by Evan C. Gutierrez
Recognized as Hawaii's premier female vocalist during the 2000s, Raiatea Helm (born August 8, 1984) was first introduced to world audiences in 2003 thanks to her debut record, Far Away Heaven, released by Riptide Records. At only 19 years of age, Helm won the prestigious Female Vocalist of the Year and Most Promising Artist titles at the 2003 HARA (Hawaii Academy of Recording Artists) Awards. Accompanying herself on ukulele, Raiatea captured the attention of audiences throughout her native islands, interpreting traditional Hawaiian song with the mastery and control of a jazz vocalist. Raiatea's sophomore release, Sweet & Lovely, earned national attention and made Hawaiian history: in 2006 Helm became Hawaii's first-ever solo female vocalist to be nominated for a Grammy. The record took home both Female Vocalist of the Year and Favorite Entertainer of the Year honors at the HARA Awards. Helm then received invitations from venues throughout Asia, and also graced U.S. stages from New York to San Francisco. Jazz selections began to find their way into Helm's repertoire more consistently. From her rendition of jazz favorite "At Last" (Sweet & Lovely) to her collaboration with Grammy-winning saxophonist Matt Catingub on the 2006 recording of "My Romance," Helm began to establish herself outside world music circles as an accomplished jazz vocalist. Her third record, 2006's Hawaiian Blossom, featuring the jazz ballad "Taking a Chance on Love," was quickly deemed her most complex and polished work to date.