Helen Desha Beamer


Of this incredible woman, Tony Todaro says, "Helen Desha Beamer is a legendary figure in Hawaii. The Beamers, their friends and a multitude of music lovers speak of her as they might of a saint . . . such is her fame in music and the hula . . . Such is the rich background of Hawaiian lore and art she bequeathed to her descendants--and to all Hawaii."

Helen Desha was born in Honolulu in 1881, daughter of Isabella Kapuailohia Kalili and George Desha. The family traces its roots to the 15th century and Ahiakumai Ki'eki'e, queen of the island of Hawaii, and to Kameiamoku, favored wife of Kamehameha I. Composing was in the blood and the first songs credited to a family member were written secretly in 1862. When Helen composed and taught hula at the turn of the century, it was still regarded as scandalous by her father and uncle. She was a graduate of the first class from Kamehameha School for Girls in 1900.

She originated the Beamer style of hula, smoother and with less hip movement than other styles, and was a gifted singer. Fluent in Hawaiian, her compositions are still favored. 13 of her five children and 20 grandchildren are musicians or dancers. George Kanahele in Hawaiian Music and Musicians says, "The family concept that pumps the blood of Hawaii is especially evident in the Hawaiian music community where families abound. . . But no family stands taller than the Beamers, and none is more committed to the research and preservation of traditional chant and mele. . ."

Her children are Milton H. Desha, Francis Kealiinohopono, Peter Carl Jr., Harriet Leilehua Magoon, and Helen Elizabeth Kawohikukapulani.