Disclaimer: 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:
- Album of the Year (Producer’s and Artist’s Award)
- Extended Play (EP) Release of the Year
- Single of the Year
- Song of the Year (Composer’s Award)
- Instrumental Composition of the Year (Composer’s Award)
- Female Vocalist of the Year
- Group of the Year
- Male Vocalist of the Year
- Most Promising Artist(s) of the Year
- Favorite Entertainer of the Year
In order to be eligible for any of these awards, the nominee must be a Hawai‘i resident. Unless otherwise indicated (in parenthesis), these awards are artist awards. Occasionally, an entry may contain both residents and non-residents. For example, a Song of the Year entry may be a collaboration between a Hawai‘i resident and non-resident. In this situation, the entry will be accepted, however, only the Hawai‘i resident would receive the award should that entry win.
The following are the Genre Categories.
- Alternative Album of the Year
- Anthology of the Year (Producer’s Award)
- Christmas Album of the Year
- Comedy Album or Comedy DVD of the Year
- Compilation Album of the Year (Producer’s Award)
- Contemporary Album of the Year
- Hawaiian Music Album of the Year
- Hip Hop Album of the Year
- Instrumental Album of the Year
- Island Music Album of the Year
- Jazz Album of the Year
- Music DVD of the Year
- R&B Album of the Year
- Reggae Album of the Year
- Religious Album of the Year
- Rock Album of the Year
- Slack Key Album of the Year
- ‘Ukulele Album of the Year
The “genre” label for these awards is a bit deceptive, as these categories are defined by more than just musical genres. Most of them are; however, some are thematic (Christmas, Comedy, Island Music and Religious), and the defining criteria of one (Hawaiian) is based on the language. For this reason, it is not uncommon for a release to be eligible in more than one category. For example, if a release has more than 75% of its tracks in Hawaiian, it is eligible in the Hawaiian Album category. However, if it was done in a jazz or slack key style, it could be entered in that category. If a release has more than 75% of its tracks in Hawaiian, but the songs are hymns, it could be entered in Religious Album of the Year. It is important to note that it may be entered in only one (1) category. The artist or label must choose which of these categories that the release will be entered.
A “rule of 75%” applies to most of these genres. There are exceptions, so you should refer to the nomination guidelines for those exceptions. In order to qualify in most categories, at least 75% of the tracks must meet the criteria for that category. For example, the Hawaiian Album category requires that 75% of the tracks must be in the Hawaiian language. A release with 11 tracks, with 8 in the Hawaiian language means that 72.7% of the tracks are in Hawaiian, therefore it is not eligible in Hawaiian. If a release has 9 tracks, and 7 are in a jazz style, this means that 77.7% of the tracks are jazz, and it is eligible in the Jazz Album category. What about medleys? Let’s return to the Hawaiian Album example. If a release has 10 tracks, 7 in Hawaiian, 2 in English, and one is a medley containing a Hawaiian song and an English one, that track is counted as half. So 7.5 tracks are in Hawaiian (75%), and therefore it is eligible in Hawaiian. There is no leeway or “it’s close enough” exceptions. A release has either 75% of tracks that meet the category’s criteria or they don’t. If your release does not meet the criteria of the category to which you’ve entered it, the selection committee will decide its most appropriate category placement.
To save you the trouble of calculating the minimum number of tracks you need to meet the 75% rule, here are some common track counts, and how many tracks it takes to meet the 75% quantum:
- 9 songs on album – 7 songs must meet the criteria
- 10 songs on album – 8 songs must meet the criteria
- 11 songs on album – 9 songs must meet the criteria
- 12 songs on album – 9 songs must meet the criteria
- 13 songs on album – 10 songs must meet the criteria
- 14 songs on album – 11 songs must meet the criteria
Individuals who are not Hawai‘i residents but are U.S. residents may enter their releases in selected genre categories, provided they meet the criteria of those categories. These categories are: Hawaiian, Island Music, Ukulele and Slack Key. Producers who are not Hawai‘i residents but are U.S. residents are eligible in Anthology of the Year if at least 75% of the tracks feature vocals in the Hawaiian language or are performed on ‘ukuele, or are in slack key or Island music styles. Non–resident producer(s) are also eligible in Compilation Album of the year, provided that the artists are Hawai‘i residents and 75% of the album is recorded in Hawai‘i.
These are the technical categories, and nominees must be residents of the State of Hawai‘i.
- Graphics Award
- Liner Notes Award
Entries in these categories are vetted by a committee of experts in these disciplines, and the five finalists selected by the committees appear on the final ballot to be voted upon by the members.
These are the adjudicated categories:
- Haku Mele (Composer’s Award)
- Hawaiian Language Performance (Performer’s Award)
- Engineering Award (Must be a resident of the State of Hawai‘i)
- International Recognition Album of the Year (Special Award, not a “Nā Hōkū Hanohano” award)
Non-Hawai‘i residents are eligible in the Haku Mele and Hawaiian Language Performance categories, but not Engineering.
Entries in these categories are vetted by a committee of experts in these disciplines, and the five highest scoring entries are announced with the rest of the final ballot. However, the winner is also selected during the process, and not announced until the evening of the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards. Because of the nature of these awards, the general membership does not vote for them at any stage in the balloting process. U.S. residents who are not residents of Hawai‘i may enter songs and releases in the Haku Mele, and Hawaiian Language Performance categories.
The International Award is a special award, and not a regular Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award. It is eligible to non-U.S. residents. Hawai‘i and other U.S. residents are not eligible for this award. Entries in this category is vetted by a committee of experts in Hawai‘i music styles, and the five highest scoring entries are announced with the rest of the final ballot. Like the other adjudicated awards, the winner is also selected during the process, and not announced until the evening of the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards.
I know that was a lot to digest. The criteria for the awards are complicated, but no more so than is necessary in order to create a level playing field for artists. Feel free to leave any questions as a comment to this post. What’s next? I’m not sure yet, but stay tuned for more Nā Hōkū Hanohano 101 columns.