The Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Album of the Year is the only one that honors the work of the recording artist or group and the album producer.
Almost any album in any category can also win Album of the Year, but only if the producer or producers live here or are considered Hawaii residents.
In the 31 years the category has existed, the winners have almost always been either a Hawaiian album or some type of contemporary hapa haole rather than something pop, jazz, rock, hip hop, "urban" or reggae. The Krush (1981) and Pure Heart (1999) are the notable exceptions.
This year it’s guaranteed the winner will be either a Hawaiian or contemporary hapa haole release because all six finalists represent one of those two genres or a combination of the two.
Five of the six are also finalists in other major categories.
Three — Kupaoa, Keola Beamer & Raiatea, and Amy Hanaiali’i and Slack Key Masters of Hawai’i — are also finalists for Group of the Year. Kupaoa has seven nominations in seven categories. Keola Beamer & Raiatea has six nominations in six categories, and the sextet has five nominations in five categories.
Female Vocalist of the Year finalist Kainani Kahaunaele adds another impeccably Hawaiian album to the list of finalists with her beautiful second album, "Ohai Ula."
Mark Yamanaka, a finalist for Male Vocalist, will follow in the footsteps of Willie K, HAPA, Keali’i Reichel, Pure Heart and the Fabulous Krush if he wins Most Promising Artist and also Album of the Year for his superb debut album, "Lei Pua Kenikeni."
Kahaunaele has eight nominations in seven categories — two of the eight are in the adjudicated Haku Mele category. Yamanaka has seven nominations in seven categories. He and Kahaunaele are both finalists in the prestigious Hawaiian Language Performance category.
The sixth finalist for Album of the Year is "The Best of Na Palapalai," an assortment of 13 songs culled apparently at random from the three albums they recorded for the label that launched them as Hoku Award-winners with "Makani ‘Olu’olu" almost a decade ago.
That was then, this is now. One member of the trio has resigned and the other two now record for another label. If this low-budget recycling project becomes the second anthology in Hoku Award history to win Album of the Year, the award will go to the producer, Shawn Pimental, and three talented performers who no longer work together.
FRIDAY: Most Promising Artist
Past Album of Year Winners
1980 – "Tropical Storm," Peter Moon Band (producer not named)
1981 – "Fabulous Krush," The Krush (Brian Robertshaw, producer)
1982 – "Come To Me Gently," Olomana (Jerry Santos, Robert Beaumont and Mike Kelly, producers)
1983 – "Cane Fire!" Peter Moon Band (Panini Records, producer)
1984 – "Escape To Paradise," Kapono Beamer (Kapono Beamer and David Talisman, producers)
1985 – "Island In Your Eyes," Brothers Cazimero (Jon de Mello, producer)
1986 – "Hawaiian Passion," Tony Conjugacion (Ken Kahanu Post, producer)
1987 – "Ho’ola," Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau (Lea Uehara, producer)
1988 – "Black Orchid," Peter Moon Band (Kanikapila Records, producers)
1989 – "Good Times Together," Cecilio & Kapono (Cecilio & Kapono, producers)
1990 – "Ho’ike," Pandanus Club (Kenneth Makuakane, producer)
1991 – "Self Portrait," Teresa Bright (Kata Maduli, producer)
1992 – "Kahaiali’i," Willie K (Willie K and Pierre Grill, producers)
1993 – "Ho’oluana," Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau (Kata Maduli, producer)
1994 – "Hapa," HAPA (Barry Flanagan, producer)
1995 – "Kawaipunahele," Keali’i Reichel (Keali’i Reichel and Fred Krauss, producer)
1996 – "Flying With Angels," Na Leo Pilimehana (Na Leo Pilimehana and Kenneth Makuakane, producers)
1997 – "’N Dis Life," Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and Gaylord Holomalia, producers)
1998 – "Hawaiian Tradition," Amy Hanaiali’i (Willie K, producer)
1999 – "Pure Heart," Pure Heart (Tracy Terada and Steve Kramer, producers)
2000 – "Meleana," Keali’i Reichel (Keali’i Reichel, Fred Krauss and Jim Linkner, producers)
2001 – "A Pocketful of Paradise," Na Leo Pilimehana (Na Leo Pilimehana and Kenneth Makuakane, producers)
2002 – "Spread A Little Aloha," Mana’o Company (Danny Kennedy and Dave Tucciarone, producers)
2003 – "Makani ‘Olu’olu," Na Palapalai (Shawn Pimental, producer)
2004 – "Ke’alaokamaile," Keali’i Reichel (Keali’i Reichel, Fred Krauss, Jim Linkner and Keola Beamer, producers)
2005 – "Eddie Kamae – Sons of Hawaii," Eddie Kamae & The Sons of Hawaii (Hawaii Sons Inc., producers)
2006 – "Maui," HAPA (Nathan Aweau and Barry Flanagan, producers)
2007 – "Generation Hawai’i," Amy Hanaiali’i (Amy Hanaiali’i, Michael Ruff and Hanaiali’i Records, producers)
2008 – "The Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Presents – Na Lani ‘Eha," Ku’uipo Kumukahi and the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Serenaders (Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame, Dr. Isaac Akuna, Karen Aiu, Ku uipo Kumukahi and Steve Kramer, producers)
2009 – "…With Aloha," Pali (D.J. Pratt and Pali Ka’aihue, producers)
2010 – "Family and Friends of Hawai’i," Amy Hanaiali’i (Amy Hanaiali’i and Matt Catingub, producers)