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Category Archives: Music

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: Continued…

Posted in Hawai‘i, Music, Music Industry.

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: Continued…

Posted in Core Dumps, Hawai‘i, Music, Music Industry.

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. Continued…

Posted in Core Dumps, Hawai‘i, Music, Music Industry.

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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..

Posted in Dunedin 2008, ethnomusicology, Hawai‘i, Music, ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i.

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.

Posted in ethnomusicology, Music, Music Industry.

The Nā Hōkū Hanohano Music Festival Workshops for 2013 Next Friday

f1f2d8_f10a8280dd6755369cc9e67c77406baa.png_srz_210_110_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_png_srzThe Nā Hōkū Hanohano Music Festival Workshops for 2013 will be held next Friday May 24th at the Ala Moana Hotel. Pricing: $25 All Day Pass, $10 Single Workshop, Fees waived for HARA Members and Students (pre-registration required).

There will be two tracks, the first featuring panels on radio airplay in Hawai‘i, music education, promotion, and two different haku mele panels. The second track is performance focused and features panels on the contemporary music scene, and ‘ukulele and slack key performance. I’ll be a member of the music education and haku mele panels. Hope to see you there!

Posted in Hawai‘i, Music, Music Industry.

Tis The Season… Again

It is Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award season again. The final ballot was announced today, and Facebook is exploding with posts expressing gratitude, humility, honor, and respect for nominations. It is definitely a feel-good kind of day all around. 

NaHoku2007_4It’s also a great time to remember why we are in the industry and how we got here. I’ve not met anyone who started playing music because they expected to win a Grammy or Nā Hōkū Hanohano award, though I’m certain that there are some out there. For many, it started out as a way to express our artistic inclinations, a way to make a living, or to gain the attention of the opposite sex. Being honored by the members of an industry association like the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts of the national Recording Academy came somewhere down the road, after the hours of practice, composting, gigging, touring, and recording. Whether we’re nominated or not, win or not, we continue to make music and enrichen Hawai‘i and the world.

AlohaKeauhouPersonally, I’ve lost track of my Nā Hōkū nominations. The two I have this year with Kenneth Makuakāne are probably my 8th and 9th or so, most with Kenneth, one with Mailani and another with Harry B. Soria for the John Kameaaloha Almeida compilation release. The number really doesn’t matter. What does matter is the warm feeling that comes with the nominations and knowing that members of the Hawai‘i recording industry respect our work and think highly enough of it to place it on the final ballot. I must say that this year’s nominations in Haku Mele and Single of the Year are extra special because Aloha Keauhou for was done as a tribute to Ke Ali‘i Bernice Pauahi Bishop and her legacy that is being perpetuated at Kamehameha Schools.

I wish I had the time to personally congratulate all of my friends who have garnered nominations, but that would be about 95% of those on the final ballot anyway. So congratulations to all!

Posted in Hawai‘i, Music, Music Industry.

Aloha Keauhou In “Song of the Year” and “Single of the Year” for 2103 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards

AlohaKeauhou“Aloha Keauhou”, with music by Kenneth Makuakāne and lyrics by yours truly, is on the preliminary ballot for the 2013 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards in the Single of the Year Category and Song of the Year. We originally composed it for the Kamehameha Schools Song Contest in 2012, and Kenneth re-recorded it for the CD “Ho‘ōla Lāhui, Ho‘oulu Pae‘āina”, released last year. The senior girls won the women’s division of the competition with their performance, and tied for first with their language use. You can listen to the recording on my page for “Aloha Keauhou”, which includes a lot of the story behind the composition, and links to the video of the senior girls’ performance.

HARA voters, I hope you will give it a listen, and if you believe it is worthy, please consider including it in your five choices for Song of the Year and Single of the Year. Mahalo!

Posted in Music, ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i.

Memories Of Kamehameha Schools’ Song Contest, 2012

On the evening of March 16, 2012, my wife and I traveled to Honolulu to attend the 92nd annual Kamehameha Schools Song Contest which was held that evening at the Neil Blaisdell Center. It was a night that Kenneth Makuakāne and I and our families had looked forward to for over four months. Back in the fall of last year, we had been asked to contribute a composition for this year’s song contest. This year marks the 125th anniversary of the founding of Kamehameha Schools. The theme of this year’s contest was “Ho‘ōla Lāhui, Ho‘oulu Pae ‘Āina — Vibrant People, Thriving Lands”. Ten composers and composer teams were asked to create new mele that honor significant parcels of land that comprise the Bishop Estate. Some of them help fund the Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop’ vision, and other are rich cultural resources.

Kenneth and I were asked to compose a new mele for Keauhou, Ka‘ū, on Hawai‘i island. This is a different area than Keauhou, Kona. It is situated just on the border between Ka‘ū and Puna, on the Ka‘u side of the entrance to Volcanoes National Park. I was aware of the place, but had no idea of the work that Kamehameha Schools is engaged in there. Previously, large sections of the ahupua‘a were covered with koa trees. Many years ago, many of the koa trees were felled, and subsequently much of the land was leased for grazing. The school later bought back the leases and began reforestation efforts. We were invited to spend a day in Keauhou, and because of work commitments we were unable to visit Keauhou together. We did visit on separate dates, and subsequently shared our experiences. We were both amazed at the efforts being made to reestablish the koa forests, keep out invasive plants and animals, and how dedicated the staff were to their task.

Over the course of the next two months we worked on the mele, sharing concepts, words, melodies, and verses, using the telephone, Skype, emails, instant messages, and occasionally (!) working face to face. The mele essentially documented the day of our first impressions, our experiences, and our hopes for Keauhou. As the group I traveled with moved through the ahupua‘a, we were followed by ‘io (hawks) that watched our every move. When cautiously entered the Kīlauea Forest Preseve (an area that escaped deforestation and remains a pristine habitat), we were observed by the ‘elepaio birds of the forest. I watch as one flew by me and missed my head by only about a foot. All of these experiences became part of the mele “Aloha Keauhou”.

In December, the mele and melody were complete, and turned over to Randie Fong at KS. Our understanding was that one of their regular arrangers would create the vocal arrangments for the students. Shortly thereafter they contacted Kenenth and asked if he would do the arrangment himself. I helped him by formatting the charts in Finale, but otherwise the arrangements were all his. Shortly thereafter, Randie informed Kenneth that the senior girls would be performing our mele.

We arrived at Blaisdell Arena on the evening of March 16 and met the other composers. I had heard that Kellen and Līhau Hannahs, Dennis Kamakahi and Keawe and Tracie Lopes were some of the composers, but didn’t know who else had been asked to contribute mele. Manu Boyd, Carlos Andrade, Ke‘ala Kwan, Nālani Choy, Kama Hopkins were the others. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized I was the only composer there that wasn’t a graduate of Kamehameha. Of course Kenneth is a KS gradute, and since we collaborate together so frequently, they graciously allowed him to invite me to collaborate on the mele. Still, it was a humbling relevation.

I won’t go into a long description of the event, and would encourage everyone to watch the program on the KS website. I can only say that I was astounded by the mele and the variety and quality of the compositions. The composers of each mele were asked to stand and recognize the performance of their mele upon its completion. I couldn’t stand-I was simply numbed by the performance of the senior women. I’m certainly happy I did not have to judge the competition this year, because all of the classes were outstanding. Neither Kenneth or I heard the rehearsals, so we, along with the audience, were hearing it for the first time. And of course the feeling returned when the presenters announced that the senior girls had won the girls’ division, and tied for their Hawaiian language pronunciation.

As things were winding down and the emotions settling on the Blaisdell arena floor, Manu Boyd joined us. He started raving “My God, I could see the rain, and the birds, and the forest!” and I thought I was going to really lose it. What a compliment from one of the preeminent haku mele of this time.

When Kenneth and I began working together eight years ago, I had two things that I hoped to accomplish as a composer. I didn’t tell anyone, and only mention it to Kenneth after we finished the mele. But one of them came true on Friday night. The other? It has nothing to do with the Grammy or Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards. And I’m keeping it to myself until it happens. If it does, you’ll read about it here.

Posted in Music, ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i.

Setting The Record Straight Regarding The Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards

Aloha kākou. My esteemed colleague and friend Dr. Amy Ku‘uleialoha Stillman writes eloquently and passionately about Hawaiian music on her blog “Hawaiian Music for Listening Pleasure”, and I encourage artists, labels, producers, engineers, other industry professionals and fans to check it regularly. I owe much to Amy in my development as an ethomusicologist and budding academic, and for adding clarity to my thinking regarding many issues that surround the culture of music, but this does not mean we agree on everything. While we differ on many of the issues surrounding the Grammy Awards, their legitimacy when it comes to recognizing excellence in Hawaiian music, and other issues, I value her opinions and friendship.

Amy recently wrote a post on her blog about the recent announcement of the finalists for the recently consolidated Grammy category for Best Regional Roots album. This category includes Hawaiian, American Indian, Cajun, Zydeco, Polka and other region specific genres of music that have originated within the political boundaries of the United States. While I disagree with a number of her points and analysis, I will restrict my comments here to one glaring inaccuracy as it pertains to the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards. Here is the passage that I contest: Continued…

Posted in ethnomusicology, Hawai‘i.

My Post on

For those who are not members of The Recording Academy, you may not know about the Academy’s social networking system, It’s an interesting tool, kind of a Facebook for Academy members. While there is great potential for good things out of it, there are also issues. Some may argue that it can potentially level the playing field for lesser-known members and releases, it also facilitates back-door shenanigans such as vote swapping–an activity that the Academy forbids, but is difficult to prove.

Over the past month or so I’ve received a number of connection requests, many in fields that I know little about. While I’m happy to listen to these peoples’ releases, I do not vote in categories that I don’t know well. I wish others would do the same. Here is my recent status update on

I’m grateful for all of the recent connection, requested and made, over the past month or so. My apologies for not replying to each individually. I like GRAMMY 365 a lot and realize it’s potential. I have to say, though, that it also has it’s downside. Personally I only vote in those categories that I’m knowledgeable about, like the new Regional Roots, Pop, Rock, Jazz and Folk fields, and I wish everyone would do that. I’m happy to listen to the submissions that everyone makes and suggests to me, but unless I really know the scope of the field in which your release has been entered, I probably won’t vote in if. The upside is that I will become more knowledgeable about those categories and at the point I know the lay of the land well enough, I may start voting in them.

While I have no releases of my own entered, a few are that my compositions appear on, Hawaiian entries in the Regional Roots category. I will post links to those releases when the preliminary ballot ships. If you know the genres included in those categories well enough to make an informed vote, and believe that these releases are worthy, I would be honored if you’d consider voting for them. Mahalo a nui (many thanks)

Posted in ethnomusicology, Music, Music Industry.

New Journal Publication

I was happy that my first peer-reviewed journal article (and first article of any type in several years) was published in Language Documentation and Conservation. I’ve had interactions with the National Foreign Language Resource Center at UH-Mānoa for many years, presented at their conferences, and have had a strong admiration for their work.

The paper is entitled “Puana ‘Ia me ka ‘Oko‘a: A Comparative Analysis of Hawaiian Language Pronunciation as Spoken and Sung”, and it is a translation, distillation, and revision of my MA thesis, which was originally written in Hawaiian. It is a comparative analysis that uses recordings and compositions by John Kameaaloha Almeida. It took nearly two years for me to translate and pare down, and nearly another two years to tweak it, get feedback, and then get it published. One reviewer felt is wasn’t linguistically focused for this journal, but I think I made an important point that in addition to acknowledging the importance of linguistic diversity in terms of the number of languages that are thriving in society, we also must look at and preserve the diversity that is inherent within a single language. To make this point I documented and examined some significant differences in Hawaiian language as spoken and sung. Some of these differences have been mentioned previously, but never closely examined nor explained.

Posted in ethnomusicology, Hawai‘i, Music, ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i.

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My Letter To Recording Academy President Neil Portnow

Several weeks ago, representatives from the Recording Academy visited Hawai‘i and conducted several meetings with members of the Hawai‘i recording industry. While the discussions were wide-ranging, the topic of the “consolidation” of the Grammy Award for Best Hawaiian Album was brought up. I did share my thoughts on the matter, and this past week composed and sent this follow up letter. I am looking forward to working with the Academy on issues that will benefit our local industry, both as an individual member as well as a member of the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts.

Neil Portnow
President, The Recording Academy
3030 Olympic Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90404

Aloha kāua e Neil,

I would like to express my gratitude to you and the other representatives of the Academy for your recent visit to Hawai‘i and the amount of time that you all spent interacting with the members of our industry and community. Your presence and participation spoke volumes to us regarding the significance of our place in the broader recording industry. I would like to communicate a few thoughts with you–some were brought up at our meeting and others I chose to save for this communication. Please understand that these are my personal thoughts, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of my colleagues on the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts’ Board of Governors or within our College of Hawaiian Language.

As I expressed at our meeting, I shed no tears at the consolidation of the Hawaiian Grammy into the new Regional Roots category. It simply was not worth consternation and vitriol that it produced within our community. To be clear, I believe there was nothing wrong with the category’s criteria, although I was very displeased with manner by which the instrumental criteria were added after the open meetings that were held with the Academy. The problem was simply the manner in which the voting was handled. While I understand the difficulty of establishing different voting qualifications for many categories, I believe that the Hawai‘i and broader Hawaiian music communities simply will not embrace an award in which their informed voices are drowned out by a sea of Academy members who are unable to make qualitative assessment on those criteria that define the category. To reestablish the award while not addressing the deficiencies of the selection system would be a grave mistake, and again throw our community into disunity, when what we really need unity.

I would like to discuss the Hawaiian and Native American awards from a different perspective. While I understand Bill Freimuth’s comparison of the consolidation with the World Music category in that both contain very diverse musical forms, there is a distinction. These forms are representative of the indigenous peoples of this nation–the same nation represented in the name “National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences”. The languages and cultures of these peoples, found in every state, have been subject to systematic suppression, and it has only been in recent decades that these peoples have been able to organize and work toward the documentation, reclamation and revitalization of their languages and traditional practices, including their music. As such, they are deserving of special consideration by the Academy, and awards implemented that do not marginalize them. Reestablishment of these categories should not be simply a numbers game. If implemented correctly, separate Grammy categories for the music of indigenous peoples within the U.S. would be powerfully symbolic–something that further supports the Academy’s mission to “to positively impact the lives of musicians, industry members and our society at large”.

I have been deeply bothered by recent discourse on the consolidation of the Grammy Awards. While I believe that it was done with honorable intentions, it was poorly implemented and communicated. The subsequent press releases and justifications from the Academy regarding the consolidation were also poorly handled, and from my humble perch amounted to little more than “spin”. I must add that I have been disgusted by the tone of many response and charges of racism leveled against the Academy. Some members of one of the academic societies that I am a member of, the Society for Ethnomusicology, have expressed their concerns regarding the consolidation and its homogenizing affect on musical diversity. I share their concerns, and also fear, as I expressed at our meeting, that the consolidation of the awards and subsequent discourse have further distanced the Academy from the grassroots membership whose support it clearly needs, given the current state of the industry.

While I was tempted to allow my membership in the Academy to lapse upon learning about the consolidation, I did indeed renew it. I believe that the only way to implement change, be it in government or organizations like the Academy, is to be an active participant. I look forward to working with you and others in the Academy to implement positive changes in the Academy. If I can be of service to you, the Board of Governors, the Pacific Northwest Chapter, or any department of the Academy, please feel free to contact me.

me ka ‘oia‘i‘o (sincerely),

Keola Donaghy
Assistant Professor
Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language
University of Hawai‘i at Hilo

cc: Barb Dehgan, Vice President, Communications & Media Relations; Bill Freimuth, Vice President, Awards; Erica Krusen, Sr. Director, MusiCares;Lourdes Lopez, Sr. Director, Communications & Media Relations; Shannon Roach, Executive Director; Michael Stephens, Sr. Project Coordinator, Pacific Northwest Chapter, Dr. Kalena Silva, Director, Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language; Dr. Pila Wilson, Chair, Academic Division, Ka Haka ‘Ula O Ke‘elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo

Posted in ethnomusicology, Music, Music Industry.

Enter Your Release For The Grammys

The period for entering CD releases for the Grammy Awards has opened. For people who are not Recording Academy members but want to enter their releases, the Board of Governors of the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts can help! Check the HARA website for details. This is not just for Hawaiian releases. If you put out a reggae, rock, pop, jazz, Christian, hip-hop, rap, blues, whatever, we can help!

Posted in Music, Music Industry.

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Our Mele On “After The Catch”!

Back in 2009, I helped Mailani Makainai write two mele which appeared on her debut solo CD, Mailani. She subsequently won the 2010 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award for Female Vocalist of the Year for that release. Today Mailani was featured on an episode of “After The Catch”, a sit down discussion among captains and crew members from the Discovery TV show Deadliest Catch. Mailani played both of those songs-“Penei Iho, Penei A‘e, Penei Nō” and “He Mele No Kahalu‘u”–live on the show, leading into and coming back from commercial breaks. Her TV time was far too short, but Mike Rowe and the crew were quite complimentary of her performance, adding that there would probably be a lot less stress on the boats if they pumped her music as they worked. I agree ;-)

I missed the title of the episode on which the music appeared, but it’s first broadcast day was today, June 21. “After The Catch” usually follows the broadcast of new and older episodes of “Deadliest Catch”.

Mailani’s latest release is entitled ‘Āina. We have two collaborations on there-one an original entitled “Ka Nani O Kā‘ena”, and a Hawaiian translation/interpretation of the Beatles’ classic “Yesterday”. It’s been a pleasure to work with Mai over the past few years, on her releases and as colleagues on the HARA Board of Governors.

Posted in Music.

Kontakt 4/Steve Slate Drums Loading Issues Resolved!

Perhaps one or two people who follow this blog will know what I’m even talking about, but I’d documenting it for the benefit of those who have or will lose hair over this issue. I’ve been using Steve Slate Drums and the Kontakt player for about a year now in my recording. It was great for a long time, but about 7-8 months ago I started having issues with incredibly long load times – sometimes it would take a half-hour or more to load Logic Express projects that contained Kontakt instruments. I crawled the discussion boards, searched Google, deleted .plist files, rebuilt databases, and nothing worked. Finally, today, a breakthrough – Sophos was the culprit. Sophos is an anti-virus program for Mac that looks through files as you download or open them. It occasionally catches a MS Word macro virus in files that are sent to me, but that’s about the only time it’s ever actually done anything for me. Because of the number and size of the samples that Kontakt and SSD contain, it was looking through ever bit of data in the files before it would allow Kontakt to open them. I turned of Sophos, restarted, and- tada! – the files open in seconds.

Posted in Music, Music-Tech, Technology.

Redefining Ethnomusicology?

There has be a very vigorous discussion on the email list of the Society of Ethnomusicology during the past week. Some are feeling that the name of the field–ethnomusicology–is no longer valid. It’s come to stand for a diverse set of practices and foci which are clearly difficult to identify as being from the same discipline. A number of names, both serious and humerous, have been offered. Given the “all-over-the-map” nature of the discussion, and the nature of my own interests, I’ve decided to go with this for my next business card:

I think this will keep people from asking too many questions, don’t you?

Posted in ethnomusicology, Music.

Happy Day Gone Sad Week

This past Tuesday was a pretty good day. It didn’t rank in my Top 10 all-time days–not that I even keep such a list. It doesn’t approach the day I got married, the day our children were born, or when they graduated from high school, or when my son returned home safe from Iraq, or when I watched my daughter bungee jump in New Zealand. But it was still pretty darn good. The final ballot for the 2011 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards were announced that day, and I was humbled to learn that I had two nominations, and my dear friend and partner in music, Kenneth Makuakāne, had eight. What a thrill and honor. And then Friday came along. Continued…

Posted in Music.

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Peeking Ahead To the 2012 Grammy Awards

I found my preliminary ballots for the 2009 and 2010 Grammy Awards. Here’s a breakdown of the entries in the three primary categories that will compete for the “Best Regional Roots Music Album” Grammy in 2012 :

  • Best Zydeco Or Cajun Music Album 2009: 30 entries, 2010: 34 entries
  • Best Native American Music Album 26 entries, 2010: 32 entries
  • Best Hawaiian Music Album 20 entries, 2010: 32 entries

I should note that the Board of Governors of the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording arts went to extraordinary lengths to get entries in 2010. I personally entered half of the 32 entries into the Hawaiian category on behalf of various artists and labels. There likely would have been far less if we had not done so. Given the numbers above, I think it would be foolish for people to assume that Hawaiian releases have no chance of wining the award. It’s all going to come down to networking and PR, as it always has. Which means it will be business as usual for those that covet the trophy.


Posted in ethnomusicology, Hawai‘i, Music.

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The Hawaiian Grammy Is No More

Today The Recording Academy, bestowers of the annual Grammy Awards, announced a major restructuring of the awards that reduces the number of awards from 109 to 78. This change will be implemented in next years awards–the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. One of the categories affected by this adjustment is the Grammy Award for Best Hawaiian Album–it has been eliminated. However, releases that would have been eligible in this category will now be eligible in the new “Best Regional Roots Music Album” at the 54th Grammy Awards. Other genre that previously had their own categories and will be entered in this category next are Best Native American Music Album and Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album. Or course, Hawai‘i releases in other genre categories can enter in those categories.


Posted in ethnomusicology, Hawai‘i, Music.

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March Madness, Music Awards, Awareness Campaigns, and a Promise

HARA logoMarch has arrived, and with it comes the preparation, printing and mailing of the preliminary ballot for the 2011 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards. Like many, I was oblivious to the amount of work, consideration and communication that goes into this process until I joined the HARA Board of Governors four years ago and subsequently became a member of the selection committee. The amount of work is tremendous, the rewards few, and the consternation is sometimes overhwelming. It’s impossible to please everybody, and the job of finding the appropriate category for many releases is challenging, particulary when the majority are based on musical style (jazz, reggae, rock, etc.), others thematic (Christmas, religious, island music) and some based on language (Hawaiian Album and Language Performance). The committee did an admirable job, and I applaud my colleagues.

Another part of “March Madness” (as I fondly call it), is the beginning of the “awareness campaigns” that are popular during the preliminary and final balloting processes. Neither the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts (the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards) nor the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (the Grammy Awards) allows blatant solititation of votes, vote swapping, or other nefarious activities, though I doubt there are many that would deny that it happens with both awards.


Posted in ethnomusicology, Hawai‘i, Music.

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Hawai‘i Has No Beer?

The folks at the Aloha IBU blog have an interesting post with links to videos of people in Germany during Octoberfest, and they are lamenting the lack of beer in Hawai‘i. Not only ignorant but insulting. They asked for a Hawai‘i version to respond to it, so I offer a verse:


He Guiness ko ka ‘Ailiki                     The Irish have Guiness
No Holani ka Heineken                      And Heineken is from Holland
He pua Tahiti ka Hinano                    Hinano is a Tahitian flower
He aha ko Hawai’i nei?                       What does Hawai’i have to offer?

He mau pia no ko Hawai‘i                       Hawai‘i indeed has beers
He mau pia hu’ihu’i a ‘ono!                       There are cold and delicious beers!
He aha ko Kelemania?                             What does Germany have?
Ko’eko’e ka ‘aina, ko’eko’e ka pia            The land is cold and the beer is tasteless

Verse 2
E ko Hawai‘i nui akea                       To all across great Hawai‘i
Malo‘o i ka mehana la                      Parched in the heat of the day
E kena i ka wai hu’ihu’i                  Quench your thirst in the cool
‘amepela no Hawai‘i nei.                amber waters, from Hawai‘i


Posted in Hawai‘i, Music.

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Kaua‘i Music Festival Was Outstanding

I had the privilege of being one of the instructors at the Kaua‘i Music Festival last week. The five day event brought together instructors from Hawai‘i and the mainland to talk about songwriting, the business of the music industry and related topics. Some big-name composers included Jason Blume, David Pack (at left with me), Kevin Griffin, Marti Frederiksen, Jeff Dayton, Shelly Peiken; Hawai‘i representatives included yours truly, Kenneth Makuak?ne, Keale, Charles Michael Brotman, Jake Shimabukuro and Paula Fuga. Mahalo to BMI and the KMF staff for pulling off such an outstanding event. I can’t begin to tell you how valuable it was, and I’m certain the 170 or so participants all agree. I’ll try to write up a more comprehensive report a bit later, and am looking forward to returning next year.

Posted in Hawai‘i, Music, ‘Ōlelo Hawai‘i.

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Memories of Musicians Institute

In spring 1985 I moved to Hollywood to attend Musicians Institute. On the first day of instruction all of us students (@500) gathered in the school’s performance auditorium for orientation. As a “getting to know you” exercise they had all of us in odd number rows (I was in row 1) turn around and introduce ourselves to the person directly behind us, then stand up and introduce that person to the rest of the class. Yes it took a while.

The fellow sitting behind me was a guitar student named Nick Nolan, about 19 years old. He was also the winner of the Van Halen scholarship that the school offered that year, having beat out several hundred other entries and earning some very complimentary remarks from Mr. Eddie VH himself. But Nick was a very quiet, humble fellow, and turned out to be my best buddy during my all-too-brief stay at the school. Just out of curiosity I did a Google search for Nick to see what he had been up to, and found that he’s authored quite a few instructional books and DVDs on rock guitar. I heard that he was also hired as a teacher at MI, but don’t know if he’s still there or not.

Leaving MI after only three months remains on my short list of big regrets. If I could have a “do-over” year, it would be 1985.

Posted in Core Dumps, Gaeilge, Music.

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Memories of K?ke‘e


Last weekend my wife and I traveled to Kaua‘i to participate in the K?ke‘e Hawaiian Music Songwriters Camp. Kenneth Makuak?ne, Puakea Nogelmeier, Kaliko Beamer-Trapp, Walter Keale and I taught workshops on haku mele and other aspects of songwriting. The camp was held at some cabins deep in K?ke‘e State Park, where I had never gone to before, and it was a very inspiring setting.

I did two workshops – one was an overview of some of the more common and essential elements of mele, and to demonstrate the composition and editing process, explained how my mele Facebook Hula came about. I provided them with both the first draft as it came to me a few weeks ago, and how I edited it to strengthen the text. The second was a workshop on collaborative songwriting, where Kenneth and I talked about how our collaboration works, and how we each need to sometimes compromise and be open to changes, and how both parties must work for the benefit of the mele – not our own egos.

Very few of the participants had sufficient skills to actually compose mele, though a a couple were experienced Hawaiian immersion teachers who wanted to venture into haku mele. We made it quite clear from the beginning that fluency in the language was a starting point, and that haku mele is a higher level of the language. In spite of their limited language ability, during the last session we broke them into groups, with each instructor helping one group conceptualize and create a single verse to a Hawaiian song. It left them all with a feeling of accomplishment, and also an appreciation that they had a long way to go before actually beginning to compose mele.

Kenneth and I will reprise our presentations at the Kaua‘i Music Festival in July, and will be joined by some world-famous composers such as David Pack (Ambrosia),  Jason Blume (Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and Jesse McCartney) as well as some prominent Hawai‘i composers. I hope some of you can make it.

Posted in Hawai‘i, Music.

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