Beamer and Helm to debut songs from their new CD
LAHAINA — “Imagine” the “Sweet and Lovely” voice of youth blending with the soulful and rich vocals of experience onstage in downtown Lahaina on Saturday night, May 22.
Keola Beamer and Raiatea Helm will celebrate the recent release of their 16-month collaborative CD at the Maui Theatre this weekend. The curtain call is 7:30 p.m.
The talented, multi-award-winning recording artists met in mid-2008 at the Floating Lantern ceremony on Oahu.
“One of my friends suggested that Raiatea and I try and do something together. I had never met her before, and so we began to work on the piece ‘Imagine’ and trying to conceptualize it,” Beamer said.
Out of the effort, a mutual respect and “pure love” evolved between the Hawaiian legend and the gifted 25-year-old songstress.
“She’s a young girl, and I had a lot of experience in the business. I respected first of all the sound of her voice. I thought it was really beautiful; also, I really appreciated her sincerity. She was really working to try to get the piece (John Lennon’s song, "Imagine") right, and I appreciated her professionalism,” Beamer commented.
“The more I heard her sing,” the slack key master continued, “the more I fell in love with her voice. I began to really look at her voice and study it and try to understand what her gift was, and she has the wonderful quality of light in her voice.”
Raiatea calls “Uncle Keola” a genius.
“This is my first collaboration. I performed with a few groups when I first came out ten years ago,” Helm commented, including Ho’okena and Makaha Sons.
The difference in touring and collaborating to Helm is all-encompassing.
“This was the recording and creating and collaborating. This was the whole nine yards with Keola, doing it all with him,” she said.
“I’ve learned many things from getting to know my voice, and what it can do; getting to understand the bigger picture of music in general… and to have fun and to be serious with my work,” she added.
According to Beamer, the 16-month effort wasn’t all in the studio. “We did some of the recording in San Francisco, some in Honolulu and some in my studio on Maui,” he said.
“We also did some touring together to test some of this stuff — see what it was like, so we went to China together, Japan, and we went to New York and Philadelphia.”
Saturday night will be their first-ever together performance on Maui.
“It is also the first performance of the material on the recording,” Beamer noted.
“We’re going to feature most of the songs off of the CD,” an excited Helm added.
The signature arrangement of the ground-breaking release, “Keola Beamer and Raiatea,” is the international anthem “Imagine” translated into Hawaiian.
A Mountain Apple Company Hawaii press release aptly described the “stunning” composition.
It “demonstrates the beauty, brilliance and innovative interpretation these Hawaiian artists have brought to bear in this work. This song includes slack key guitar, a wind quintet, and a Hawaiian chant blended with the falsetto musings of Raiatea, singing in Hawaiian, with Keola Beamer carrying the melody as Lennon originally composed.”
The unique compilation, according to Mountain Apple, includes ten other compositions that transcend “the Hawaiian music genre and enters the world music stage by incorporating ancient Hawaiian musical instruments into inventive arrangements."
“Uncle Keola’s idea was to use different Hawaiian instruments like the ukeke. The ukeke is a mouth instrument that Aunty Moana Beamer (Keola’s wife) plays. It has such a distinctive sound to it,” Helm noted.
The ukeke is the only stringed instrument indigenous to Hawaii. The strings were strummed with one hand, while the other hand keeps the instrument in place. The mouth acts as a resonating chamber.
To Beamer, the central theme of the release is “life, loss, love and the passage of time…love renewed. It’s pretty deep stuff, actually. This may be one of the deepest sorts of records that I’ve done,” he confided.
“I believe that a good record is really a portrait of the artist or artists and that time and place. As time goes on and fate unfolds, these things happen to us, and some of them affect our story telling.
“For instance, I lost my mom two years ago. That was a really difficult time for me. I think this collaboration with Raiatea somehow magically encompassed a time of understanding those things in my life, and she was able to reach into her own heart and have the courage to explore material that was pretty mature.”
On stage Saturday night at the Maui Theatre with Beamer and Helm will be band members Dan Del Negro, piano/keys; Moanalani Beamer, Native Hawaiian instruments; John Kolivas, bass; and Adriano Larioza, drums/percussion.
Helm encourages people to attend. “It is going to be a lovely, lovely show. It will be worth coming to,” she said.
Tickets are $25 and $35. Call 661-9913, extension 1, for tickets.