Lightning struck twice for Maui-resident recording artist Kalani Pe‘a when his second album, “No ‘Ane‘i,” received a Grammy Award for best regional roots album during the nontelevised portion of the 61th Annual Grammy Awards today at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Pe‘a had previously won the category with his debut album, “E Walea,” in 2017.
Taking the stage accompanied by his manager and “fiance of 10 years,” Allan B. Cool, Pe‘a accepted the award with a Hawaiian phrase that he translated into English as “the Hawaiian language shall live!” Continuing in English, Pe‘a spoke of the importance of home and family in perpetuating culture saying that “cultural learning starts in the home.” He also thanked his producer Dave Tucciarone for his work on the album, and thanked his mother for enduring a very difficult delivery in giving birth to him.
“No ‘Ane‘i” prevailed over “Aloha From Na Hoa,” by the Hawaiian trio Na Hoa, “Mewasinsational: Cree Round Dance Songs” by the Canadian powwow and round dance drum and singing group Young Spirit, and two albums representing the music of Louisiana — “Kreole Rock and Soul,” the innovative Creole-meets-rock album by African-American zydeco master Sean Ardoin and “Spyboy” by Cha Wa, a New Orleans-based group that mixes the New Orleans brass band tradition with modern funk-style rhythms and a dash of Mardi Gras costuming.
The best regional roots music category was created in 2011 as a catchall for Hawaiian, Native American/First Nation, polka and Louisiana-based Cajun and zydeco music. New Orleans-based “roots” artists have received a majority of the final nominations since the category was created, they have won it six out of eight times since it first appeared on the ballot in 2012.
Pe‘a is the only person from outside the Cajun/zydeco community to have won the best regional roots category. He is also the only Hawaii-resident recording artist to win a Grammy since the separate category of best Hawaiian music album was eliminated in 2011.
Pe‘a had been onstage earlier in the afternoon when he announced the winners in 10 other award categories. His use of basic Hawaiian phrases while doing so brought a Hawaiian sense of place to the proceedings. See video below of him presenting in the American roots performance category.