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Nana’s Sunday Jams: The Music of George Helm - A true Hawaiin Master


Nana’s Sunday Jams: The Music of George Helm - A true Hawaiin Master

Banner artwork by the majestic Trav, all of Nana's jams are gathered in this playlist.

Yes Sunday Jammers. Welcome back and warmest greetings. I’m thinking of travel and being transported today, really missing the ability to pack my stuff and take off; an itch that won't be soothed by scratching. There was a point a couple of years ago where I’d swapped my living room for airport lounges and my biggest challenge was how to remould hard seats into a snuggle space without much success; the struggle seemed so real. Now the thought of even going to Brighton on a day out feels like a pre-dystopian dream. I’m so thankful for music and its ability to teleport me to far away shores, for musicians whose instrumentals can move my body piece by piece, for vocalists whose tones are so rich and searing they can conjure up the fragrances, landscapes, feelings.

Today’s select embodies all those things and more, it’s a bit of a cheat but I think it’s much needed healing balm. Think of it as a conduit before the gates are opened again and we all spill out back into our former lives, before it starts to get louder. This is a moment of joyous stillness and captivating beauty. So, remember Steve & Teresa from a couple of edits ago? Well, today meet George Helm; another Hawaiian master and gone-far-too-soon legend. Incidentally Steve Maa’i’i played/apprenticed under Helm. Today I am gifting you the whole and only album of Helm’s music: The music of George Helm - A true Hawaiian Master.

Standout tracks are Haole Hula and Alika, but pick any and you will find sublime melodies, otherworldly harmonies and guitar playing that will move right through you and take up long term residence in your psyche. This album teeters between haunting and enchanting, tilting more toward haunting the more you get to know about Helm’s story. It has all the ingredients needed to transport you, masterful and unique guitar style - also known as Moloka'i Stroke – lyrical and full of flamenco influences. The sound is stripped back but not sparse, managing to sound full, sensual and harmonic, taking your body piece by piece. Then comes this insane vocal, a falsetto that is operatic but also steady, sure and masterful. Helm pushes through to the top of his range without losing control, ever. You can hear the South Pacific taking shape in your space and if you close your eyes and tune everything out you might get a whiff of the sea, feel the heat of the sun and glimpse lush green spaces. It might be a welcome escape from the buff and bluster or, if you are outdoors, it’s a beautiful juxtaposition with the whirl of the current spring winds, a soundtrack for your afternoon.

Check out the rest of the album, it’s a piece of music joy and history delicately packaged. Not only was George Helm a master of his craft like Steve & Teresa, he was also deeply rooted in his culture. An activist and campaigner, passionate about preserving Hawaiian lands and culture, so much so that it claimed his life. Seriously, check him out, all this stuff of tragedy adds a bittersweet quality to the music when listened in retrospect. Happy travels Jammers and love for your Sunday.