Local musicians view Grammys as mixed blessing
MUSICIANS and producers who attended a recent seminar on the new Grammy category for Hawaiian music were more confused than pleased about the chance to compete for the prestigious award.
The Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts sponsored the seminar in an attempt to better prepare local acts for this year's nominations -- only the second since the Hawaiian category was added to the Grammy Awards.
Nominations: To be announced today in New York
Awards ceremony: Feb. 8 at the Staples Center, Los Angeles; airing on CBS
Grammy voters: 16,000 music professionals who belong to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Hawaii's 100 members are in the northwest chapter.
Eligibility: Albums released before Sept. 30 could be nominated.
Though they were guardedly happy that Grammy was finally recognizing Hawaiian music, participants spent much of the two-hour meeting complaining about the entry process, the criteria, the lack of voting members from Hawaii and the cost of joining the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
HARA president Alan Yamamoto stood to the side of the room listening patiently, shaking his head at untrue statements, then made explanations.
"Educate yourself about Grammy," Yamamoto told the group. "It's very, very easy. And it will benefit Hawaii, and eventually you as an artist."
AS the Grammy nominations are announced today in New York, Hawaii's membership in the Grammy organization is unchanged from last year. Only about 100 voting Grammy members are from Hawaii -- among 16,000 nationwide.
"There has been no real increase in members, and that sends a message to the Grammy officials," said one Grammy member, a recent transplant from Los Angeles. "If Hawaiian music performers want to effect changes with Grammy, there has to be more members, or Grammy will not pay attention to Hawaiian music."
Grammy membership matters when it comes to making changes, such as adding more categories within the Hawaiian designation -- for contemporary music, for example.
The winner of the first Hawaiian music Grammy was "Slack Key Guitar Volume 2," a compilation of 10 musicians' work produced by Big Island guitarist Charles Brotman on his Palm Records label.
Yamamoto says several Hawaii releases were not considered because the artists missed the entry deadline of Sept. 30.
About 40 albums were eligible last year, but 17 missed the deadline. Some of those put up for nomination had to be moved to other music categories because they did not fit Grammy criteria as Hawaiian.
The number of entries that made the cut this year increased about 11 percent, to 26.
"I was very surprised that we didn't have more entries this year," said Yamamoto, who expected as many as 50.
"Unfortunately, we had musicians miss the deadline this year, too, and (HARA) needs to work harder educating performers about the process they have to follow."
The 26 artists up for nomination, as in 2004, are a mix of new and established performers, including Hapa, Kapono Beamer, Raiatea Helm, Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, Ledward Ka'apana, Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole, Sean Na'auao, Dennis Pavao and Sonny Lim, who was part of the Palm Records slack-key compilation that won last year's Grammy.
Five slack-key albums have been entered, compared with two last year.
"I think a lot of artists specifically recorded slack key after it won last year because it was successful," Yamamoto said.
Hapa, Helm and Beamer are considered front-runners, largely because they have toured on the mainland and are known there.
Albums by Hapa, Helm, Kanakaole and Na'auao also are entered for album of the year, which includes all music categories. The 529 entries for that prize include Paul McCartney and the Black-Eyed Peas.
While no one expects a Hawaii recording to be nominated for that major award, simply being on the initial list will give them massive exposure to voting members. That is important, as the vast majority of Grammy voters are on the mainland. Slack key's victory last year was attributed by many to the fact that the genre is known and accepted on the mainland.
Some notable Hawaii artists are missing this year. The Brothers Cazimero, Keali'i Reichel, Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom and Willie K -- all nominees last year -- did not record new albums in 2005. Ukulele maestro Jake Shimabukuro did not get his album into distribution in time to meet the Grammy deadline.
There was widespread confusion last year about entry requirements in the Hawaiian category. Many musicians believed that a majority, or 51 percent, of the music had to be played on Hawaiian instruments and that 51 percent of any lyrics had to be in the Hawaiian language.
"That's not the case," said Ben London, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Recording Academy, which includes Alaska; Vancouver, B.C.; Washington; Oregon; Idaho; Montana; and Hawaii. "The requirements are pretty much spelled out on the Grammy Web site."
Yamamoto, a second vice president of the regional chapter, explained that Hawaiian "must be used in a predominance of the vocal tracks on an album, but there is no number percentage attached to it."
That, of course, is not required for instrumental albums. Last year's winning slack-key album was the only one of the five nominees to be strictly instrumental.
"The vocal track must be predominantly in the Hawaiian language, and it's that word -- predominantly -- which confuses people," Yamamoto said.
The same goes for instrumentation -- contemporary recordings meet the criteria when they contain "substantial traditional elements."
Combining vocal and music CDs in the same Grammy category is another sore point among some Hawaii musicians.
"It's all about numbers," Yamamoto said. "Until there are a lot more Hawaiian music CDs released, the Hawaiian category will continue to include both."
Last year, about 140 Hawaii CDs were released in Hawaii. This year, there were 173.
The Grammy organization actually wants to capitalize on the Hawaiian music category because it is new. Last year, the category received major national and international publicity, including mentions in Newsweek, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
"We want to get more people engaged in the Grammy process for nominating and voting," London said. "Grammy has no vested interest in who wins. ... It's up to the members who vote and nominate who decide."
Yamamoto said if more people in Hawaii join the Recording Academy, local impact on nominations and winners will be greater.
Dues are $100 for one year, $180 for two years and $260 for three years.
The Hawaiian category falls under folk music, a section that does not draw a lot of votes, so Hawaii's Grammy members can have "a major impact" on who wins, Yamamoto said.
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Slack-key rules local nominations
Kapono Beamer was up early today.
"I forced myself to go to the computer and have a look at the list at Grammy.com., and we were on it."
Beamer's "Slack Key Dreams of the Ponomoe" is one of five nominees for the Hawaiian Music Album Grammy.
Slack-key performances dominated the category, which recognizes both vocal and instrumental albums.
Only falsetto singer Raiatea Helm's "Sweet & Lovely" completely broke the mold.
Beamer's album includes both vocal and slack-key performances, but the other nominated recordings are predominantly instrumental -- Ledward Ka'apana for "Kiho'alu: Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar," Sonny Lim's "Slack Key Guitar: The Artistry of Sonny Lim" and a compilation, "Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar -- Vol. 1," produced by Daniel Ho, Paul Konwiser and Wayne Wong.
The category of Best Hawaiian Music Album falls under the general listing of folk music. This only the second year of the Hawaiian category.
Last year's winner was "Slack Key Guitar Volume 2," a compilation of 10 musicians' work produced by Big Island guitarist Charles Brotman on his Palm Records label.
Beamer said the nomination capped the excitement over recording again. "I'm still basking in it and feeling so thankful for everything that's happened. For being able to write all-new songs and be inspired again, to be doing a vocal album again, and to have a real honest heartfelt creative expression that now has a chance to be a little more recognized than it might have been without this opportunity.
"I can't believe that I'm going to be going to the Grammys."
Beamer said he was going to visit his mother, Nona Beamer, who is in Queen's Hospital for heart treatment. "I think this might cheer her up a bit."
Sonny Lim also went online early, to find that his first solo album had made the cut. The first person he called was his mother. "She was just so happy and excited for me.
"It's exciting to be part of it again. It was fun last year. This time it's gonna be even more fun."
Lim was among the guitarists included in last year's Grammy-winning slack-key compilation.
He said he was thinking about the Grammys when recording his solo album.
"I figured there might be a chance, but there's so much stuff coming out of Hawaii that just to have made the preliminary ballot was for me a high already. To make the finals is totally awesome. To go back again for the second year is an honor, to be among the rest of the nominees."
Of the 173 CDs released in Hawaii before the Grammy deadline of Sept. 30, 26 artists were considered eligible for nomination. Five were slack-key recordings.
Only about 100 Hawaii music professionals are eligible to vote in the Grammy Awards, by virtue of their membership in the northwest chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The chapter includes Alaska; Vancouver, B.C.; Washington; Oregon; Idaho; Montana; and Hawaii.
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Key Grammy Nominees
The awards ceremony is Feb. 8. For a complete list, www.grammy.com.
Record of the Year: "We Belong Together," Mariah Carey; "Feel Good Inc.," Gorillaz featuring De La Soul; "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," Green Day; "Hollaback Girl," Gwen Stefani; "Gold Digger," Kanye West
Album of the Year: "The Emancipation of Mimi," Mariah Carey; "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard," Paul McCartney; "Love. Angel. Music. Baby.," Gwen Stefani; "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," U2; "Late Registration," Kanye West
Song of the Year: "Bless the Broken Road," Rascal Flatts; "Devils & Dust," Bruce Springsteen; "Ordinary People," John Legend; "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own," U2; "We Belong Together," Mariah Carey
New Artist: Ciara, Fall Out Boy, Keane, John Legend, SugarLand
"It's Like That," Mariah Carey; "Since U Been Gone," Kelly Clarkson; "Good is Good," Sheryl Crow; "I Will Not Be Broken," Bonnie Raitt; "Hollaback Girl," Gwen Stefani
"Sitting, Waiting, Wishing," Jack Johnson; "Fine Line," Paul McCartney; "Walk on By," Seal; "Lonely No More," Rob Thomas; "From the Bottom of My Heart," Stevie Wonder
Duo or Group:
"Don't Lie," The Black Eyed Peas; "Mr. Brightside," The Killers; "More Than Love," Los Lonely Boys; "This Love," Maroon 5; "My Doorbell," The White Stripes.
"Extraordinary Machine," Fiona Apple; "Breakaway," Kelly Clarkson; "Wildflower," Sheryl Crow; "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard," Paul McCartney; "Love. Angel. Music. Baby.," Gwen Stefani
"Revolution," Eric Clapton; "Shine It All Around," Robert Plant; "Devils & Dust," Bruce Springsteen; "This Is How a Heart Breaks," Rob Thomas; "The Painter," Neil Young.
Duo or Group:
"Speed of Sound," Coldplay; "Best of You," Foo Fighters; "Do You Want To," Franz Ferdinand; "All These Things That I've Done," The Killers; "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own," U2
"Doesn't Remind Me," Audioslave; "The Hand That Feeds," Nine Inch Nails; "Tin Pan Valley," Robert Plant; "Little Sister," Queens of the Stone Age, "B.Y.O.B., System of a Down
"Best of You," Foo Fighters, (Foo Fighters); "Beverly Hills," Rivers Cuomo, (Weezer); "City of Blinding Lights, U2, (U2); "Devils & Dust," Bruce Springsteen, (Bruce Springsteen); "Speed of Sound," Guy Berryman, Jon Buckland, Will Champion & Chris Martin, (Coldplay)
"X&Y," Coldplay; "In Your Honor," Foo Fighters; "A Bigger Bang," The Rolling Stones; "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," U2; "Prairie Wind," Neil Young
"1 Thing," Amerie; "Wishing on a Star," Beyonce; "We Belong Together," Mariah Carey; "Free Yourself," Fantasia; "Unbreakable," Alicia Keys
"Creepin'," Jamie Foxx; "Ordinary People," John Legend; "Let Me Love You," Mario; "Superstar," Usher; "So What the Fuss," Stevie Wonder
Duo or Group:
"So Amazing," Beyonce & Stevie Wonder; "Cater 2 U," Destiny's Child; "If This World Were Mine," Alicia Keys with Jermaine Paul; "So High," John Legend featuring Lauryn Hill; "How Will I Know," Stevie Wonder with Aisha Morris
"Cater 2 U," Destiny's Child; "Free Yourself," Fantasia; "Ordinary People," John Legend; "Unbreakable," Alicia Keys; "We Belong Together," Mariah Carey
"Illumination," Earth, Wind and Fire; "Free Yourself," Fantasia; "Unplugged," Alicia Keys; "Get Lifted," John Legend; "A Time to Love," Stevie Wonder
Duo Or Group:
"Don't Phunk with My Heart," Black Eyed Peas; "The Corner Common," The Last Poets; "Encore," Eminem; "Hate It or Love It," the Game; "Wait (The Whisper Song)," Ying Yang Twins
"Candy Shop," 50 Cent featuring Olivia; "Diamonds From Sierra Leone," Kanye West; "Don't Phunk with My Heart," The Black Eyed Peas; "Hate It Or Love It," The Game Featuring 50 Cent; "Lose Control," Missy Elliott Featuring Ciara & Fat Man Scoop
"Be," Common; "The Cookbook," Missy Elliott; "Encore," Eminem; "The Massacre," 50 Cent; "Late Registration," Kanye West
"The Connection," Emmylou Harris; "Mississippi Girl," Faith Hill; "All Jacked Up," Gretchen Wilson; "I May Hate Myself In The Morning," Lee Ann Womack; "Georgia Rain," Trisha Yearwood
"Funny How Time Slips Away," George Jones; "As Good As I Once Was," Toby Keith; "Midnight Communion," Delbert McClinton; "Good Ol' Boys," Willie Nelson; "Alcohol," Brad Paisley; "You'll Think Of Me," Keith Urban
Duo Or Group:
"Comin' To Your City," Big & Rich; "Play Something Country," Brooks & Dunn; "I Hope," Dixie Chicks; "Restless," Alison Krauss And Union Station; "Bless The Broken Road," Rascal Flatts
"Alcohol," Brad Paisley; "All Jacked Up," Vicky McGehee, John Rich & Gretchen Wilson; "Bless The Broken Road," Bobby Boyd, Jeff Hanna & Marcus Hummon; "I Hope," Keb Mo, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines & Emily Robison; "I May Hate Myself In The Morning," O. Blackmon
: "Fireflies," Faith Hill; "Lonely Runs Both Ways," Alison Krauss And Union Station; "Time Well Wasted," Brad Paisley; "All Jacked Up," Gretchen Wilson; "Jasper County," Trisha Yearwood
"Keystone," Dave Douglas; "Soulgrass," Bill Evans; "The Way Up," Pat Metheny Group; "The Spirit Music Jamia: Dance Of The Infidel," Meshell Ndegeocello; "Momentum," Joshua Redman Elastic Band
"J'ai Deux Amours," Dee Dee Bridgewater; "Blueprint Of A Lady - Sketches Of Billie Holiday," Nnenna Freelon; "Good Night, And Good Luck," Dianne Reeves; "Duos II," Luciana Souza; "I'm With The Band," Tierney Sutton
"Lose Control," Missy Elliott Featuring Ciara & Fat Man Scoop; "Feel Good Inc.," Gorillaz Featuring De La Soul; "Feels Just Like It Should," Jamiroquai; "God's Will," Martina McBride; "World On Fire," Sarah McLachlan
"No Direction Home," Bob Dylan; "Trapped In The Closet (Chapters 1-5 )," R. Kelly; "End Of The Century: The Story Of The Ramones," The Ramones; "Devils & Dust," Bruce Springsteen; "Brian Wilson Presents Smile," Brian Wilson