Category Archives: Music Industry

Nā Hōkū Hanohano 101, Part 4: Compilations, Anthologies, and Hybrids

hokuDisclaimer: I am a member of the Board of Governors of HARA, but this document is not an official HARA communication. 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. This document was updated on 7/5/17.

This is the continuation of a series of essays I posted here, starting a few years ago. I am posting it in the hope that it helps members understand the process that the HARA selection committee goes through when determining release eligibility for the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, and where to place releases. This is not an official communication from HARA, but my own attempt to help educate members about issues that we encounter.

There is often misunderstanding among HARA members about what constitutes a compillation and what consitutes an anthology for purposes of the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards. Here are the definitions, with key portions italicized:

3.3.4 Compilation Album of the Year. (Producer’s Award) Best album of newly released material. The album must contain a minimum of three (3) distinct artists on distinct tracks.

Anthologies are the only category in which releases can contain a significant amount of previously recorded material. As a matter of fact, the must contain at least 75% previously commercially released material:

3.3.2 Anthology of the Year. (Producer’s Award) Best album of previously released material. At least 75% of the album must have previously released material from at least two (2) different releases. The album must also have a revised song order, be repackaged, or be substantively different from the original releases.

So previously unreleased recordings – no matter how old – are not eligible here. Nor are reissues – recordings that appear exactly as they had been released, say on LP albums. They music contain recordings that were previously available for purchase and were found in more than one release.

The selection committee has been challenged in recent years by “hybrid” releases that contain both previously released tracks and new ones. It is important to understand that the only category that can (and must) contain a significant number of previously released tracks is Anthology.

All other releases must contain 75% previously unreleased tracks or they will be ineligible for the Nā Hokū Hanohano Awards. At all. So if you are considering throwing a few old tracks on your new release to fill it out, do the math :

The 75% quantum required on an album of 9 songs is 7 songs; on an album of 10 songs it is 8 songs; on an album of 11 songs it is 9 songs; on an album of 12 it is 9 songs; on an album of 13 songs it is 10 songs; on an album of 14 songs it is 11 songs, etc.

This comes directly from the Entry Guidelines document that is posted along with the entry form for the awards. So if you have an album containing ten songs and three of them are previously released tracks, it is not eligible for the awards. At all. Not in anthology, not in any genre category, not for Album of the Year.

If you are planning to record and release a CD this year (or in the future), it really behooves you to make sure you understand the entry guidelines or risk being disappointed when you find out that your release may not qualify for the genre category in which you think your music belongs, or find out it is not eligible at all. Think twice about adding previously recorded tracks to a new CD, and if you do, do the math! If in doubt, ask. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

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

Nā Hōkū Hanohano 101, Part 3: Award Categories

hokuDisclaimer: I am a member of the Board of Governors of HARA, but this document is not an official HARA communication. 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. This document was updated on 7/5/17.

It 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 a member of the Board of Governors of HARA, but this document is not an official HARA communication. 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. This document was updated on 7/5/17.

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

Nā Hōkū Hanohano 101, Part 1: Educate Yourself

Update: This post and other HARA and Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award posts here were updated on 7/5/17.

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

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

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.

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!

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!

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)

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