Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Big winner Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was kept away
from the Hoku ceremony by illness.

HOKUS -- A big night for Bruddah Iz

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin

John Cruz's debut album had six nominations and Kekuhi Kanahele's debut album had five, but it was perennially popular Israel Kamakawiwo'ole who came out the big winner this year as the Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts (HARA) presented the 20th Annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards at the Sheraton Waikiki.

Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
"Congratulations" from Augie Tulba and Andy Bumatai for
"Mary Tunta," center, Frank DeLima.

The inimitable Iz received a total of five Hokus for his fourth solo album, "In Dis Life," including Favorite Entertainer by public vote. Jon de Mello and Gaylord Holomalia stood in for the absent ailing Iz; on their fifth trip to the podium they called on Iz's uncle, Moe Keale, to join them on behalf of the Kamakawiwo'ole ohana. Keale's comments added luster to the occasion.

It was Keale's third time on stage last night. He appeared first as a presenter, then returned to receive the most culturally significant Hoku, Haku Mele. Keale shared the prestigious adjudicated award for best use of the Hawaiian language in a first-time recorded song with the absent Kihei DeSilva for "Lihau" (Keale included the song on his "Imagine" album last year).

Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
An emotional Sol, left, and Richard Hoopii backstage after their win.
Roland Cazimero is behind them.

Over all, it was a year of conservatism on behalf of the HARA membership. In almost every possible category the Hoku went to someone who had won before. The voters left no doubt of their musical preferences.

Tenderoni, signed to a national recording contract last fall, didn't even make the final ballot. Sunland, signed to a national recording contract this spring, made the ballot in two categories, but "We Are Only Human" was twice beaten by the "Moloka'i Slide."

Cruz is a hot new force in contemporary local music but won only two awards. The incredible, impeccably traditional yet strikingly contemporary Kanahele was shut out entirely.

Even so, performances by Cruz and Kanahele were bright moments in the long and slow-moving show. Both displayed power and haunting appeal. So did also-rans Randy Lorenzo and Sunland.

Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Most promising John Cruz accepts his award.

Emotional highs were neatly spaced through the sprawling program: Robert Cazimero joined the Makaha Sons for an emotional musical performance. Jeff Apaka recalled his father's love of hapa-haole music while accepting a long overdue posthumous Lifetime Achievement award for Alfred Apaka. A rendition of "Hi'ilawe" by Bla, Cyril and Martin Pahinui capped the Pahinui ohana's receipt of an equally overdue posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award to Gabby Pahinui. Several members of the family spoke movingly of Gabby and the recent deaths of Ma Pahinui and son Peter. If HARA had only made this award last year Ma Pahinui could have been there to receive it.

Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
The Makaha Sons, John and Jerome Koko, and Moon Kauakahi.

Award presenters generally kept their remarks mercifully short. Several chucked the routine scripted banalities and spoke from the heart with fine effect.

Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Last night's Hoku awards show closes with the gathered
recording artists joining hands to sing "Hawaii Aloha."

The best of the year in local music

Favorite Entertainer: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Female Vocalist: Darlene Ahuna, "Ku'u Lei Poina 'Ole" (Hula Records)
Male Vocalist: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, "In Dis Life" (Big Boy Records)
Group: Ho'opi'i Brothers, "Ho'omau -- To Perpetuate" (Mountain Apple Co.)
Most Promising Artist: John Cruz, "Acoustic Soul" (Lilikoi Records)
Single: "Moloka'i Slide" from "Ehukai" (Starline Records)
Song: "Moloka'i Slide" Larry Helm, composer
Album: "In Dis Life," Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and Gaylord Holomalia, producers
Anthology (for previously released work): "Anthology I 1984-1996," Na Leo Pilimehana, (Na Leo Pilimehana), Na Leo Pilimehana and Kenneth Makuakane, producers
Hawaiian Album: "Kuikawa," Makaha Sons (Poki Records)
Island Contemporary Album (music of Hawaii in contemporary style): "In Dis Life," Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
Contemporary Album (music in contemporary style by local residents): "Acoustic Soul," John Cruz (Lilikoi Records)
Instrumental: "Aloha No Na Kupuna -- Love For the Elders," George Kuo (Dancing Cat Records)
Haku Mele (use of Hawaiian language): "Lihau" Kihei deSilva and Moe Keale, from "IMAGINE," Moe Keale (Pa'ani Records)
Comedy Album: "Mary Tunta," Frank DeLima (Pocholinga Productions)
Christmas Album: "Kiho'alu Christmas," Various artists (Dancing Cat Records)
Religious Album: "Praising Him Island Style," Various artists (Quiet Storm Records)
Graphics (album cover design): Israel Kamakawiwo'ole and Jon de Mello for "In Dis Life"
Engineering: D.J. Pratt and Dave Tucciarone for "Kuikawa," Makaha Sons (Poki Records)
Liner Notes: Harry B. Soria Jr. for "Music of George Helm -- A True Hawaiian," George Helm (Hana Ola Records)
Lifetime Achievement Awards: Alfred Apaka and Gabby Pahinui

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