON NEW CD
HONOLULU (March 29, 2010) – World renown singer, composer and Slack key master Keola Beamer " and two-time Grammy nominee, Raiatea Helm, partner on a brand new CD, "Keola Beamer and Raiatea" released as a world music stage production in last April from Mountain Apple Records (mountainapplecompany.com).
When two of the most powerful Hawaiian music stars devote 14 months of their lives to a recording studio the result is pure magic. Blending traditional and contemporary Hawaiian musical styles, Keola and Raiatea have created a CD that is infused with the spirit of the islands and thrives with innovative rhythms.
"Keola Beamer & Raiatea" is guaranteed to become an all-time favorite for Hawaiian and world music fans and all those who esteem slack key guitar as well as the pure vocalizations of Hawaii's preeminent female songstress.
"Artists from Hawai'i have been making their mark on the world music scene and charts for decades, and Mountain Apple is thrilled to present 'Keola Beamer & Raiatea,' two beloved artists who have come together to make the most beautiful music," said Jon de Mello, founder, Mountain Apple Company Hawai'i. "With the international popularity of the slack key guitar, there are many artists that have been called masters.
"In our opinion, Keola Beamer is a true 'master.' And, Raiatea, who is at the top of the industry at such a young age, grows with every new song and never ceases to amaze us," he added.
One of Hawai'i's premier singer-songwriters, arrangers, composers and masters of the Hawaiian slack key guitar, Keola Beamer's breadth of talent springs from five generations of Hawai'i's most illustrious musical families. Keola established himself early as a leader in the wave of contemporary Hawaiian music when he wrote the classic "Honolulu City Lights," which is one of the all-time best-selling recordings in the history of Hawaiian music. He has recorded and produced more than a dozen albums, winning numerous Hanohano Awards from the Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts, and has appeared on national television.
Raiatea Helm made history in 2006 as Hawai'i's first solo female vocalist ever to receive a Grammy Nomination for her sophomore CD "Sweet and Lovely." The Arts and Leisure Desk of the New York Times went further to comment that "[Raiatea Helm] is poised and utterly elegant …" Raiatea received her second Grammy Nomination in 2008 for her follow-up release, "Hawaiian Blossom." Her debut recording, "Far Away Heaven," captured the prestigious Female Vocalist of the Yearand Most Promising Artist Awards from the 2003 Hanohano Awards.
MUSIC COLLABORATION RENEWS
Great-grandma's works come alive on new CD with Helm
Keola Beamer, a veteran in Hawaiian music, had a "gotcha" moment when Raiatea Helm sang his great-grandmother's music for their first-everCD together, "Keola Beamer and Raiatea," in stores Tuesday.
"She has a voice that I can journey with, a voice that takes me places," said Beamer, 59, a prolific composer best known for "Hono-lulu City Lights" and a master of kí ho'alu.
Through his guitar and voice, plus her artistry, he discovered a mission and magic of collaboration.
"I felt if I could understand her gift, I could introduce her to material that would help define her own artistry," Beamer said.
Beamer, thrilled with the duo project, answereda few questions. Consider this the first of a two-part column. Next week, Helm shares her views.
You're the veteran here; what's the ingredient that makes this collaboration work?
Our mutual respect and love for one another. I love working with Raiatea's voice. To my ears, there is a quality of light in her voice, a sort of luminescence. I spent a lot of time studying her voice, her range and flexibility. I think there are two people in the world who really, really understand her voice. Me and her dad (Zachary Helm).
You wrote a couple of tunes and picked some of the Helen Desha Beamer catalog classics. Was the intent to introduce Raiatea to some of your family's mainstays?
Hearing Raiatea sing my great-grandmother's music was an "aha" moment for me. Here, I was looking at this young woman, yet when I heard her sing "Kimo Henderson Hula" with only her and her 'ukulele, I could feel an older soul present. This really intrigued me. How could this young woman express this kind of depth of nuance? Raiatea wanted to sing "Ke Ali'i Hulu Mamo" (another by great-grandmother Beamer), so I called my Uncle Mahi, our 'ohana's expert in sweetheart Gramma's music, and asked him if he would work with her on phrasing. She went over to his house and sat with him at his piano. I knew Raiatea had the chops for what might be considered technically difficult Beamer material and that her interpretation ultimately would make my great-grandmother very happy. This was important to me.
What was particularly special working with Raiatea?
I like that Raiatea has the courage to explore her own heart through the music we create.
Do you think there's something beneficial for a cooperative venture like this?
It's no secret that I lost my mom Winona Kapu-ailohia Desha Beamer about two years ago; losing my mom was the most difficult moment in my life. My mom meant a lot to me and I really, really loved her I was having real difficulty recovering from that loss. I felt as if a part of me had been ripped away. Somehow, being around Raiatea and her mischievous sense of humor made it all OK. I stopped being so sad. I went back to the studio with a new sense of determination.
Share a discovery, after hanging with Raiatea, and how might this influence what you might do in the future?
In her own sweet way, my beautiful hanai niece helped me find the love for my craft again. For that, I will always be grateful.
What's next for you?
I'm looking forward to touring in support of the record, as I still like to make music in exotic parts of the world. In the 16 months we've been in the studio working on this CD we've somehow still managed to perform concerts in China, Japan, New York, Philadelphia and the West Coast. You learn a lot about the people you travel with, but by mutual agreement and penalty of death, we keep that stuff secret!
ONE ARTISTIC ODYSSEY
Helm, Beamer bond during 16 months' work on album
When Raiatea Helm, now 25, met Keola Beamer for the first time two years ago at a religious music event at Ala Moana Park, something clicked.
They bonded like old pals.
So when they spent 16 months recording "Keola Beamer & Raiatea," their first-ever CD together released last week (See Island Sounds, Page 5), which she describes "as the secondlongest relationship I've had," they became close buddies, in a mentor-and-student or uncle-and-niece sort of way. Helm reflects:
You're the young-and-hip one here; what did you bring to the plate to make this teaming work?
You know, someone once told me that Picasso believed "it takes a long time to become young," and that is Uncle Keola. He is so funny and full of new ideas, you forget what a legend he is in the Hawaiian music community. I grew up with all kinds of music playing in the house, including Uncle Keola's classics, so when I met him, I felt as if I was with an old friend, like someone I had grown up with on Molokaçi.
We really hit it off right away and laughed and joked a lot. And because we were so at ease, I wasn't afraid to try new things when we were in the studio together.
Did you get to select some of the tunes on the album?
Before recording, we talked a lot about the songs we liked; the message, the arrangements, and the kind of feeling we wanted to create by blending the beauty of his slack-key tuning and my voice. We both chose "Hilo Hanakahi," because last year Uncle Keola invited me to participate in his music camp on the Big Island; we decided to make a musical journey around the island, and "Hilo Hanakahi" was our vehicle. "Ke Aliçi Hulu Mamo" (written by great-grandmother Helen Desha Beamer) was included (because) as Uncle Keola said, "This is really a hard song to sing but it is beautiful." And I wanted to showcase the old style of a Helen Desha Beamer classic.
What lasting joy resulted?
Uncle Keola taught me that nothing is acceptable short of perfection and that the process of achieving that perfection is long and hard. It is exhausting, too. But in the end, when you hear what you have done and see how your music affects people, it is so gratifying.
Were there differences in the collaboration?
You know, Uncle Keola is so special and wise and such a giving teacher that I could see myself working with him again. But the CD took us nearly 1 ½ years to complete! That is like the second-longest relationship I have ever had! We talked about the project and decided to proceed, that we were both committed to it (the time in the recording studio). We also love each other so much … both he and I wanted to be sure that any differences that might arise would be embraced in a positive, creative way and not affect us negatively. We are closer now than ever.
Share a discovery, after hanging with Keola.
Uncle Keola is totally funny. When I first met him, I was, like, "You mean I get to sing with Keola Beamer — the legend?" And then I learned from him that you can be serious about what you do, without being serious all the time. So we laughed a whole lot.
Being with him has definitely shaped the direction of my music to come. Uncle Keola has come into my life just at the time I needed someone like him; he showed me a way to expressmyself through my voice that I was never aware of until now. Instead of falling into the trap of doing the same thing over and over again, he showed me how to take what I already knew and make it more. He showed me not to be afraid, to take chances, to be courageous, and imagine our music out in the world.
Touring with Uncle Keola on the East Coast, West Coast and Japan. We hope to share the new CD with the whole world.
I am also taking some new paths beyond music; I am the 2010 ambassador for Tahiti Pearl Market, based in Tahiti but recently in Waikïkï and downtown. And in negotiations for a clothing line in Japan.
BEAMER-HELM CD INSPIRES
THE ATMOSPHERE was light and jovial when I entered the Mountain Apple Co.'s Kakaako offices on Monday. After a short walk through the company's warehouse space, an open door led to a studio where Keola Beamer and Raiatea Helm had just finished up a photo and video shoot in support of their new collaboration, "Keola Beamer and Raiatea."
The album, set for release May 4 in stores and online, was the result of 14 months of work in Honolulu, San Francisco and Beamer's home island of Maui. The project was incredibly personal for both artists, albeit for different reasons.
"I lost my mom about two years ago, and she was also an artistic collaborator, so I was dealing with this huge loss and how to go forward," said Beamer.
"This is a new Raiatea," said Helm. "It's a new journey for me ... (and) I took a risk to get out of the box and try something new."
Beamer and Helm first met in 2008 when one of the coordinators for the annual Lantern Floating Festival asked them to share a stage. The two "clicked," according to Helm, and they decided to start working together. Eventually, months of touring in Japan, China and the continental U.S. led to them deciding to record a full-length album.
"For me, she has a voice I can journey with," said Beamer of Helm's vocal ability. "Words fall short, but there's a quality of light in her voice that I see. ... I sort of thought maybe we could work together and I could paint with that light."
The results of Beamer's "painting" are impressive. "Keola Beamer and Raiatea" spotlights the strengths of both artists -- Beamer's slack key talents are impossible to ignore, his playing blending seamlessly with Helm's silky smooth voice.
Tracks like "Hilo Hanakahi" and "I Kilohi Aku Au" allow both artists to showcase their singing voices in Hawaiian, while "Ina (Imagine)" is a beautiful remake of the John Lennon classic, using both Hawaiian and English lyrics. "You Somebody" and "Days of My Youth," which showcase each artist individually, are other songs worth putting on repeat in your iTunes.
After years of scratching my head at some of the nominees and winners of the Best Hawaiian Music Album category at the Grammy Awards, it seems like a no-brainer to consider this release as a front-runner to win in 2011. Just don't expect Beamer and Helm to jump on that bandwagon anytime soon.
"I'm a Buddhist, so I'm not attached to any of that stuff," said Beamer. "The music is good and we want to get it out there. Whether it has anything to do with the Grammys or not, we don't know."
"We make music to make people happy," added Helm. "Everyone can relate to it."
According to the folks at Mountain Apple, "Keola Beamer and Raiatea" will be available at all Oahu Longs Drugs, Wal-Mart and Borders locations. Beamer and Helm expect to tour extensively on the mainland and in Hawaii this fall in support of the new album; Maui fans will be able to celebrate its release on May 22 at the Maui Theatre.