SOMETIMES, music is not just music. For Keola Beamer, it’s a form of communication, of inspiration, a cultural touchstone — and a way to nurture the soul.
"There’s something music can do for us — inspire us," said the musician and songwriter, who’s issued dozens of albums, including the classic "Honolulu City Lights," since his debut in the 1970s. "There’s something that happens with music, some sort of light, a lifting of our hearts."
At his concerts with Raiatea Helm — she performs as Raiatea — this weekend, Beamer plans to unveil an initiative, "Malama ko Aloha," and ask listeners: "What are you going to do today to Malama ko aloha?"
In the program for the concerts, Beamer states, "We can gather our courage … endeavor to live our lives with compassion for other human beings. We can live our lives embracing the ideas of diversity, harmony and peace."
Aloha implies responsibility, in Beamer’s world view — "You can’t do it all, but you can help" — and he says that at this point in his life, passing on the message of aloha is what motivates him.
"My mother used to have a saying, ‘Malama ko aloha’ — ‘Keep your love,’" he said. "Mother would remind us of that throughout the years. Because of that, aloha became a way of being in the world."
KEOLA BEAMER & RAIATEA IN CONCERT
Where: Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College
When: 7:30 p.m. today and Sunday
Info: 550-8457, www.honoluluboxoffice.com
Where: Mamiya Theatre, Saint Louis School
When: 7:30 p.m. tomorrow
Info: 550-8457, www.honoluluboxoffice.com
He dismisses talk about fame, praise or his "career," saying, "What interests me is meaning."
That’s where music comes in, naturally, for Beamer, a member of a family that traces its genealogy back to Kamehameha I, and has greatly influenced Hawaiian music and hula in the islands over the past four generations.
With the latest CD from Beamer and young Hawaiian vocalist Raiatea, the duo have created a contemplative, often soaring set of musical arrangements and lyrics concerned with themes of love, compassion, respect for the aina and acceptance.
Beamer calls the concert, and by association, the CD, "Keola Beamer & Raiatea," a "technically sophisticated package."
The Spring Wind Quintet — comprised of Honolulu Symphony musicians — appears on the CD and will accompany Beamer and Raiatea during the concert. Both he and Raiatea have high praise for the accompanists: "These are the best musicians in Hawaii, without a doubt," he said.
RAIATEA, said Beamer, "is a very beautiful spirit in this world." She in turn said that the first time she heard him play in person, "it was just beautiful — magical."
Raiatea, also from a family that has long honored Hawaiian music and culture, says the pair have a natural chemistry.
In 2008, the two performed a version of John Lennon’s "Imagine" together at the Shinnyo-en/Na Lei Aloha Foundation’s "Diversity Harmony Peace" concert. "Ever since, we felt we were meant to make music together, and we have," Raiatea said.
The two joke about the difference in their ages during performances, but Raiatea says it’s really inconsequential to her.
"I’ve still got kid in me, but when it counts, I don’t think it really matters," she said. "Growing up, I was always with my grandmothers, my tutu — I think that has a lot to do with my old soul that I’ve been told I have. And I really love performing traditional Hawaiian music!"
The music recorded and performed by Beamer and Raiatea is not strictly traditional — a central song and theme is embodied in Lennon’s "Imagine," translated into Hawaiian as "Ina" and sung in both languages — but it is infused with reverence for the Hawaiian language and musical standards.
Raiatea, who’s going into the studio next month to work on a new solo CD, is not sure yet whether the two will record together again — she says that will be Beamer’s choice. But the two have ongoing plans to perform together, in these concerts and then continuing with tour stops in Asia.
"Keola and I have so much fun performing together," she said. "We laugh — and it’s very nostalgic. … It’s very much an honor to perform in honor of his family … and revive treasured songs."
After 16 months of rehearsal and collaboration, leading up to the recording of the CD and these concerts, which will continue on as a tour in Asia, Raiatea says she feels she’s lived up to Beamer’s expectations.
"Two people know my voice well: My father and Keola. … He taught me so much about my voice. He is such a perfectionist and a specific arranger. … He brought me out of the box I was in trying new sounds," she said. "It was a huge accomplishment."