Four-time Na Hoku Hanohano Award winners Na Wai ‘Eha are now Grammy Award finalists as well. “Lovely Sunrise,” the second album by the Maui-resident quartet, is one of the five contenders in the best regional roots music category. The winner will be announced at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on Jan. 31.
“We definitely mahalo ke akua for this blessing,” the quartet said via Facebook Messenger Tuesday morning. “We also mahalo Uncle Sam Ako for being the inspiration for this album, our producer Zach Lum and engineer Mike Grande. We mahalo all the great musicians who have came before us that created this path for us to follow. Last but not least we mahalo everyone who supports our music for all the love and support! We are truly blessed! Mahalo Ke Akua!”
The quartet — brothers Kamalei and Kamaehu Kawa‘a and Kahikina and Kalanikini Juan — is the namesake of the four sacred waters of Maui (Wailuku, Waikapu, Waiehu and Waihee). Their self-titled debut album, a collection of songs honoring their family and their beloved birthplace on Maui, won them their first Na Hoku Hanohano Award, most promising artist(s), in 2019.
“Lovely Sunrise” won three Hokus — group of the year, Hawaiian music album of the year and Hawaiian language — in October.
This year’s other regional roots finalists are “My Relatives ‘Nikso Kowaiks’” by the Black Lodge Singers; “Cameron Dupuy and the Cajun Troubadours” by Cameron Dupuy and the Cajun Troubadours; “Atmosphere” by the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, and “A Tribute to Al Berard” by Sweet Cecilia.
A separate Grammy category for Hawaiian music was created in 2005 but was eliminated in 2011 when the academy cut the number of categories to 78 from 109. The best regional roots music category was created as a catchall replacement and lumps Hawaiian music together with the music of Native Americans, the zydeco and Cajun music of Louisiana, and others.
Louisiana-based recording artists dominated the category both in the number of finalists and winners until Maui’s Kalani Pe‘a won in 2017. Pe‘a won the category for the second time in 2019. Ranky Tanky, a quintet from Charleston, S.C., that specializes in jazz-influenced arrangements of the traditional African American Gullah music of the U.S. Southeast, was the winner in 2020.
Another artist with Hawaii ties, California-resident slack-key guitarist James “Kimo” West, is a finalist for best new age album for his aptly-titled “More Guitar Stories.”
“Holy moly I just found out that More Guitar Stories was nominated for a Grammy — that is crazy!” West wrote in an early morning social media post. “Mahalo to all the academy members for this honor and Ho’omaika’i (congratulations) to all the nominees!”