A Plea For Official Recognition Of Helm’s Lifetime Of Work
Long before George Helm became a skilled orator, he showed his feelings by singing and playing ukelele. Helm said that “what we needed was to get Hawaiians active… Music is the easiest way I know because people tune into music.” The intensity of his lyrics and emotion reached those who were unwilling to listen to any political speeches.
He explained “the words, the language – pain, revolution; it’s expressing the emotional reaction the Hawaiians are feeling to the subversion of their lifestyle.”
For the past nine years, Ron Perreira has led a campaign to have George Helm’s achievements recognized in a lifetime achievement award by Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts (HARA.) Helm’s power as a leader came from his character, a man who understood the world through music and understood the power of music to the community and the individual.
It was George Helm who demonstrated this best; by using the emotional power of his lyrics and feeling to unite old and young, activists and moderates in a common goal: to win back Kaho`olawe.
Helm’s music showed that his appearance was a way of disconnecting from the West and reconnecting with his ohana and ancestors. By playing ukulele and slack-key guitar with a “Molokai stroke,” by singing falsetto, by singing traditional songs and through his revulsion for the hapa-haole English language tunes, Helm showed pride in his Hawaiian identity and culture.
Helm was not the first to remind Hawaiians that land is an important cultural birthright. But he dedicated himself to the repeated insistence that sacred land is not something to be taken away by tourism or the military.
It was George’s relationship with music which helped the community understand their importance as Hawaiians and brought them together to press for political change. And for that, he should be given official recognition for a lifetime of dedication to Hawaiian music.
George’s heroic life was short, but it was one expressed through music because he related to the world through music and feeling. Without his music, his lyrical and melodic na`au, it is likely that Kaho`olawe would still be under fire.
If you agree that Helm should be recognized by The Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts with a lifetime achievement award, contact HARA at PO Box 821, Honolulu, Hawai'i 96808 or phone or fax 808 235-9424.