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Gregg Porter's Music Reviews


March 2006


Hawaiian Grammy

Fans of slack key guitar are celebrating their second Grammy Award win for “Hawaiian Album of the Year” in as many years. This year’s recipient is the compilation disc Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Volume 1, on the Daniel Ho Creations label. While the album features live recordings by Photo by Lydia MiyashiroLedward Ka`apana, George Kahumoku, Jr., Cyril Pahinui, Ozzie Kotani, Keoki Kahumoku, Daniel Ho, and “Da `Ukulele Boys” (Peter DeAquino and Garrett Probst), the actual award is given to the CD’s producers (Daniel Ho, Wayne Wong & Paul Konwiser), as per Grammy rules for compilations.

The recordings all come from a live concert series, held weekly at the Ritz Carlton, Kapalua, Maui, since October of 2003. (In fact, Pahinui and Konwiser were unable to attend the Grammy celebration in Los Angeles on February 8, because they were handling that evening’s concert.) Producers Ho and Wong were on hand to receive their statuettes at a pre-telecast ceremony held that afternoon. News of the win reached various sources, including Hawaiian newspaper websites, before 1:00 Pacific Time that Wednesday afternoon. Also present at the Staples Center to join the producers on stage were both Kahumokus (father and son), and DeAquino & Probst; Ka`apana was talking with someone when the winner was announced, but met up with everyone else backstage for photos immediately following.

Ka`apana was also a nominee for his own solo album, as were Sonny Lim (who participated in last year’s Grammy winning release, Slack Key Guitar, Volume 2 on Palm Records), Kapono Beamer and Raiatea Helm, who were all attending the ceremony. Four out of the five nominees had “slack key” in the title, which, following on the heels of last year’s winner, fuels additional speculation as to how strong the effect of Mainland voters on the Hawaiian Album category continues to be. There are approximately 17,000 eligible voters in NARAS/The Recording Academy (including this writer), but only about 100 of them hail from Hawai`i. The Hawaiian Album is considered part of the Folk field, so members who wanted to vote in that field could also vote on releases in the Traditional Folk, Contemporary Folk, and Native American Album categories. Mainland voters who know of Hawaiian music at all are more likely to be familiar with kī hō`alu than Hawaiian-language songs.

Hawai`i Academy of Recording Arts President Alan Yamamoto (who is also an officer in the Pacific Northwest Chapter of NARAS) thinks that last year’s win did generate additional interest in the genre, but doesn’t think slack key guitar music will dominate Grammy wins that much in the future. Originally, the winning album was not intended to be in existence at all, as the recordings were only made for archival purposes, so that George Kahumoku, Jr.’s brother-in-law (new-age pianist, Dancing Cat Records founder and slack key aficionado George Winston) could hear the Maui shows.

Producer Ho recently answered questions for Northwest Hawai`i Times:

Can you recall what your thoughts were when they announced that your CD was the Grammy winner, as well as when you learned of your nomination?

Disbelief. EXCITEMENT, then a deep sense of thankfulness. I was thrilled when I learned of the nomination. Considering Hawai`i released over 170 albums last year, we were all very surprised to be among the 5 nominees. The afternoon of February 8, 2006 , however, was THE most exciting day of my 17 years as a musician. We are a small, but growing, independent label that has been releasing slack key and ukulele music for 8 years. For our work to be recognized with this honor was beyond our wildest dreams!

In creating this CD, how did you decide which musicians would be featured, and what selections?

The CD is a compilation of the best performances taken from over 100 slack key shows at the Ritz Carlton. Over the course of several days, we went through every single recording and evaluated them based on performance, sound quality, noise, etc. There are so many factors to live recordings that are not issues in studio projects. It was quite a process. The artists selected were chosen by Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Productions (Paul Konwiser, Wayne Wong, George Kahumoku, Jr. and Nancy Kahumoku).

Kī hō`alu music has seen a resurgence in the past decade, particularly on the Mainland. What effect do you think this Grammy win, as well as last year's, will have on slack key?

I believe it will have a positive impact. George Winston and Dancing Cat Records have paved the "slack key" road for all of us. I'm aware of the controversy in Hawai`i involving the Grammy and slack key, but we're just doing what we love, and have been long before there was a Hawaiian category at the Grammys.

What's next for the label, and how soon are we likely to see the next volumes of this series?

Right now, I am finishing two CDs: Step 2 by Herb Ohta, Jr. and Daniel Ho, and Na Ano: the Seeds by George Kahumoku, Jr. We are all going out on tour the third week of March to support these CDs. Uncle George will be touring the West Coast with Dennis Kamakahi and Cyril Pahinui (including a Seattle stop at Town Hall on March 31), while Herb and I will be headed to Japan for 2-1/2 weeks. Herb Ohta, Jr. and I are writing an `ukulele instructional book that will be released in June. Keoki Kahumoku's CD, which we recorded while he was in California for the Grammys, will also be released in June. Gordon Mark's 2nd solo ukulele CD is slated for late summer, and the Legends of Slack Key Guitar - Live From Maui will be released in August or September. It will feature many of the artists on Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Volume 1 plus a few more special guests!

For more information:

  • CDs from Daniel Ho Creations and tour schedules: www.DanielHo.com
  • Wednesday night slack key concerts at the Ritz Carlton on Maui : www.slackkey.com, (888) 669-3858

    (Mahalo to Andy Wang and TaroPatch.net for contributions to this article.)


Photo caption:

Part of the team responsible for this year’s Grammy Award-winning Hawaiian Album, relaxing in Los Angeles the morning after the ceremonies –

(L to R) Garrett Probst & Peter deAquino (Da `Ukulele Boys), Keoki Kahumoku, George Kahumoku, Jr., and producer/label owner Daniel Ho.

Photo by Lydia Miyashiro.



More notes from the Grammy Awards: the soundtrack album from the film Good Night, and Good Luck won the award for Best Jazz Vocal Album, featuring singer Dianne Reeves. Honolulu Pops conductor Matt Catingub arranged the songs for the soundtrack, and played saxophone on the sessions (as well as appearing in the film.) --- Illinois senator and Punahou graduate Barack Obama took home the Best Spoken Word Album statuette for the audio-book of his autobiography. --- O`ahu North Shore resident Jack Johnson was shut out of the awards in the two categories where he had received nominations.

Hawaiian music tours coming to the region include Hapa (Triple Door, March 7, two shows); slack-key masters Dennis Kamakahi, Cyril Pahinui, and George Kahumoku, Jr. (Town Hall, March 31 – correction from last month: Patrick Landeza is NOT one of the players in this concert, but it will be followed by Landeza’s Hawaiian Music Institute workshops with Dennis and David Kamakahi, among others, on April 1 and 2); and Jake Shimabukuro (Benaroya Hall, April 7 & Portland on April 8.) --- Shimabukuro’s signing with the renowned William Morris Agency made a big splash last fall, but he’s already parted company with them. His booking agent, Scott Galloway, left WMA for a position with an agency in Nashville, and Shimabukuro enjoyed working with Galloway so much, he changed agencies along with him.

The Hawaiian music scene lost another performer recently, when big-band leader Del Courtney passed away on February 11th. Originally based in the Bay Area as a musician, bandleader and radio host from the 1930s to the 1970s, he worked with Bing Crosby, the Ink Spots, Carmen Miranda, and many other superstars. In 1978, he moved to Hawai`i , eventually leading the music for tea dances at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Courtney was 95.



Hawaii Music Awards - People's Choice Winners

Adult Contemporary / “Back to Hawai`i ” Stuart Nakai

Anthology / “Kamahiwa: Collection One” Keali`i Reichel

Blues / “Live at the Stopwatch” Chance & the BluesDaddies

Children's Music / “Surf, Sand & Song” Keiki O Waimanalo

Classical / “Fantasies” by Grace Nikae

Compilation / “Aloha Festivals Falsetto Contest Winners, Vol. 6”

Contemporary Hawaiian / “My Island Paradise ” Manny K. Fernandez

Country / “My 9th Island Paniolo Ranch” Danny Estocado

DVD / “They Call Her Lady Fingers - Betty Loo Taylor ” Sam Polson & Patricia Gillespie

Film Score / “Ho`okipa” Ho`okipa

Folk / “All The Things I Said” Ray Bumatai

Hip Hop / “The Greatest HI” Krystiles featuring Floers

Inspirational/Gospel / “Hymns of Hawai`i , Vol. 2” George Kahumoku, Jr. & Daniel Ho

Instrumental / “Aloha From Hawai`i ” Greg and Junko MacDonald

International Hawaiian / “The Island of Angels ” Anella

Island Contemporary / “UnCut” INoA`ole

Jazz / “Bass Etude” Nathan Aweau

New Age / “Rainforest Piano and Harp” Keith Scott & Amy Heindl

Polynesian / “Mama” Mt. Vaea Band

Pop / “Jasmine Trias” Jasmine Trias

Punk/Ska / “Scary Beast” WMF

R & B / “Tha3LOGY” Aziel

Rap / “My Life” J-Bird

Reggae / “Ekolu Music” Ekolu

Rock / “Dragon” Jake Shimabukuro

Seasonal / “An Old-Fashioned Christmas” Opihi Pickers & Friends

Single / “Luau Cha Cha Cha” Sonya Mendez

Slack Key Guitar / “Kīhō`alu” Ledward Ka`apana

Steel Guitar / “Master of the Steel Guitar” Jerry Byrd

Traditional Hawaiian / “He `Olu” Holunape

`Ukulele / “Hear…” Brittni Paiva

World Music / “Mutambo!” Mabanzi Marimba


Hawaii Music Awards - Lifetime Legacy Awards Winners

Governor's Fine Arts Award: George Naope

Mayor's Performing Arts Award: Don Ho

Lifetime Achievement: Betty Loo Taylor

Entertainer: Al Harrington

Best Show: Cha & Jack Thompson

Male Vocalist: Jimmy Borges

Female Vocalist: Sonya Mendez

Musical Group: Keith & Carmen Haugen

Studio Musician: Jimmy Funai

Songwriter: Eddie Suzuki

Producer: Gordon Broad

Engineer: Charlie Lukela

Music Tech: Randy Bauske

Music Educator: Punahou High School Music Deptartment

Loyal Garner Award: “Na Mele: Traditions in Hawaiian Song” (PBS Hawaii)

Christian Riese Lassen Best Album Artwork: “Kamahiwa: Collection One” Keali`i Reichel

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