Going for a Grammy 4-peat


POSTED: Sunday, February 08, 2009

If tradition holds at today's Grammy Awards, three local producers will make their fourth trip to the podium to collect the statuette for Best Hawaiian Music Album.




Hawaiian awards stream live online

        The Hawaiian music Grammy Award is given out during the Grammy Awards Pre-Telecast Ceremony, which will not be part of tonight's show aired on CBS.

The presentation can be viewed live online at The pre-telecast ceremony will be co-hosted by Grammy nominees Wayne Brady and Tia Carrere, and will include a performance by Carrere and Daniel Ho. It starts at 11 a.m. and is expected to go until 1:45 p.m.




A win for the obvious front-runner, “;The Spirit of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar,”; will make it a four-peat for Daniel Ho, Paul Konwiser and Wayne Wong.

A win for “;Spirit”; would also give slack-key master Dennis Kamakahi his first Grammy and make George Kahumoku Jr. a third-time winner - both also have producer's credits on the album.

“;It's an exciting time for everyone, (but) I'm especially happy for Dennis Kamakahi,”; Ho said shortly after the five finalists were announced in December.

The rules of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences specify that in the case of a compilation, the Grammy goes to the producers, not the performers.

Grammy voters have repeatedly shown their fondness for slack-key compilations over the vocal recordings of individual artists. This also bodes well for Milton Lau, who is going to the Grammy ceremony for the second time, as producer of “;Hawaiian Slack Key Kings: Master Series Vol. II.”; (Volume I was nominated in 2007.)

Speaking for himself and his son and co-producer Chris Lau, Lau described the nomination as “;just a bonus for the artist.”;

He said the highlight of the trip to Los Angeles would be performing at the new Grammy Museum.

That concert - “;Hawaii Goes GRAMMY: A Tribute to Hawaiian Music”; - took place Friday, showcasing all the Hawaii nominees and making them among the first artists to perform in the month-old site.

“;We'll also be able to educate some schoolchildren from the L.A. school district about the music of Hawaii and slack-key guitar, also at the Grammy Museum,”; Lau said.

“;As for repeating at the Grammys, we're totally humbled and privileged to represent Hawaii once again. For me and the guys that are going with me - LT Smooth, Donald Kaulia, Bobby Moderow, Paul Togioka, Ledward Kaapana, Pali Kaaihue, Florent Atem - we look at this as a great opportunity to continue to make others in the industry on the mainland aware of our music and interact with those that we have admired in the past.”;

The other finalists are albums by a single artist or duo - Tia Carrere & Daniel Ho, Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom, and Ledward Kaapana & Mike Kaawa. A win by any of the three would be the first time that the award went to a recording artist.

That puts Ho in the position of competing against himself. For the first time, he's been nominated as artist rather than producer, an accomplishment he describes as “;riding on the coattails of Tia Carrere.”;

“;But I've been doing that since high school, when I got my first opportunity to play at the Waikiki Shell as her pianist in the Brown Bags to Stardom talent show.”;

But even so, he adds, this one is special.

“;I try not to think too much about it, but the excitement steadily grows as the weeks turn to days, then hours. ... It's been a decade since Uncle George Kahumoku Jr. began teaching me Hawaiian music - on stage! I feel fortunate to be spending this weekend with my dear friends, fellow producers and legendary musicians.”;

Hawaiian music veteran Kaawa was part of Lau's compilation two years ago but is making his trip to the Grammys this time as a nominated artist.

“;This is more exciting - just Led and I. We're getting a lot of phone calls from well-wishers,”; Kaawa said. He and Kaapana will make the most of their time in California, promoting their “;Force of Nature”; album with a series of concert performances.

Kaapana plans to attend the awards in an ensemble that includes a newly purchased black leather dress jacket, a black cowboy hat and his signature red boots. “;I feel a lot of enjoyment, and you can feel the energy.”;

Gilliom's first trip to the Grammys as a finalist was with Willie K, when their “;Amy & Willie Live”; album made the final ballot in 2005. She returned as a solo artist in 2007.

“;Just being a finalist is the thrill of a lifetime,”; she said via e-mail.

“;I am still on a cloud and may never come down. The excitement and anticipation of the actual Grammy Award ceremony is beyond words for this tita from Hawaii.”;

Not to jinx it, but she adds that if she ever wins, “;I am certain I will be at a loss for words - for the first time in my life!”;


Hawaii's Nominees

John Berger's reviews of the Grammy-nominated Hawaiian albums, published last year:

; ”;'Aumakua”; / Amy Hanaiali'i (Ua)

Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom, arranger/conductor Matt Catingub and her production team come full circle, evoking memories of her 1995 debut album, “;Native Child,”; with selections that display her unquestioned talent as a mainstream pop vocalist even as others reaffirm her commitment to honoring her Hawaiian heritage.

“;When You Wish Upon a Star,”; “;Oh, What a Beautiful Morning”; and “;Have You Ever Seen the Rain”; draw on different sections of her pop repertoire. New compositions honor her grandmother and commemorate the birth of her daughter.

“;'Aumakua”; shows it is time for Hawaii to embrace her as a cosmopolitan vocalist. (Aug. 29)


; ”;Force of Nature”; / Ledward Kaapana & Mike Kaawa (no label)

Kaapana and Kaawa have recorded good “;live”; albums on their own. This souvenir of their work together is well worth hearing. It includes selections that emphasize one or the other, and several more that show how well they work as co-stars.

A hot arrangement of “;Twelfth Street Rag”;/”;Sweet Georgia Brown”; closes the album with new take on one of Kaapana's most popular numbers. (June 20)


; ”;Hawaiian Slack Key Kings: Master Series Vol. II”; / various artists / (Rhythm & Roots)

The “;kings”; here are Ledward Kaapana, Makana and “;Uncle Bobby”; Moderow Jr. Other notables include Nathan Aweau, David “;Kawika”; Kahiapo and Kamuela Kimokeo. Some of the others are not as well known, but each earns a place in Milton Lau's representative cross section of the slack-key scene.

The liner notes include Lau's e-mail address and an invitation to contact him directly for information about the songs, the artists and the slack-key tunings they use. (Oct. 3)


; ”;'Ikena”; / Tia Carrere & Daniel Ho / (Daniel Ho Creations)

She was the voice on their first project together, he provided the music and the album was billed as a solo Tia Carrere release. This time around, Ho sings, too, and they share the billing.

Some selections feature both voices, others only one; Ho also adds variety with his choice of instruments: guitar, piano and ukulele. (Sept. 12)


; ”;The Spirit of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar”; / various artists / (Daniel Ho Creations)

Daniel Ho's compilations have won Grammys three years straight. That makes this one an instant contender for 2009. And to give credit where it's due, this one is better than some of its winning predecessors.

Yes, it includes artists who don't play slack key and others who aren't yet “;legends”; or “;treasures”; of the instrument. However, there is always historical significance in Dennis Kamakahi's latest recording of “;Wahine 'Ilikea”; and the work of George Kahumoku Jr.

Co-producer Paul Konwiser also takes a step forward by providing more cultural information than in some previous albums in the series. (Sept. 19)