Ukulele kings Pure Heart walk away withBy John Berger
academy and public votes for most promising
artist, best island contemporary album, album
of the year and favorite entertainer of the year
Special to the Star-Bulletin
IT wasn't until his third trip to the podium at the 1999 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards last night that Jake Shimabukuro of Pure Heart could do more than choke out a few words of thanks. The charismatic ukulele player was so emotionally overwhelmed when the trio's debut album won in the Island Contemporary and Most Promising Artist(s) categories that he was in tears before he reached the stage. That left guitarist Jon Yamasato doing the talking and percussionist Lopaka Colon providing moral support as Shimabukuro tried to pull himself together.
Shimabukuro's emotional vulnerability got the crowd pulling for him. He was almost his usual animated self when Pure Heart was named Favorite Entertainer(s) of Year, and spoke at length when the trio returned for Album of the Year honors as well.
It was a big night for Pure Heart. It was also a big night for two women whose individual debut albums had been brutally snubbed by the voting membership of the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts in years past. Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom's debut album didn't even make the final ballot in 1996, but "Hanaiali'i," her hit collaboration with Willie K, won four Hokus including Group of the Year and Hawaiian Album of the Year.
Kekuhi Kanahele's impressive first album was shut out in 1997, but her second, "Kekuhi," earned her Female Vocalist of the Year honors; Kanahele also accepted awards on behalf of Halau O Kekuhi and the album "Uwolani."
Last night's show ran longer than it should have but almost everyone behaved responsibly on stage. Many of the presenters eschewed the usual scripted pontificating and platitudes and got straight to business. Almost all the winners kept their remarks concise.
Augie Tulba was obviously ecstatic to win a Hoku on his third try -- he ran across the stage to get it. For Harry B. Soria Jr., 1999 is the third year in a row his work with HanaOla Records won Liner Notes honors. Conversely, it was the first time since 1994 that a Dancing Cat label slack-key master did not win in the Instrumental category.
Na Leo Pilimehana displayed the poise of veterans when accepting a Hoku for "Christmas Gift" -- Lehua Kalima spoke briefly for all three.
Pomai Longakit had a sermon to read and a long list of people to thank but was so charming in attempting to say it all quickly that she won the patience of many who would have normally faulted her.
Frank DeLima as Cardinal Vermicelli, Frank B. Shaner as himself, and Sam Kapu and his (piece of) ginger lei, were the most entertaining presenters.
Several speakers addressed serious secular topics. Melveen Leed called for still more live Hawaiian music in Waikiki and said it's time to "get rid of karaoke." Azure McCall recalled deceased local jazz greats Trummy Young and Ernie Washington. Kawai Cockett spoke eloquently of the ties between traditional Hawaiian music and hula. Kenneth Makuakane, a multi-Hoku winner and former member of the HARA Board of Governors, rebuked those current board members who relegated six Hoku categories, the Bill Murata scholarship, and the Bankoh Ki Ho'alu Award to secondary status by presenting them before the start of the televised show.
Many agreed with him. Eight performance segments was too many last night. Handing out three Lifetime Achievement Awards reduces their significance.
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
NA HOKU HANOHANO
Kekuhi Kanahele, "Kekuhi" (Mountain Apple)
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR
Kawai Cockett, "A Traditional Hawaiian -- Na Mele Maoli" (Hula)
GROUP OF THE YEAR
Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom & Willie K, "Hanaiali'i" (Mountain Apple)
MOST PROMISING ARTIST(S)
Pure Heart, "Pure Heart" (Four String)
ANTHOLOGY OF THE YEAR
"From Irmgard, with Love," Irmgard Aluli and Puamana (Mountain Apple)
COMPILATION ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"Lifesong," Various artists (Life Foundation)
HAWAIIAN ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"Hanaiali'i," Amy Hanaiali'i & Willie K (Mountain Apple)
ISLAND CONTEMPORARY ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"Pure Heart," Pure Heart (Four String)
INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"Great Grandmother, Great Grandson," Kapono Beamer (Onopak)
CONTEMPORARY ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"No Boundaries," BB Shawn (Flying Solo)
COMEDY ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"Da Comedy Kahuna," Augie Tulba (KDE)
CHRISTMAS ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"Christmas Gift," Na Leo Pilimehana (Na Leo Pilimehana)
ROCK ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"Mana," Sunburn (MRC)
REGGAE ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"All Natural," Natural Vibrations (Cinnamon Red)
JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"Body and Soul," Azure McCall (All Art)
SINGLE OF THE YEAR
"Ku'u Sweetie"/"Mai Lohilohi Mai 'Oe," Darlene Ahuna (Hula)
SONG OF THE YEAR
"Palehua," Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom and Willie Kahaiali'i from "Hanaiali'i" (Mountain Apple)
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"Pure Heart," Pure Heart (Four String)
Jon de Mello for "Iz in Concert -- The Man and His Music," Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (Big Boy)
Milan Bertosa for "Hanaiali'i," Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom & Willie K (Mountain Apple)
Harry B. Soria Jr. for "Hawaii's Golden Voice," Alfred Apaka (Hana Ola)
"Eo Mai 'O Ka'uku," Nalani Kanka'ole and Pualani Kanaka'ole, from "Uwolani," Halau O Kekuhi (Liko)
HAWAIIAN LANGUAGE PERFORMANCE
Halau O Kekuhi, "Uwolani" (Liko)
Na Kama, "Ke Ala Hou" (Kipuka)
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Lena Machado, entertainer, musician, composer and recording artist known as "Hawaii's songbird"
Kimo McVay, manager, booking agent, promoter and entrepreneur
Randy Oness, entertainer, musician, band leader
FAVORITE ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
Pure Heart (by public vote)
BILL MURATA SCHOLARSHIP AWARD
BANK OF HAWAII KI HO'ALU AWARD
KCCN-AM and KINE-FM
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