Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, February 13, 2005

Beyond the Grammy

With first-time recognition of a top Hawaiian album, today's winner stands to reap many rewards yet to come

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

When the winner for best Hawaiian music album is announced at the Grammy Awards ceremony today, all things related to the musical careers of those involved will get a boost.

Just ask last year's winner for best Native American album, Black Eagle.



The band saw an immediate jump in sales for its disc, "Flying Free," and requests for live appearances increased nationwide. After the Grammys, the 20-member drum collective was welcomed back to its Jemez Pueblo, N.M., village with a tribal police escort and a party hosted by nearly all 3,500 reservation residents.

"It brought Native American music into the mainstream," said Black Eagle member George Toya. "It brought the music to the rest of the world."

Now Hawaiian music takes its place at the podium for the first time in Grammy history today — and with the triumph, bought with years of groundwork by Hawaiian musicians and music industry professionals, comes reward and responsibility.

First, there is the Grammy recognition itself to celebrate. Next, worldwide sales and popularity should rise for the winner. Then the Recording Academy expects the local music industry to do its part by making records and signing up members.

"The Grammy gives the music credibility to the outside world. ... It means people look at it differently," said Leah Bernstein, president of the Mountain Apple Co., whose artists The Brothers Cazimero are nominated. "We won't. The nominees and people of Hawai'i (already) cherish their culture and their music.

"But it's going to put Hawaiian music in a better place.

"To have Hawaiian music recognized in the same award ceremony as the best music in the world is very flattering and very humbling for all of us."



"The bottom line is: If you win a Grammy award, it's like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval," said Warren Wyatt, president of Worldsound, a Seattle-based international music promotion and distribution company. "It focuses more attention and light on that artist and that album."

With dozens of Hawaiian titles in the world music section of, say, a Wal-Mart in Louisville, Ky., a buyer's choice may be decided by a "Grammy-winner" sticker.

A week after the multi-Grammy sweep last year by OutKast's "Speakerboxx/ The Love Below," its sales jumped 147 percent.

Black Eagle enjoyed a more modest 25 percent sales increase for "Flying Free" in the weeks following its nontelevised Grammy win. "But when you consider that this form of music isn't really in retail stores, and the normal outlets we service are specialty stores, that's good," said Tom Bee, owner of Black Eagle's label, Albuquerque, N.M.-based Sound of America Records.

Native American music is a sister category to Hawaiian music in the folk field, and Black Eagle's post-Grammy fortunes are a good barometer for our first winner.

But what about post-Grammy impact on CD sales at home?

The nominees for the first best Hawaiian music album Grammy are:

'Some Call It Aloha ... Don't Tell'

The Brothers Cazimero

Mountain Apple Co.

A collection of new songs and time-tested Hawaiian-music classics, Robert and Roland Cazimero's first studio release in six years blends contemporary and traditional styles. Among the record's highlights: Robert's exquisite choral-enhanced "Pili I Ka Pu'uwai," colorful "Ka Lei Ni'ihau," and a mouth-watering take on Clarence Kinney's "Na 'Ai 'Ono."

'Amy & Willie Live'

Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom and Willie K

Blind Man Sound

Recorded at various stops along Amy and Willie's 2003 reunion tour of the West Coast, "Live" boasts strong performances, following the duo's three-year break from performing together. The tour was dedicated to the memory of Gilliom's grandmother, who had passed away earlier in the year. Gilliom shines on "Hale'iwa Hula," Willie on "Waterfalls."

'Cool Elevation'


Ho'omau Inc.

Seventeen years together have only sweetened the rock-solid vocal quartet of Manu Boyd, Horace K. Dodoit III, Glen Smith and Chris Kamaka. And "Cool Elevation's" richly realized portraits of place ("Home Kapaka," "Laua'e O Nu'uanu," "Beautiful Kahana") rank among Ho'okena's best work. The disc received seven nominations at last year's Na Hoku Hanohano awards.


Keali'i Reichel

Punahele Productions

Reichel's richly detailed musical journey through memories of family, places and moments is his most revealing collection of works. But its emotional heart is linked to lessons learned from kupuna — in particular, great aunt Lily Kekahuna, grandfather Moses Kane and grandmother Kamaile Puhi Kane. "Ka Nohona Pili Kai" is one of Reichel's best.

'Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2'

Various artists; Charles Michael

Brotman, producer
Palm Records

A compilation of mellow, rainy-day instrumentals that allows the quieter side of ki ho'alu playing to shine through, "Vol. 2" boasts a variety of styles and players. Along with producer Brotman, the disc's guest list includes John Cruz, Sonny Lim, John Keawe, Bryan Kessler, Ken Emerson, Randy Lorenzo, Keoki Kahumoku, Charlie Recaido and Jeff Peterson. "I just called people I've known over the years and asked if they'd like to play," said Brotman.

Three of the five nominated Hawaiian music albums were released in 2003. And while Grammy nominations have helped increase sales in recent weeks, all five records' peak sales periods have long passed.

"I know that once we have a winner, even Hawai'i sales will increase for that particular release," said Alan Yamamoto, president of the Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts. "There are going to be people who don't buy Hawaiian music who say, 'They won a Grammy. Maybe I should listen to it.' "

Yamamoto was more skeptical of Hawai'i's Grammy winner getting a sales boost outside the state.

"It's still one of many Grammy categories," said Yamamoto. "So are (consumers) really going to go, 'Oh, look, there's the Hawaiian music category!' if they're not already familiar with it? That's the big question mark.

What about hoku?

The Na Hoku Hanohano Awards have enjoyed status as the most prestigious prize in the Hawaiian music industry for 28 years. The veteran artists up for the Hawaiian music Grammy have taken home more than 75 Hoku between them.

But is it possible that the Grammy — as the premier music industry prize worldwide — might diminish the importance of a Hoku win? Yamamoto, whose Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts' organizes the Hoku awards each year, thinks not.

"If anything, the Grammy enhances the Hoku awards," said Yamamoto. "We may end up with different results (for the Grammy), since a different group of people will be voting on it. ... (But) both (awards) are going to promote the music itself, and enhance awareness.

"We've always wanted more recognition for Hawaiian music. Our membership has been actively working toward this for a long time."

Former Recording Academy PacificiNorthwest chapter executive director Deborah Semer was a key representative for the Hawaiian music community in its push for Grammy recognition. She predicts that one very noticeable aftereffect of the new Grammy category — which requires a predominance of vocal tracks in Hawaiian — will be more musicians' using Hawaiian lyrics in their recordings, in an effort to qualify for Grammy consideration.

"That's a byproduct with big impact that's going to change the industry a little bit," said Semer. "And that's a great thing. It preserves the culture. It gets people back in touch with it."


What the Recording Academy has given Hawaiian music, it can just as quickly take away. Just ask the musicians who didn't support the now-defunct best Remixer of the Year category, given from 1997 to 2000.

"The (Recording Academy's) maintaining the Hawaiian Grammy category depends on the amount of records entered into the voting process and number of voting members," said Worldsound's Wyatt. "If that's compromised, they're going to stop it."

The Recording Academy requires that a category produce at least 25 records annually, and that a sufficient number of those records be submitted for Grammy consideration each year. The academy also looks at how many members vote in each category, and expects to see growth on all counts in future years.

"The industry has to participate," Semer said.

There are about 90 Hawai'i-based Recording Academy members this year, out of 17,000 nationwide. Semer told academy officials the category would draw at least 200 votes in its first year.

"The Grammy is an award of peers in the industry," said Wyatt. "And if there aren't enough qualified Hawaiian music voters, the (Recording Academy) could become concerned that the award is not being properly juried or that there isn't a process they can rely upon to select a proper winner."

Applying for membership is easy enough.

Voting members of the Recording Academy must have creative or technical credits on six commercially released tracks. The membership includes vocalists, songwriters, producers, engineers, art directors, technicians and others. Annual membership dues are as low as $100.

"That's roughly one-quarter of a good iPod," said Wyatt. "When you look at it from that perspective, musicians who want to make the right choice can make it affordable."


While local accountants — and interested musicians — measure Grammy's impact on music sales for the winner and nominees for best Hawaiian music album, the award's lasting impact will likely be measured by the worldwide respect it generates for Hawaiian music.

"The significance of the Grammy is that it lends us a louder voice," said best Hawaiian music album nominee Keali'i Reichel. "It opens doors ... It allows us to move into another place and make it easier to play with the big boys."

But while Reichel called Grammy recognition "a good beginning" for Hawaiian music as it moves onto the worldwide stage, he cautioned peers in the local industry about too much talk of it being about time.

"Hawaiian music has always been here. ... We've been doing what we've been doing for a long time. Not just me, but the countless musicians that have come before all of us," said Reichel. "The Grammys are an opportunity for us to share with the world. But it is not a validation of what we do. It doesn't validate who we are.

"For me, that's really important to remember."

Reach Derek Paiva at 525-8005 or dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com.

• • •