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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews


July 2008


2008 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards

The 2008 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards were presented in Honolulu on June 17, and here are some of the highlights ---

The biggest winner of the night was the man whose name may have suggested he was predestined to win: Hōkū Zuttermeister, earning six trophies for himself and his debut disc, “`Āina Kūpuna” (reviewed here in June 2007 and archived on our website) – Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist, Most Promising Artist, Hawaiian Album, Hawaiian-language Performance, and Liner Notes (the last award going to Robert Cazimero). There was enough aloha to spread around this year, as the only other release to take home more than one award was “Nā Lani `Ehā” (reviewed below), a presentation of the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame, which won for Album of the Year as well as for Graphics.

Other individual winners included Maunalua (Group of the Year), Nāpua Grieg (Female Vocalist), Cyril Pahinui (Island Music Album), Keali`i Reichel (Music Video), Jeff Peterson (Instrumental Album), and Amy Hānaiali`i (Christmas Album). Song of the Year honors went to the self-composed title track from Weldon Kekauoha’s “Ka Lehua `Ula”; a collection of performances by Bill Ali`iloa Lincoln was named Anthology of the Year; and the Compilation Album award was given to “Aloha Slack Key,” a various-artists tribute to Gabby Pahinui. Nina Keali`iwahamana was presented with the community service award, named for the late Moe Keale.

New Releases

Ku`uipo Kumukahi and The Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame Serenaders: “Nā Lani `Ehā” ( Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame)

This album is the first release from the Hall of Fame organization and features the magnificent vocals of Hōkū winner Ku`uipo Kumukahi, singing a dozen songs composed by “The Heavenly Four” (the translation of the CD’s title) – four members of the Hawaiian royal family, considered the Patrons of Hawaiian Culture: King David Kalākaua, Queen Lydia Lili`uokalani, Princess Miriam Likelike and Prince William Pitt Leleiōhoku. Familiar standards such as “Kilauea,” “Hawai`i Pono`ī,” “`Āinahau” and “Moani Ke `Ala” are given reverential treatment, as if the performers felt they were creating the ultimate reference versions of each number.

Especially beautiful is Princess Likelike’s lyrical love song, “Ku`u Ipo I Ka He`e Pu`e One,” possibly the best known of her compositions. Considering that many feel the song was written for a girl who could not marry the one she truly loved, Kumukahi evokes a subtle sense of sadness and heartbreak in her rendition. The “Serenaders” band is primarily Dr. Isaac Akuna, who sings harmony and plays all kinds of guitars, bass and `ukulele, with harmony help from James ‘Kimo’ Stone and Joe Winchester, plus a hint of synthesized strings by Steve Kramer and narration on Queen Lili`uokalani’s “T ū t ū ” from Karen Aiu.

Howard Ai: “Kaleihulumamo” (Ginger Doggie)

This is a long-overdue recording. Ai is a respected kumu and musician, yet he’s not been one to grab the spotlight. Instead, he has allowed it to shine on the members of Halau Hula Olana, most notably his daughter Natalie (a former Miss Aloha Hula), whose own album was one of the Hawaiian music highlights of 2005. She and her husband appear as guests on this recording, as do three of his sons. They are joined by a great band that features Aaron J. Salā, plus the father-and-son team of Hiram and Casey Olsen. But it is Howard’s voice that shines throughout this collection of personal favorites, including Frank Kawaikapuokalani Hewett’s “Halalū,” Dennis Kamakahi’s “Lei Kō`ele,” classics such as “Pua Lili Lehua” and “Adios Kealoha,” the hapa-haole “Moonlight and Shadows,” and one original composition by Howard and his wife, Olana.


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