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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, February 14, 2005

Guitarists win Grammy

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

And the Grammy goes to ... ki ho'alu.

Producer Charles Michael Brotman, right, and musician Sonny Lim yesterday accepted the award for Best Hawaiian Music Album for their "Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2," at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

Kevork Djansezian • Associated Press

The instrumental multi-artist compilation "Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2" won the first-ever Grammy award in the Best Hawaiian Music Album category yesterday. The award was given out in an untelevised ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center just before the prime-time Grammy awards telecast at the neighboring Staples Center.

The compilation's producer, Charles Michael Brotman — who also played on the record — accepted the award.

"I thought we might win, but I was also prepared for any of the other nominees to win because they're all so fantastic," said Brotman, backstage, shortly after winning. "When our name was announced, well, we basically all jumped up, screamed and ran up on stage."

Joining Brotman on stage to accept the Grammy were musicians Sonny Lim, Ken Emerson and Jeff Peterson, three of the 10 slack-key guitar players featured on the record. All except Emerson were dressed in tuxedos — Brotman's accented with a triple-strand 'ilima lei and the other three guitarists with gold-and-orange cigar flower lei.

Brotman and Lim, right, are joined backstage in the pressroom by musicians Ken Emerson, left, and Jeff Peterson.

Kevork Djansezian • Associated Press

Brotman thanked his sister and Palm Records co-partner Jody Brotman, distributor The Mountain Apple Co., the compilation's nine other guitarists and the Recording Academy for honoring Hawaiian music with the category.

"I said that I knew we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for past generations of musicians in Hawai'i that dedicated their lives to music," said Brotman, recalling his acceptance speech. "It's their creativity and hard work that has made Hawaiian music what it is today. And what it is is a living, evolving art form that embodies the Hawaiian culture."

Guitarist Lim translated Brotman's words into the Hawaiian language for the audience.

Also nominated in the new category were "Some Call It Aloha ... Don't Tell" by the Brothers Cazimero, "Amy & Willie Live" by Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom and Willie K, "Cool Elevation" by Ho'okena and Keali'i Reichel's "Ke'alaokamaile."


Grammy winners

Some winners announced during the 47th Annual Grammy Awards. Go to www.grammy.com for a complete list:

Album of the Year: "Genius Loves Company," Ray Charles and various artists.

Record of the Year: "Here We Go Again," Ray Charles and Norah Jones.

Song of the Year: "Daughters," John Mayer.

Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal: "Vertigo," U2.

Country Album: "Van Lear Rose," Loretta Lynn.

Rap Album: "The College Dropout," Kanye West.

R&B Album: "The Diary of Alicia Keys," Alicia Keys.

New Artist: Maroon 5.

Rock Album: "American Idiot," Green Day.

Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal: "Heaven," Los Lonely Boys.

Male R&B Vocal Performance: "Call My Name," Prince.

Contemporary Folk Album: "The Revolution Starts ... Now," Steve Earle.

Native American Music Album: "Cedar Dream Songs," Bill Miller.

Hawaiian Music Album: "Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2," Various Artists.

Reggae Album: "True Love," Toots and The Maytals.

Traditional World Music Album: "Raise Your Spirit Higher," Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Contemporary World Music Album: "Egypt," Youssou N'Dour.

Source: Associated Press

The Grammy win for "Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2" was something of a surprise for local music industry officials and Grammy watchers.

Reichel's "Ke'alaokamaile" had been pegged as the favorite to win the Grammy. The 2003 record claimed awards in seven of its 10 nominated categories at last year's Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, including best album and best Hawaiian album. Local music industry buzz speculated that Reichel would take home the Grammy as well.

By contrast, many in the industry were initially surprised to see "Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2" on the final Grammy ballot when nominees were announced in December. Its late 2003 release on Brotman's Kamuela-based indie-label Palm Records was as low key as the music featured on the compilation, by musicians such as John Cruz, Bryan Kessler and Randy Lorenzo, among others.

The disc barely registered on local music sales charts or radio. And much of its limited airplay and attention arrived via Mainland public radio stations that feature folk and acoustic music.

But in the end, Grammy voters — most of them Mainland-based — cast their vote for the quiet collection of slack key instrumentals, its acoustic guitar stylings likely more familiar to them than Hawaiian language vocals or chant were.

"It was the one that people kept talking about (as a contender), knowing the universal popularity of slack key guitar," said Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts president Alan Yamamoto, after the win was announced yesterday. "George Winston brought tremendous awareness of the music with his (Dancing Cat) label.

"The music is known. It's popular. And that's probably why it resonated with Grammy voters."

Yamamoto said he would prefer separate Grammy categories for instrumental and vocal tracks. The category is now open to vocal and instrumental Hawaiian music albums. A requirement is that the Hawaiian language be used in a predominance of vocal tracks. The winning album — an all-instrumental compilation — has no vocals. Some in the local music industry had originally asked the Recording Academy for a Grammy category that excluded instrumental recordings and required up to 75 percent or more Hawaiian-language content.


"Grammy recognition was good because it really did open the doors for a lot of people," Yamamoto said. "Our music received a lot of press around the country."

Major stories on the Hawaiian music Grammy were done by National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Voice of America and newspapers and radio stations nationwide before yesterday's ceremonies. Most used the nominated music to dispel stereotypes about Hawaiian music as trapped in a nostalgic timewarp of hapa-haole songs, little grass shacks, tiny bubbles and Elvis musicals.

"People were talking about this," Yamamoto said. "And there's a renewed view and awareness of what Hawaiian music really is."

Judy Drosd, the state's Chief Officer for Arts, Film and Entertainment at the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said in a statement that Grammy recognition will boost "the growth of music as a cultural export through record sales, concerts and tours on the U.S. Mainland, and in Canada, Japan and Europe."

Jody Brotman knew the win for "Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2" was a possibility, but did not expect it.

"Slack key guitar has broad popularity on the Mainland," she said. "So as much as we thought that (the other nominees) were certainly more than deserving of the (Grammy), we also knew that this was being decided by a nationwide voting base.

"Slack key has crossed some genres, and there are people that are interested in folk music or acoustic guitar who listen to slack key guitar and appreciate it."

Many of the best Hawaiian music album nominees had worked the Grammy party circuit together during the weekend. They met each other at the head of the red carpet before the ceremony, walked in together and sat together.

"Before the ceremony started ... we all gave each other a 'best of luck' wish in our seats," Jody Brotman said.

Following their turn at the podium, the winners were whisked through several rooms of national and international press backstage for interviews and photos. After that, they joined other nominees at the Staples Center for the prime-time Grammy Awards show and telecast. Other nominees were unavailable for immediate comment.

"We're gonna party with all the Hawai'i nominees," said Charles Brotman, of his post-telecast plans. "There's another Grammy party at the convention center for all the winners and nominees that goes until about 11. After that, who knows what will happen?"

Brotman and the other winning musicians were planning to tote the single golden grammophone along with them wherever they went last night.

"It's pretty heavy," Brotman said. "But it feels nice."

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