History was made today as “E Walea,” the debut album by Hawaiian recording artist Kalani Pe‘a, was named the winner of the Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Album during the non-televised portion of the 59th Annual Grammy Awards this afternoon at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
It was the first time in the history of the category that the award had been won by a Native-Hawaiian recording artist. It was also the first time since the category was created in 2011 that the award had not been won by a Louisiana-based Cajun or zydeco album.
Pe‘a’s album contains seven of his own Hawaiian-language compositions, several of his favorite Hawaiian classics, and remakes of two pop hits — “You Are So Beautiful” and “Always and Forever” — that he sings in English and Hawaiian.
The Best Regional Roots Music category was created in 2011 as a catch-all for Hawaiian, Native-American, polka and Louisiana-based Cajun and zydeco music. New Orleans-based “roots” artists have received a majority of the final nominations every year since and won the award from the time it first appeared on the ballot in 2012 through last year’s Grammy voting in 2016.
The other finalists in the category this year were “It’s A Cree Thing” by Northern Cree, a Native-American powwow drum and singing group from in Alberta, Canada, and three that represented the Cajun and zydoco musical traditions of Louisiana — “Broken Promised Land,” by Barry Jean Ancelet & Sam Broussard, “Golfstream,” by Roddie Romero and The Hub City All-Stars, and a compilation album, “I Wanna Sing Right: Rediscovering Lomax In The Evangeline Country,” produced by Joshua Caffery and Joel Savoy.