Slack key could take Grammy once again
By Wayne Harada
Who will win? Who should win?
The annual guessing game is in high gear, as the Grammy Awards — including one for Hawaiian music — are revealed Sunday from the Staples Center in Los Angeles and in a delayed KGMB9 telecast.
But don't expect to see the Hawaiian music winner on camera; the local-music category is one of those earlier-announced, under-the-radar, off-camera dealies, with the announcement generally limited to a category crawl on your TV screen or by watching a live stream of the announcement at grammy.com. Tia Carrere, nominated with Daniel Ho for "He Nani," is hosting the live-streaming pre-telecast.
Grammy voters might find it baffling that the Hawaiian Grammy, formerly under the "folk" banner, now competes in the re-named "American roots" category. In the same company: Americana, bluegrass, traditional blues, contemporary blues, traditional folk, contemporary folk, Native American music and zydeco or Cajun music.
These voting members, who play anything from bluegrass to blues, from Cajun to Native American, help decide the Hawaiian Grammy victor, so it's easy to understand why slack key has dominated over time: It's listenable, with an identifying flavor and feeling of its own, and it's easily accessible and communicable to musicians in non-conventional genres. Even with vocals, some in the Hawaiian language.
And it's not going to disappear too soon.
For what it's worth, here's my take on the Hawaiian Grammy:
WHO WILL WIN
"Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Volume 2," by various artists (Daniel Ho Creations). Voters will pick up the slack again. On this fifth live-from-Maui compilation, performers include Dennis Kamakahi, Daniel Ho, Kawika Kahiapo, Sonny Lim, Owana Salazar, George Kahumoku Jr. and Jeff Peterson. And that cover image is enticing. If "Slack Key" is the master of the Hawaiian Grammy universe, the trophies will go to the producers — Ho, Kahumoku, Paul Konwiser and Wayne Wong — not the musicians.
WHO SHOULD WIN
"Friends & Family of Hawaii ," by Amy Hänaialii (Ua Records). Hänaialii is competing in this category for the fourth time. An all-star roster of male troupers joins her — Henry Kapono, Robert Cazimero, Keali'i Reichel, Dennis Kamakahi, Kawika Kahiapo, Eric Gilliom, Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole, Nathan Aweau, Rebel Souljahz, Fiji, even Willie Nelson — and provide elements of Hawaiian, blues, and folk. And Hänaialii took a huge risk, sharing her mike and exposing a myriad of tunes and styles, so deserves a win.
WHO COULD WIN
"He Nani," by Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho (Daniel Ho Creations). Could this duo repeat? Why not? Ho has already copped a clutch of Grammy awards, the only performer-producer-label owner from the Islands to do so. He could repeat, if the voters aren't Ho-hum about his dominance.
WHAT ABOUT HO'OKENA, YOU ASK?
"Nani Mau Loa: Everlasting Beauty" (Ho'omau Inc.) is the second nominated album by the Hawaiian music foursome. While Ho'okena's vocal and instrumental work here is stellar, "Beauty" could best be described as the spoiler — a win would be an upset.
A win, of course, gives the CD and its performers or producers bragging rights. Initial result: a bounce in sales in a wounded economy. Overall impact: respect and honor, for sharing music and talent — and perhaps a surge in demand for live concerts.
The Hawaiian Grammy has had a bumpy history ever since Charles Michael Brotman's "Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2" — a compilation of slack soloists — won the initial competition in 2005.
It set up a future of slack key compilations to win and win and win again — until last year, when singer Carrere and musician Ho (a slack key performer) beat the odds and momentarily put the skids on kí hoalu.
To me, the voters are still stuck on slack and not yet widely embracing solo singers or Island groups.
Alan Yamamoto, a Cox Radio sales and event planner and a sometimes producer of CDs himself, has been a music industry resource and participant for decades.
He's been an administrator with the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts (which stages the Nä Hoku Hanohano Awards) and was one of the sparkplugs to land the Hawaiian Grammy nod from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, also known as The Recording Academy. He shed light on some questions:
Q. Why are there only four (instead of five) nominees this year?
A. A tie in the voting for what would have been the fifth position; if it was a two-way tie, there would be six in the category, so it must have been a tie between three or more.
Q. Is there a stigma, of slack-key-always-wins, in the music community?
A. Well, last year it was the Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho album that won. So now I think the stigma is Daniel Ho and his Los Angeles studio connections.
Q. The Carrere-Ho win last year met with some disenchantment locally; do you suspect a repeat win?
A. Quite possibly.While the nominees are not supposed to "campaign," I've heard that some Mainland voters are getting phone calls, e-mails and letters. But then, Kathy Griffin was seen soliciting votes on her TV show.
Reach Wayne Harada at 266-0926 or email@example.com. Read his Show Biz column Sundays in Island Life and online at showandtellhawaii.honadvblogs.com.