singer/musician/recording artist/songwriter is well-known for sharing his love of his multi-generational home of Hāna through his music. Since moving out to Wailuku in 2019, you’ll find him playing at various venues around the island. Tanya, his wife, is a valued member of the Maui/Kauai Vision Team, so we’ve decided to feature him in a blog post!
Here are some samplings of CJ’s talent:
CJ, known to many as Boom, Boomer, Boom Boom, and even Boomzie was born and raised on the gorgeous east side of Maui. If you’ve never driven the Road to Hāna, it is highly recommended. We can’t talk about CJ without first talking about Hāna! Hāna is lush and tropical, the wetter side of the island. Its beauty is unparalleled, and it will change you! The veil is thin as they say, it’s a highly spiritual place and must be respected as such.
Please check this site out before embarking! http://www.hanahighwayregulation.com/road-to-hana-code-of-conduct?fbclid=IwAR0fg7pEi5sz8SCO5SUtIOYnx33szQbCKjIaQirn78F60xQZ7u0xKM0uCFI
There are several vendors on the island who sell CDs you can take to narrate your trip across 52 miles (from Kahului) of stunning views and 54 one-lane bridges. We highly recommend taking a tour bus to help alleviate some of the traffic congestion on the narrow, windy road that is a lifeline for the folks who live out there. There are approximately 3,000 people living between Keʻanae and Kaupō, a good portion of which are native Hawaiians and they travel this road to doctor appointments and even daily for work. That’s hard to imagine once you’ve done it, but rest assured, they are pros! Don’t forget to stop into Hasegawa General Store once you arrive, and buy yourself a “I Survived the Road to Hāna” t-shirt! Check out this Youtube link to hear a song written/performed by Pua Almeida, Hawaii Calls Orchestra & Chorus, especially for the historic store: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dqbGR3Gkbw
CJ comes from a long lineage of a musical family. His maternal grandmother, Clara Kalalau Tolentino, performed at Hotel Hāna Maui for many years. His mother, Lovena Tolentino Helekahi, and his father John Helekahi Jr. followed in Grandma Clara’s footsteps and performed at Hotel Hāna and various other places on the east side. His cousins and nephews/nieces sing/play in bands these days, carrying on the tradition. If you are ever lucky enough to attend a family gathering of theirs, it’s a blessing to be exposed to their collective talent! And if you plan to do any island hopping, check out Uncle Robert’s Awa Band in Kalapana, Big Island of Hawai’i. The late, great Uncle Robert Keli’iho’omalu was the husband of a talented performer, the late Aunty G-Girl
Keli’iho’omalu. Aunty G-Girl just happens to be CJ’s Mom’s sister. The Awa Band is therefore mostly made up of CJ’s first cousins. Definitely go check them out if you’re ever in the area, they are amazing! Here’s a Youtube link to Aunty G-Girl singing about the area of Kaimū near Kalapana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjS58TJj4G8
We asked CJ about what drew him back to Hawaiian music because in his younger years he enjoyed Reggae with his friends. When he was in his early 20s, a beloved late performer and friend of his Mom’s, Aunty Carol Kapu, encouraged him to start playing for her and her hālau (hula group). He learned old Hawaiian songs and grew to love the genre and get back to his roots. Of course, many of the songs were familiar. His ‘ohana lived off the grid in the area of Waikaloa in Hāna and that’s what they did… they played and sang, as a family does when they don’t have TV!
Once he got a little more confident from playing with Aunty Carol, Uncle Boise, and some other talented folks of Hāna, he started playing at Hotel Hāna now and then with Uncle Kaleo Kaina, eventually playing on his own and then in later years with Leokāne Pryor. This turned into nearly 20 years of performing at Hotel Hāna and led to two albums recorded collaboratively with Leokāne. You can find his/their music on Spotify, Itunes, Amazon Music, etc., so please check it out!
These days you can find him playing regularly at Old Lāhainā Lūʻau on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, a great production you’ll find here: https://oldlahainaluau.com/ Book WAY ahead as they fill up fast! He sometimes plays on Wednesdays with these folks here: https://mauisfinestluau.com/. This is a much smaller production held in Pāʻia, but an entertaining little show indeed! Check with us before you book tickets, and we’ll let you know if he’s playing. CJ plays sporadically on Thursdays at the Hui Hui Restaurant at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel (check in with us to see if he’s on the list when you are visiting the area!) https://huihuirestaurant.com/. Great place to dine in an amazing location. And lastly, he’s just added Mondays at Maui Ocean Vodka to his calendar. Please visit this place, it’s just so lovely! https://oceanvodka.com/ It’s an organic farm and distillery on the slopes of Haleakalā, with stunning views you can only find from this area of Maui! They have great food and an even better casual atmosphere on a sprawling lawn overlooking the sun setting on the ocean. You’ll find them up ‘Õma’opio Road in Kula. CJ is also a Wedding Officiant so if you know of anyone who wants to get married in paradise, give us a call!
You’ll reach us here: www.hanahawaiianmusic.com or email Tanya at [email protected]
We hope as visitors here, you make a point of checking out the places that feature live Hawaiian music to keep this rich culture alive! And after you visit us on Maui or Kaua’i, please find CJ’s music to listen to once you’re home with your eyes closed dreaming of the islands, we promise you he’ll bring you right back to this beautiful place every time. You’ll feel the wind blowing in the palms, the sand sprinkling your feet, and the ehukai (sea spray) on your face. Come back and see us soon and find CJ at one of his venues, he’d love to see you!
This is from one of our owners we manage units here on Maui:
“My wife and I had the pleasure of being invited to Kathy’s new house upcountry. We have known Kathy for over a decade now and it was quite a surprise for me to realize that one of Kathy’s associates, Tanya, is married to CJ Helekahi. We had the absolute privilege of meeting Tanya and having to listen to CJ’s musical gifts that evening. Both my wife and I have been listening to na mele a me himeni Hawai’i (Hawaiian music and songs) for quite a while now and I have taken a very keen interest in learning olelo Hawaii (Hawaiian language). Part of my own manner of learning is listening to Hawaiian songs with full olelo Hawaii lyrics, having to decipher the meaning of every song I listen to. With that, I have amassed a considerable amount of Hawaiian music on my phone, which I listen to constantly. And of course, CJ Helekahi was one of the artists included in the collection. I may seem biased as I seem to favour Hawaiian artists from the island of Maui. I was a bit “starstruck” having to listen to CJ’s kanikapila (jam session). His voice was captivating in his recorded albums, but hearing him live was more alluring. He did na mele (songs) that I absolutely loved from his albums, and his rendition of other beloved songs I couldn’t have imagined hearing it live in front of myself and my wife. It may have been a casual evening for most of the guests that evening, but it was truly memorable for us. We always look forward to the time when we would see friends again and listen to CJ’s voice. I have heard that people call him “Boom”
for some reason, and I think that nickname is very appropriate to the makana (gift) that CJ brings whenever he sings. Mahalo piha..a hui hou!!” -Derick Y.