Slack key CD takes Grammy
By Dave Dondoneau
A slack key guitar compilation once again rules the Grammy world for Hawaiian music, and for the fifth time out of six years, so does Daniel Ho.
"Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2" is an 11-song compilation of slack key guitar and vocals by various artists, nearly all of it in the Hawaiian language. Ho and George Kahumoku Jr. — who also perform on the CD — and Paul Konwiser and Wayne Wong produced the album, marking the fourth time in six years the foursome has collaborated to produce a Grammy winner.
For Ho, it was his fifth straight Grammy win. He also paired with Tia Carrere last year to win with "Ikena."
The duo was nominated again this year for "He Nani," as were Amy Hänaiali'i for her "Friends & Family of Hawai'i" CD, and Ho'okena for "Nani Mau Loa: Everlasting Beauty."
"It really meant a lot to be recognized for the work that we do," Ho said. "There's been a fair amount of controversy (about the Hawaiian music Grammy) and I've been hearing about things, so it really meant a lot to be recognized by the Recording Academy."
All of the songs on "Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Volume 2" were performed during the Hawaiian music concert series held every Wednesday night at the Napili Kai Beach Resort on Maui.
The six-year-old series is where all four of the Grammy winning slack key compilations have been recorded. Kahumoku, Wong and Konwiser send audio recordings of hundreds of songs performed at the series to Ho in Los Angeles, and he puts the compilation together in his studio.
"This really isn't about the four of us even though we accepted the Grammy as producers," Konwiser said. "This is about the entertainers on the album. We're very proud to work with them on the concert series and to be able to have this CD done almost entirely in Hawaiian language. There's just so much talent to draw from across the Islands."
Ho said the four producers tried to incorporate falsetto, steel guitar and the 'ukulele on the compilation to give it a wide-range of appeal.
"We have Richard Ho'opi'i, we have steel guitar, we have Bobby Ingano and the 'ukulele represented as well as masters of slack key," Ho said. "It's a nice cross section of Hawaiian music, of traditional and contemporary, with a lot of great artists."
Jeff Peterson, who performs the slack key guitar solo, "Ho'olohe Nä Kupuna," on the compilation, joined the producers on stage when they accepted their Grammy statues.
While thanking the Grammy voters, Peterson's speech included a nod to Hawaiian musicians of the past and said the Hawaiian music Grammy wouldn't have been possible without them.
His speech drew raves from Konwiser as well as fellow nominees Hänaiali'i and Manu Boyd of Ho'okena.
"It would have been nice to see a mainstream Hawaiian music act (instead of a compilation of several) be recognized with a win," Boyd said. "But I'm so proud of Jeff and his acceptance speech and how he acknowledge d the musicians before him. This was our second nomination and it's been an awesome experience. Congratulations to everyone who worked on that CD."
Hänaiali'i, a four-time nominee, tweeted her congratulations to Ho, Peterson, "Uncle George" Kahumoku Jr. and the other contributors almost immediately after the winning album was announced. Prior to going on stage last night to perform live on TV at the Grammys with her brother, Eric Gilliom, and their longtime friend, actor-singer Jamie Foxx, Hänaiali'i said she was "very stoked," for the producers and artists on the compilation.
Hänaiali'i's "Friends and Family" album featured 16 duets, including one with Willie Nelson, and is her highest-selling CD to date. Because of that, she said she didn't know what to expect from Grammy voters. She was also stoked to perform live with Foxx on national TV.
"A lot of people backstage know I'm nominated but they don't understand Hawaiian music, so I'm educating them," she said. "But I'm totally stoked for Daniel, Jeff, Uncle George and everyone else who won."
Hänaiali'i is currently working on another CD, which she said is totally different from anything she's done in the past and might not fit in the Hawaiian music category. It will be out later this year.
Ho is also working on new CDs, one with Carrere and another compilation CD with Kahumoku Jr., Wang and Konwiser.
"We're halfway through it," Ho said of the compilation . "It's a great job. It's a lot of fun. I think I have the easy part."
|Audio intervew: Daniel Ho talks about winning fifth Grammy|