Author Archives: Keola Donaghy

About Keola Donaghy

I am a faculty member in the music department at University of Hawai‘i Maui College and assist with the administration of the Institute of Hawaiian Music. Outside of my work at the College, I am very active in the Hawaiian music community. I am a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (“Grammy Awards”) and a former member of the Board of Governors of the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts (“Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards”). I attended Kīhei Elementary and St. Anthony High School on Maui. Our family moved to Hilo in 1994 when I enrolled at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Hawaiian Studies from UH-Hilo in 1999, a graduate certificate in Telecommunications and Information Resource Management from UH-Mānoa in 2000, and Master of Arts in Hawaiian Language and Literature from UH-Hilo in 2003. I also hold a Ph.D. in Music (Ethnomusicology) from the University of Otago in Dunedin, Aotearoa (New Zealand), where my wife, daughter and I spent six months during 2008. I co-wrote all but one Hawaiian song and was assistant producer on Kenneth Makuakāne’s recent solo debut, Makuakane. You can hear cuts of those songs on Kenneth’s website. I was honored to have a Christmas song I wrote, “Ke Aloha Kalikimaka” recorded by Keali‘i Reichel on his Christmas release, Maluhia. My composition “Nā Hōkū Pio ‘Ole” was selected as the theme song for the 30th anniversary Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards. Some of my compositions have been recorded by Kainani Kahaunaele, the De Lima ‘Ohana, Mailani Makainai, The Pandanus Club, Steven Espaniola, Patrick Landeza, and O’Brian Eselu. I love to work the fringes of Hawaiian music by combining Hawaiian language lyrics with musical styles which are not often used to accompany Hawaiian music. You’ll hear some of the fruits of this work in the near future.

Back On (The) Board

hokuAfter a two and a half year long respite from the Board of Governors of the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts, I’m back. Or at least I will be back officially after the swearing-in ceremony at the General Membership meeting. Mahalo to the current members of the board for accepting my offer to step back in and fill a vacant seat on the board. The General Membership meeting will be held on November 11, 2015 at Island Sound Studios in Hawai‘i Kai. I hope to see many members there. Please contact the HARA office for more information by calling (808) 593-9424 or emailing for more information.

One of the responsibilities I happily undertook during my previous time on the board – and will again – was handling the production of a newsletter, updating of the website and social media presences, and being a point of contact for members with questions or concerns about the organization, the awards, and entry process. So if anyone has anything to ask, feel free to contact me. I can’t respond in an official capacity until after November 11, but hopefully can provide some answers or insight.

I like to believe that musicians put out recordings as artistic expression as well as a means to support themselves and their families. The Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards and other such programs play a significant role in gaining exposure and (hopefully) sales. Understanding that, it is surprising when I’m contacted by industry professionals who don’t understand the awards, its entry requirements and guidelines. Please educate yourself. Know the time frame in which your recording must be released in order to be eligible for entry. Know the deadline by which your release must be entered. Know the criteria that determine the category or categories for which your recording is eligible. And if this is not clear – ASK!

Examples: If you want to have a recording entered in the “Hawaiian Album of the Year” category, know that 75% of the tracks must be in the Hawaiian language. Most genre categories have a 75% quantum. Know that if you are a mainland member, your releases are only eligible to be entered in the Hawaiian, Slack Key, Island Music, ‘Ukulele, Haku Mele, and Hawaiian Language Performance categories. Know that by rule all Christmas themed releases must be entered in the Christmas category. So if you live on the mainland and record a Hawaiian Christmas CD, it is not eligible to be entered in the awards. Anywhere. These are just a few examples. Yes it is complicated, and this is why it is behooves everyone to inquire and be informed.

I doubt that many of us really want to consider these things when recording and preparing a release. We don’t want these kinds of considerations to influence our art. But ignore these guidelines at your own peril. During my prior stint on the board, I spoke to many members who were upset at not being able to enter recordings in the categories that they wanted. But they should have considered these factors before finalizing the release.

Submission Forms and Ch…Ch…Changes

The submission guidelines, downloadable submission form and an online submission form for the 2016 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards are now available on the awards website. Please note some recent and important changes:

EP (Extended Play) Releases. The board changed the criteria for Extended Play releases. Previously the criteria included both a minimum and maximum number of tracks, as well as a maximum to play time (less than 30 minutes). Now, the criteria simply states that it must have more than 3 (three) tracks (read: a minimum of 4 tracks) and no more than 8 (eight). There is no maximum playtime. Important note: Since the Single category stipulates that a Single release can have only one or two songs, releases that have 3 (three) tracks cannot be entered in Single nor as EP releases.

Genre Categories. Releases entered in any of the genre categories must now contain 75% newly-recorded or previously unreleased material by the artist to qualify for submission. Anthologies, as albums of previously released material, are the only exception. The Anthology category stipulates that least 75% of the album must have previously released material from at least two (2) different releases.

Slack Key. The board and selection committee have refined the criteria for the Slack Key category. Here is the new language:

“Slack Key Guitar or Ki Ho‘alu Kika is a uniquely Hawaiian approach to guitar playing that is unlike any other guitar style in the world. It gets its name from the way the guitar is tuned – some of the strings are loosened or slacked. It is usually characterized as having an alternating bass line while the melody is plucked on the higher pitched strings.

Techniques and ornamentations include slides, pull-offs, add-ons, hammers, slurs, and harmonics (sometimes referred to as chimes). The music sometimes reflects hula rhythms and is characterized by turnarounds or “vamps”, phrases, and chordal structure of the compositions. Just playing in an alternate tuning does NOT make it slack key. It’s the dedication to the bass in support of the melody that differentiates it.”

In my opinion, there are many recent slack key releases that have begun to wander further and further from the foundations of slack key, incorporating more and more non-Hawaiian influences, and some are becoming indistinguishable from other folk, “world music” and Americana acoustic guitar recordings. Artists are certainly free to do so and call their releases “slack key” if they like. But the Academy – for the purposes of the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards – has chosen to require a closer adherence to the peformance characteristics that make eligible recordings more idenitfiably “slack key.” This decision was made prior to my return to the board, but I support it.

Haku Mele. There is a limit on the number of composers/composition teams that may be entered from any single release: one (1) composition per composer per release is permitted. Compositions co-written with one or more composers may be submitted up to a total of three (3) distinct composer(s)/composer groups per release. This change was implemented last year for the 2015 awards, but it is worth reiterating here.

Deadline For Entries. Friday, January 15, 2016 by 4:00 p.m. All submission forms and deposit material (CDs, DVDs, lyric/translation copies; and for online digital releases only: track sheets, credit listings and cover art) must be received at the HARA office by the deadline, without exception.

Please feel free to visit these pages and read my previous ruminations on the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, and if you have questions – ask!

More Information

Cutting The Cable, Pt 1

A few weeks ago I mentioned to some friends that my wife and I were considering cutting off our cable TV services and simply going with their RoadRunner service for Internet, getting a Roku 3 (about $95) and an HD antenna (about $20 for a basic model from Weʻre figuring that if we cut the cable TV weʻll be saving $80 or so a month.

The HD antenna has not been all that we had hoped. We get the following Hawai‘i broadcast services from our place just above the new Pu‘u Kukui School and below Wailuku Heights:

4.1 – KITV HD (ABC)
4.2 – MeTv
9.1 – K5
10.1 – PBS Hawai‘i
10.2 – KIKU (I think – Japanese programming)
13.1 KHNL (NBC)
13.2 KHNL (Antenna TV)

imageNo KHON2/Fox at all, no matter where the antenna is hung. KITV is usually OK, but shows some pixelation periodically. Perhaps a better quality antenna would help, but from what I’ve been reading in Hawaiʻi discussion forums, a better antenna probably will not help – if the broadcast signal sucks a great antenna won’t help, and reports are that many truly do suck. Iʻve moved the one we got around and mounted it to various flat surfaces that the cable can reach, and the position to the right seems to get the best reception.

The Roku is getting mixed reviews for now. Maybe it’s option anxiety. Tons of movies, TV shows and other content in there, but hard to wade through it all. The acid test will be when the new television season starts in September, and how quickly those shows are available on HuluPlus. The Roku came with two free months of HuluPlus. Based on whatʻs in there now, I don’t think we’ll subscribe, but see what happens in October when the trial is finished.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that PBS has its own channel in there, and not only features national programs but some local programming, like Leslie Wilcox’s “Long Story Short”. We subscribe to Amazon Plus, so plenty of free movies and TV shows, but new releases take a long time for find their way into Prime, and some never do.

I’m trying to stick to the broadcast channels and Roku to see if that combination will be enough to cut the cable soon. It will take some getting used to.

Nā Hōkū Hanohano 101, Part 3: Award Categories

hokuIt is important for HARA members, individuals who may submit product for consideration, and fans to understand the various categories for which Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards are given each year. There are 34 total awards, and they can be grouped into four broad award categories – General Awards (10 awards), Genre Awards (18), Technical Awards (2), and Adjudicated Awards (4). Please note that this article is current as of April, 2014, and may not reflect any changes in criteria or eligibility that the board may implement after that time.

The following are the General Categories: Continue reading

Nā Hōkū Hanohano 101, Part 2: Eligibility

hokuDisclaimer: I am not a member of the Board of Governors of HARA. What I write here is based on my prior experience as a board member, continuting interaction with them and other members, and continuing service on the selection committee. Hopefully it will help, inform and entertain you, but take it with a grain of salt, and a dash of sarcasm.

The first hurdle to understanding the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards entry process is knowing what determines a release’s eligibility for the awards, and there are several factors that play into this: Continue reading

The Origins of Hawaiian Language Support in Mac OS and iOS: So You Want To Change The World?

BryanFryeOnly a handful of my friends will recognize the gentleman standing in the back of this picture, Brian Frye. He is one of the unsung heroes of getting technology support for ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i to where it is today. I’ve told this story to some folks privately, but never shared it publicly before. Since he’s not at Apple anymore, it’s safe to do so.

Brian was an Apple support engineer for Hawai‘i in the mid-late 1990s. During his time here we became friends, and he tried to help me find the individuals who could assist us in getting support for the Hawaiian language into Mac OS, but with little luck. He returned to work at Apple’s at headquarters after that. One day he was walking through the hallways of Apple’s headquarters, passed a couple of people talking in the hallway, and overheard one say to the other, “what other languages don’t we support?” Turns out they were system engineers working on language support in OS X. He stopped, introduced himself and said “there is a guy in Hawai‘i you need to talk to.” Me. The connection was made, and 18 months or so of email exchanges, swapped files, and testing followed. On August 24, 2002, Mac OS 10.2 shipped, and in it were a Hawaiian keyboard, sorting routines and some translated strings (mostly date and time related).

The fact that iOS’s core software was largely based on OS X meant that a lot of support for Hawaiian that is baked into OS X transferred to iOS. Brian had left Apple by then, but the connections he helped forge remained, and we were able to get them to add the ability to type the ‘okina and kahakō, and eventually a Hawaiian keyboard in iOS. Other friends have helped along the way, but as they are still at Apple it is best if I don’t name names here. But none of it would have happened if not for that chance meeting in Cupertino. Mahalo nui, Brian. If any of you have ever typed an ‘okina or kahakō on any Apple device, you should mahalo him as well. And mahalo Beryl Morimoto for sharing the pic.

Pipi holo ka‘ao…

Nā Hōkū Hanohano 101, Part 1: Educate Yourself


Disclaimer: I am not a member of the Board of Governors of HARA. What I write here is based on my prior experience as a board member, continuting interaction with them and other members, and continuing service on the selection committee. Hopefully it will help, inform and entertain you, but take it with a grain of salt, and a dash of sarcasm.

Since last December or so, I’ve gotten a lot of messages, texts, and emails from folks asking for help or advice about their entries for the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards (there is a different season for Grammy requests). Sometimes I feel like I need to add “Music Awards Program Consultant” to my résumé. While it may seem more convoluted than necessary, it’s really not. It is a challenge for the Board and office staff because of the number of categories and variety of criteria that guide them in placing releases in various categories. The changing landscape of the recording industry also requires that they adjust as necessary. Continue reading

He Ahupuaʻa Ke Mele

“Ke Ahupuaʻa” by Mele McPherson.

“Ke Ahupuaʻa” by Mele McPherson.

I was thrilled to have my paper, entitled “He Ahupuaʻa Ke Mele: The Ahupuaʻa Land Division as a Conceptual Metaphor for Hawaiian Language Composition and Vocal Performance”, published in the journal Ethnomusicology Reivew today. I started it over five and a half years ago in a single 10 hour (or so) writing binge that started at about 2 A.M. on a cold morning in Dunedin, N.Z. After many revisions and much restructuring, and trying to weave western academic theory with a Hawaiian conceptual model (the ahupua‘a) it was finally ready to see the light of day.

Mahalo palena ‘ole to everyone who contributed their mana‘o and support doing this long process, and to the editors of Ethnomusicology Review for feeling it worthy of publication..

Cooking Miles 101

airplane-flight-sunsetIt’s been about six weeks since I started my new hobby of maximizing the miles in our frequent flyer accounts, and it’s been a learning experience. With a moderate amount of money and effort, I’ve added about 12,000 miles to my United Mileage Plus account, and have probaby another 5,000 or so in the pipeline. Accumulating miles does take some patience as you don’t always get the miles instantaneously. Some, particular though the MyPoints service, can take weeks or months to show up in your account. There are weeks where miles fly in fast and furious, and others where it it is just a trickle.

Understanding the cost of miles is important here, so if you decide to get into this dust off your math skills. The value of miles varies from airline to airline and program to program. I’ve been focusing on my United Mileage Plus account, and it seems that a lot of folks value them from 1.5 to 1.8 cents per mile. United recently “devalued” their miles. this means that it now costs more miles to fly to certain locales, especially if you want to fly on any of their partner airlines and in better seats (business and first class).

I discovered that my wife’s 25,000 MP miles had expired, but could be reinstated for a fee of $50. This worked out to .02 cents per mile, so it was an easy decision to buy. If you buy miles from the United, you could be paying 3.5 cents or a bit less if you do so during one of their promotions, but concensus is this is almost always a bad deal unless you desperately need a minimum amount of miles to reach a goal.

A lot of folks apply for credit cards frequently for the miles they offer, particularly those that waive the yearly fee for the first year. They earn their miles, and close the cards before being billed for the fee in the second year. This is referred to as “churning” cards, and there is no way I’m playing that game. But after doing some research on the issue, I got a Chase Business Ink card. Why? One, it does have a 50,000 mile bonus after meeting a modest minumum spending goal. Two, it offers 5X miles for every dollar spent at office supply stores and for telecommunication services. I spend about $275 a month for cable, Internet and cell phone service. This means 1,375 miles generated per month (16,500 per year) and simply routing the payments I’d be making anyway through the Business Ink card.

Some folks refer to this as “travel hacking”, a term that others deride, and I can understand why. Compared to computer hacking (i.e., gaining illicity access to computer systems), the activity of accumulating miles by using strategies discovered by miles hardly qualifies. I agree. It takes some skill and creativity to come up with these “hacks”, and when someone used the methods developed by others it was referred to as using “cookbook” methods. Those that come up with the schemes deserve some accolades, like the fellow that earned 2.4 million miles by ordering coins online at face value, with free shipping and miles. If you are simply following the methods thought up by others, you’re cooking miles, not hacking them, at least in my opinion.

For anyone interested in taking up this hobby, I can only counsel that you do your research, follow the blogs of folks who have been doing this for a while and share their discoveries and those of others. I’ve been using an RSS reader and subscribed to about a dozen miles-related blogs that produce regular posts and highlight new methods for cooking miles and carry other news about miles and traveling in general (click here for an OPML file that contains my subscriptions). Start off cautiously but once you’ve learned from small mistakes you’ll inevitably make (frequently caused by failing to read the fine print in some offers), be brave and step up your game.

If you are an experienced travel hacker who has a blog on the issue, feel free to leave a comment and let me know about your site. I realize that what I have here is miles hacking/cooking 101, so no snide comments, please. I’m just posting as I’m learning.

Facebook Vacation


I decided to take a vacation from Facebook for a while. It’s been a week and while I miss my friends there I don’t miss the amount of time I tend to spend on it. Dealing with the Institute of Hawaiian Music, my music classes at UH-MC, trying to put together my contract renewal document (due Nov. 1), and my new travel hacking hobby, I have plenty to keep me busy.

Just as a quick update on the travel hacking – I’ve padded my United Miles account by about 5,000 miles with modest effort in less than a month, have another 3,000 or so pending, and using a couple of other mileage accumulation sites, should have another 5,000 or so within the next we weeks. It’s mostly fun work, sometimes tedious, but I’m looking at is as thought I’m creating a travel savings account, using my time rather than money (mostly).

If you are a Facebook friend of mine, feel free to leave a comment if you like. But life is good, and I’ll probably stay off of FB for another few weeks, at least until my contract renewal document is completed and submitted.

2013 Hawai‘i Grammy Entry Update

I really don’t mean to be “Grammy Awards Central” when it comes to news and information for Hawai‘i artists, but posting here will help me keep from repeating myself in emails.

The HARA office and I prepared and submitted entries for 36 or so CDs and songs in a variety of categories. All releases are reviewed by a committee of individuals knowledgeable in those categories and the genres included in them. In searching out our entries, it seems that these committees did reclassify some entries. There was at least one releases entered in Regional Roots (where Hawaiian music releases go) that was moved to folk. Two Hawai‘i releases that were submitted to “Americana” were moved into “Pop”, and one “Alternative” entry was moved to “Rock.”

Sorry folks, but this is the Academy’s prerogative. You can call and inquire of complain, but the final entry list is final and they won’t change it. All you could do if you are unhappy with your placement is tell them “remove my release from contention”, which means if you were to receive enough votes to make the final ballot, you would be kept off. Would anyone really want that?

I think that our local Alternative community is a great example of a group that is defining what “Alternative” means in Hawai‘i. But that doesn’t mean that the national would agree with the music fitting their criteria of “Alternative.” Same goes for“rock.” Does anyone thing that most of the country thinks of Jack Johnson as a rock artist? He won Best Rock Album at Nā Hōkū Hanohano a few years ago. That’s not a criticism as all, but another example of how we define genres differently.

Fortunately I believe that all but one of our Hawai‘i releases in Regional Roots was kept there. Good luck to all of our Hawai‘i entries.