Erika Engle

Local music seeks
national recognition

A Grammy award for best Hawaiian recording may be presented to a local entertainer in the not-too-distant future.

The Hawaii Academy of Recording Artists is engaged in a two-pronged approach to convince the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to add a Hawaiian music category to the annual awards.

HARA presents its own annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards recognizing local music, but attempts to create a national-level award have been under way for years by various groups, said Alan Yamamoto, longtime president.

A concerted effort is now under way via the Seattle-based Pacific Northwest chapter of the academy.

The Hawaii Academy is not affiliated with the NARAS, but it is encouraging local entertainers, musicians and others in the field to join the organization's Pacific Northwest chapter to boost its leverage in the Hawaiian Grammy effort, he said.

A representative has twice come to the islands to enroll local members.

"We're recommending Hawaii residents sign up in that chapter because what we also want to show is that there are so many people in Hawaii who are in the business."

"If we can get 200 ... we would be a third of their membership," Yamamoto said.

A previous effort was made to align with the Los Angeles chapter, but the Hawaii contingent would have represented a drop in the bucket of the huge chapter.

The high percentage of Hawaii members in the Pacific Northwest chapter could present a stronger front toward creation of the Hawaiian music Grammy, he said.

Eventually, a Hawaii chapter of NARAS could be established, but working through the Pacific Northwest chapter seemed the more expeditious route for now.

Members are being polled to define the proposed category, which "has to be distinctive enough that it wouldn't fall into any existing category."

One Hawaii recording called, "Island Warriors," a compilation of reggae music by the Hobo House on the Hill label, made it to the final ballot for in the reggae category in last year's Grammy voting.

A large amount of Hawaii's music would fit into the Folk or World Music categories, "so the distinction we're seeing is the language," Yamamoto said.

The discussion about what the category would entail is centered on how large a part Hawaiian language plays in a recording, say, 51 percent, 60 percent or 75 percent, he said.

"We're at the point right now of trying to get the results to the national academy," so the category proposal can be considered at the NARAS annual meeting in May.

When not wearing his HARA hat, Yamamoto is among the hardest-working people in show business who is not actually an entertainer. He serves as national sales manager for KUMU-AM/FM 1500/94.7 and KAHA-FM 105.9 and works as an entertainment consultant, working in event planning and talent booking.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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