What I’m Reading | Raiatea Helm

Q&A with Christine Thomas
June 2008, Honolulu Advertiser

-What are you reading?

I have to admit to you I’m not a big reader but I have been skimming through these two books—Guy [Sibilla] just bought me a new one. The first is called “Songbird of Hawai`i,” Lena Machado’s biography by Pi`olani Mota and Kihei deSilva. Two or three years ago they honored Lena Machado at the Kamehameha Schools song contest, and I was a part of it—and actually I have a quote in the back of the book “Her music brings a sense of pureness and tranquility and it’s great to be able to share her music with the world.” Lena Machado’s book is like my bible, Being an artist, reading this you learn what the lifestyle is, especially being a female vocalist and especially in Hawai`i—learning her experiences growing up and her influences and how she became a writer and composer—all that put into a book, it’s really inspiring.

I’m not finished with this one but it’s really cool because you have all her lyrics and all the keys of all the songs and really cool pictures so I like that. I’m a big fan of pictures. This book is a really great book and I would like to pass it on to local artists especially women who are trying to make it in this industry.

This other one was edited by Rodney Morales called “Ho’iho’i Hou” a tribute to my uncle George Helm and Kimo Mitchell. It’s a really nice story. I just got back from Kaho`olawe with my family. Being there for the first time, it really opened my eyes to a lot of things. Being Hawaiian, and being a young person, it gave me a better understanding of what my uncle and Kimo Mitchell and the Protect Kaho`olawe Ohana went through trying to protect the island and save Kaho`olawe. It’s a really strong book that was written for my generation, for his nieces and nephews—written for us to read so that we can learn what he went through to protect the language and protect our people. It’s really nice and I’d refer it to a lot of Hawaiians and people interested in Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian Studies.

-How did you discover them?

Songbird of Hawaii was given to me from Kamehameha Schools when I participated in the song contest that year and it’s really nice, it’s very well done. Kamehameha Schools published it and Stacy Leong did all the graphics and it’s really, really nice. So that was given to me as a gift and I take it with me everywhere I go, especially on the road. And “Ho’iho’i Hou” I got myself at Borders. I’m interesting in things that pertain to Hawaiian culture, especially Hawaiian music, because I learn a lot from reading these things.

-Does reading about Machado’s experiences help you as a growing vocalist and performer, now touring solo?

I can sort of relate to how she was as a person growing up, being very tita, a country girl. And she ended up to be a very classy woman, as they explain in her story, and also in her music. When she writes her songs they’re all life experiences and one of her songs talks about her running around in childhood days, hanabutta in her nose and all that stuff, and growing up into the very classy, stately woman that she was. I want to learn about her life experiences, and she was a very great role model but unfortunately I never met her. But I’m proud I get to sing her songs and it’s really great someone made a book about her life—it was a great life she lived.