Big Island recording artist Mark Yamanaka won big last night, matching the first time successes of Hawaiian music superstars Willie K and Keali’i Reichel, as his debut album, "Lei Pua Kenikeni," won Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and Most Promising Artist at the 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. Willie K was the first to sweep the three categories, doing it with his debut album, "Kahaiali’i," in 1992. Reichel became the second when he did it with his debut album, "Kawaipunahele," in 1995. Yamanaka is now the third.
The Hilo resident picked up a fourth Hoku, Song of the Year, for "Kaleoonalani," a song he wrote for his daughter, and brought her up on stage with him.
"To be singled out for Song of the Year is just crazy," he said.
It was a big night as well for Napua Makua whose second album, "Mohalu," scored her second win in the Female Vocalist category. Her debut album, "Pihana," which she recorded as Napua Grieg, won the category in 2008, so she is now two-for-two in the category. Makua also won Hawaiian Album and Favorite Entertainer, with a fourth Hoku going to the album’s graphics designer, Wailani Artates.
Willie K’s win for Christmas Album category made him another two-for-two winner. His first Christmas album, "Willie Kalikimaka" won the category in 2000.
Willie was one of several winners who was absent for one reason or another. He was represented by HARA Board member William G. Meyer III, who returned later to present the Song of the Year award with Japanese Consul General Yoshihiko Kamo.
Kuana Torres Kahele and Kehau Tamure stood in for record producer Shawn Pimental who won Anthology of the Year, a producer’s award, for "The Best of Na Palapalai." The duo returned to the podium, winners in their own right, when "He Lei Kaulana," a song they recorded and released after ending their professional relationship with Pimental, won Single of the Year.
Kamuela Kahoano, whose "Stream Dreams" album won in the Rock Album, acknowledged the other finalists in the category, several who play dramatically different styles of "rock" music, and commented that "’Rock’ is such a vague category" — a comment that should spur local recording artists who play any of the myriad sub-genres currently lumped in the existing category to make themselves known, get involved with HARA, and work for additional categories.
Kahoano also thanked his father, veteran entertainer, radio personality and recording artist Kimo Kahoano, saying that in pursuing his musical career, ""I have huge shoes to fill."
Carole Kai, known to a generation of local karaoke fans as Kimo Kahoano’s co-host on "Hawaii Stars," joined Kimo in presenting the Hokus for Compilation and Anthology during the untelevised "pre-show" presentation. Kai apparently had no idea that she was the 2011 recipient of the Moe Keale "Aloha Is" reward for Community Service and broke down in tears while accepting it.
The members of The Green, whose self-titled album won the Reggae category, made a good impression as first-time Hoku-winners. They expressed their respect to the other finalists in the category and kept their comments concise.
Herb Ohta Jr., winner of Best Instrumental Album with "’Ukulele Nahenahe," had some fun with the audience. He started naming the ukulele virtuosos who had inspired him, naming virtuoso after virtuoso but not mentioning the obvious one — his father, Herb "Ohta-san" Ohta.
Finally, someone in the audience yelled out "What about your dad?"
"I’m getting to him" Ohta said, and finally named his father as person who influenced him most
Kainani Kahaunaele swept the adjudicated Hawaiian-language categories winning both Hawaiian Language Performance and Haku Mele. She has now won Hawaiian Language Performance twice; her previous album won the award in 2004.
Kahaunaele exercised her perogative to make her acceptance speeches exclusively in Hawaiian and thereby limit her sentiments and insights to those members of the audience who were also fluent in the first language of Hawaii.
"Amy Hanaiali’i and Slack Key Masters of Hawai’i," the group project by Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom, Dennis Kamakahi, Elmer "Sonny" Lim Jr., Chino Montero, Cyril Pahinui and Jeff Peterson," won only one of the five awards it was up for but the single win was enough to make it a big night for guitarist Chino Montero. Montero had played on several Hoku-winning albums but as a sideman he had not been eligible for a Hoku when they won. This time he received a Hoku for his work.
Unfortunately, Montero was outside the ballroom when the announcement was made and therefore missed the opportunity to join the five other members of the group, and bass player Steve Jones, and in accepting the award on stage during the live broadcast.
Speaking as one member of the sextet, Kamakahi described the project as "the most fun album I’ve ever made in my life."
Pahinui got a good laugh from the crowd when he thanked "my mom and my dad," and then hastily added ‘…and my wife!"
The live performances were a mixed bag. All but three were by finalists on this year’s ballot — John Keawe with Greg Sardinha and Elmer "Sonny Lim Jr., Hot Club of Hulaville, Kupaoa and Mark Yamanaka, Rolando Sanchez, Kainani Kahaunaele, Raiatea Helm & Keola Beamer, and The Green.
Of the other three, Keali’i Reichel was a perfect fit as the impeccably Hawaiian opening of the televised show — Hawaiian in all respects. Another, Touch of Gold, doing their cover band version of the Temptations doing "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" to karaoke tracks, would have been fine as the opening act of an "oldies’ concert or at someone’s baby lu’au or wedding reception, but the group wasn’t a finalist in any Hoku category this year and didn’t belong in the televised show.
However, Touch of Gold doing a classic Hawaiian or hapa haole song arranged as the Temptations or Impressions might have sung it, and backed by musicians playing traditional hapa haole instruments, would have blown everyone away and opened a bold new chapter in hapa haole music.
Fortunately, 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award winners Kalapana brought the musical performances to the contemporary end of the cultural arc with a powerful and well-staged rendition of "Naturally" that was everything Hawaii could ask for. They opened with founding member Kirk Thompson on stage with Malani Bilyue, DJ Pratt, Kenji Sano, Gaylord Holomalia and associate members Zanuck Lindsey and Garin Poliahu. Then, when the traditional Kalapana-in-concert sax solo kicked in, it turned out that Michael Paulo and current associate member Todd Yukumoto were both playing out there in the audience — the number stretched out as a sax duet with Paulo climbing up on a table before they finally joined the rest of the band on stage.
Kalapana’s reunion performance at the Lifetime Achievement Award Show on Saturday had a stronger emotional edge because Alvin Fejarang and Randy Aloya were also part of the lineup, but the staging, camera work and producting value of the number on Sunday was more dramatic — and, yes, Bilyeu still hits those notes!
Over all, the show looked great, but it got off to slow and amateurish start when two groups of presenters had to wait for someone to bring them the envelopes from backstage. There was generally good control of the podium during the show, and almost no one needed to be reminded that their 30-seconds were up, but even so, the show seemed to run slower than it should have — and could have. Several of the musical numbers ran longer than necessary. By the end of the second hour many people were talking story, drinking and partying at the bar outside the ballroom. There were a lot of very interesting conversations going out on there.
It was, however, a great night for the Hawaii recording industry. A perfect opportunity catch up, to network, and to enjoy some of the Hawaii music industry’s most innovative and most colorful personalities.
2011 Na Hoku Award Winners:
*Most Promising Artist: Mark Yamanaka, "Lei Pua Kenikeni" (Hulu Kupuna)
*Female Vocalist of the Year: Napua Makua, "Mohalu" (Pihana)
*Male Vocalist of the Year: Mark Yamanaka, "Lei Pua Kenikeni" (Hulu Kupuna)
*Group of the Year: KuMZ, "On the Summit" (Kauakoko Foundation)
*Christmas Album: "Willie Wonderland," Willie K (Island Soul)
*Album of the Year (to artist and producers): "Lei Pua Kenikeni," Mark Yamanaka (Hulu Kupuna) (Hulu Kupuna Productions, LLC and Kale Chang, producers)
*Song of the Year (composer’s award): "Kaleoonalani," Mark Yamanaka, from "Lei Pua Kenikeni," Mark Yamanaka (Hulu Kupuna)
*Single of the Year: "He Lei Kaulana," Na Palapalai (Hulu Kupuna)
*EP of the Year: "Solo Ukulele: The King of Pop," Abe Lagrimas Jr. & Friends (Pass Out)
*Anthology of the Year (producer’s award): "The Best of Na Palapalai," Na Palapalai (Koops 2), Shawn Pimental, producer
*Compilation of the Year (producer’s award): "Kona," various artists (Ua Mau), Dave Tucciarone, producer
*Contemporary Album of the Year: "Forevermore," Ben Vegas & Maila Gibson (no label)
*Hawaiian Album of the Year: "Mohalu," Napua Makua (Pihana)
*Instrumental Album of the Year: "’Ukulele Nahenahe," Herb Ohta Jr. (Lele)
*Island Music Album of the Year: "Amy Hanaiali’i and Slack Key Masters of Hawai’i," Amy Hanaiali’i and Slack Key Masters of Hawai’i (Peterson)
*Jazz Album of the Year: "Django Would Go," Hot Club of Hulaville (Hulaville)
*R&B/Hip Hop:"Coconut Wireless" Kepa Kruse (Petroglyph)
*Reggae Album: "The Green," The Green (SheeHandsomeDevil)
*Religious Album: "Somewhere Up Ahead – Gospel Hymns of Hawaii, Vol. II," Ata Damasco (Ululoa)
*Rock Album: "Stream Dreams," Kamuela Kahoano (Green Light Go/Kahoano)
*Slack Key Album: "Play With Me Papa," John Keawe (Homestead)
*Graphics: Wailani Artates, for "Mohalu," Napua Makua (Pihana)
*Liner Notes: Puakea Nogelmeier, Kalikolihau Hannahs-Paik and Kellen Paik, for "English Rose," Kupaoa (Hulu Kupuna)
*Favorite Entertainer (by public vote): Napua Makua Adjudicated Awards:
*Haku Mele (composer’s award for first-time recorded Hawaiian-language song or chant): "’Ohai ‘Ula," by Kainani Kahaunaele, from "’Ohai ‘Ula," Kainani Kahaunaele (Koops 2)
*Hawaiian Language Performance: Kainani Kahaunaele, "’Ohai ‘Ula" (Koops2)
*Engineering: Bryan Sanchez and Jeffrey James, for "Hawaiian Girls," TTYM-Talk To You Music (TTYM)
*Ki Ho’alu Foundation Legacy Award: John Keawe
*Moe Keale “Aloha Is” Award for Community Service: Carole Kai
*Steel Guitar Legacy Award: Lorene Ruymer
For a Hoku makeover, visit Nadine Kam’s Fashion Tribe blog.