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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 7, 2007

Tia Carrere up for Hawaiian music Grammy

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

HAWAIIAN MUSIC GRAMMY NOMINEES

  • "Ka Hikina O Ka Hau (The Coming of the Snow)," by Keola Beamer (Dancing Cat Productions). Beamer, a prolific singer-composer-musician from a fabled kama'aina family, here offers up an all-instrumental disc.

  • "Hawaiiana," by Tia Carrere (Daniel Ho Creations). Carrere, a singer-actress widely known for voicing the role of Nani on Disney's "Lilo & Stitch," is a first-time nominee. On the CD, she covers Island songs she grew up with.

  • "He'iea," by Cyril Pahinui (Dancing Cat Productions). Pahinui is a first-time nominee as a soloist but played on the compilations that won the 2007 and 2006 Hawaiian Music Grammys.

  • "Hawaiian Blossom," by Raiatea Helm (Raiatea Helm Records). This is Helm's second nomination for solo CDs that showcase her popular falsetto.

  • "Treasures of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar," by various artists (Daniel Ho Creations). Ho, a musician and a producer, won the 2007 and 2006 Grammys for his slack-key compilations.

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    As the nominations for Best Hawaiian Music Album in the Grammy Awards were announced yesterday, one first-time nominee, Tia Carrere, popped up with potential to be a surprise winner she is a Hollywood veteran with Hawai'i ties and celebrity on her side, and her name recognition may count with Mainland music industry voters.

    Outcome of the Grammy competition isn't completely predictable, but it's open to conjecture, based on past results. Hawaiian music will be recognized for a fourth year on Feb. 10, 2008, when a winner is announced.

    It's possible that Daniel Ho, who produced Carrere's first Hawaiian album, could be a three-peater, copping a Grammy for yet another compilation of ki ho'alu music. Voters of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences so far have snubbed vocalists in favor of albums containing mostly instrumental slack key music, even if the sung tradition is very much a part of the Hawaiian genre.

    The legendary appeal of the Pahinui line may hold sway. Cyril Pahinui is a nominee, this time as a soloist. Anyone who knows slack key knows of Gabby "Pops" Pahinui, the iconic master of the genre, and his sons, including Cyril.

    Young, celebrated singer Raiatea Helm may take the prize in her second shot at the award.

    Or Keola Beamer, a master of ki ho'alu so far overlooked by the Grammy Awards, could win the honor after decades of groundbreaking work on his own label and with Dancing Cat Records, George Winston's label, which has been largely responsible for exposing slack-key guitar to a mass audience.

    The two female nominees learned about their nomination from phone calls from The Advertiser early yesterday.

    "I've gotten awards for my acting before, but singing always has been where my heart is," Carrere said. "Being Grammy-nominated is great; being a Grammy winner, well, is greater. There are folks who deserve it far more than me I mean, these guys, like Keola Beamer and Cyril Pahinui, are legendary, and we all grew up with their music and I can't believe I'm in the game. I will work hard to win it."

    Carrere has made other records, but she said this one matters most.

    "What I'm always sad about is that I have to be away from the place I love in order to do the things I love," she said. "I've always wanted to represent Hawai'i in my work, which is why I did those 'Lilo & Stitch' shows, and hopefully, one of my songs (from the nominated album) will wind up in movies someday. My next step is to try to do films in Hawai'i."

    Helm, who was nominated last year for her CD "Sweet and Lovely," said she slept through the initial announcement, then woke up to check messages. "I'm really excited for 2008," she said. "That (earlier) nomination may have helped me establish myself, and I know what the experience is like, having been on the scene. It's nice to know that people in the mainstream industry are supporting Hawaiian music."

    Ho is proving to have a golden touch when it comes to the Grammys. He had a hand in two of the nominated albums.

    He was in Japan yesterday, en route home to Los Angeles, but contacted The Advertiser to say that his current nomination "is just as exciting as the very first nomination we ever received."

    "Treasures of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar" is a venture with producer partners Uncle George Kahumoku Jr., Paul Konwiser and Wayne Wong. The disc assembles performances that were recorded at a Masters of Slack Key Guitar Concert series on Maui, and includes Cyril Pahinui, Martin Pahinui, Ho himself, Ledward Ka'apana and Owana Salazar.

    "I'm thankful that they invited us to be a part of this wonderful series; we have an exceptional group of artists," Ho said.

    And then there's Carrere's project. Ho produced Carrere's CD because they are lifelong friends and music colleagues from high school days, when he attended St. Louis and she attended Sacred Hearts Academy, he said.

    "We've been making music together since our high school days and 'Hawaiiana' represents our reconnection after 20 years," Ho said. "The album is our musical journey back to our roots; it touches upon our influences, upbringing and the importance of sharing what it means to be from Hawai'i."

    Pahinui, reached on the Big Island where he lives when not on O'ahu, has felt the Grammy glow through his award-winning compilations, but he said this solo endeavor brings him a lot of pride.

    "There are two (winners) I'm on, but I'm so happy with the solo album. I hope I can win," he said, after pulling off the road to talk about the nomination.

    "My father was always my mentor, and I've always asked him for guidance, even after he died," said Pahinui.

    "I know my dad is very happy today, smiling down at me with ma. I have paid my dues, playing since I was 17 (he's 57 now), and if there's controversy over compilations winning, I hope my solo one will do it so I can make the Hawaiians proud. I feel so overwhelmed."

    Beamer, who was not available for comment, is one of the pioneers of ki ho'alu on the national scale. Long an admired performer in the Islands, his music came to international prominence on Dancing Cat Records, George Winston's record label.

    Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.