WAILUKU – Maui musicians are well represented once again in Grammy nominations announced Thursday for best Hawaiian music album. Even the island itself came in for recognition in the title of one of the nominated albums.
Slack-key guitar albums again dominated the Grammy field, as they have since a separate category for Hawaiian music was created two years ago.
The three slack-key nominees are ”Grandmaster Slack Key Guitar,” by Ledward Kaapana; ”Legends of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar – Live From Maui,” by various artists; and ”Hawaiian Slack Key Kings,” by various artists. The other two nominated albums are ”Generation Hawaii,” by Amy Hanaialii Gilliom, and ”The Wild Hawaiian,” by Henry Kapono.
The “Legends of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar” compilation was recorded over the year at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, site of the weekly Wednesday night Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar concert series. It’s a follow-up to “Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Volume 1,” the first album recorded at the Ritz-Carlton and last year’s Grammy winner in the Hawaiian music category.
The new collection features many of the same artists, with Maui’s Richard Ho’opi’i along with Martin Pahinui, Bobby Ingano and Dennis Kamakahi joining last year’s winning contributors: George Kahumoku Jr., Ledward Kaapana, Cyril Pahinui, Keoki Kahumoku, Ozzie Kotani, Daniel Ho and “Da Ukulele Boyz,” cousins Peter DeQuino and Garrett Probst.
Paul Konwiser, producer of the series and one of four producers of this year’s nominated CD, expressed his delight as well as the artists’ at the news of the nomination.
“I have spoken to all of the artists this morning,” he said Thursday. “They were all very happy to be on the recording.”
After winning last year, Konwiser said he was able to vote in this year’s balloting.
“Seeing all the others out there, I was surprised that we were nominated,” he said modestly. “But I think our album was excellent.”
The sentiments were echoed by George Kahumoku Jr., who hosts the Ritz-Carlton series featuring a variety of other talents who have labeled him “the Hawaiian renaissance man.”
“It’s wonderful that we were nominated again,” Kahumoku said. “This one is far better than the first one, 10 times better. We had more experience on this one. It just has a better all-around feel.”
At the same time he expressed gratitude, Kahumoku added, “There are so many good artists out there, I think we should give everyone else a turn.”
Since winning last year’s Grammy, he reported, “My life has definitely changed. I haven’t been home in six months to work on my farm. The good thing about it is people know we’re here. The bad thing is we get so many requests to play that are hard to turn down.”
Uncle Richard Ho’opi’i was glad to find himself in the select company of Grammy nominees.
“Mr. Konwiser called me this morning. I was happy to be on the thing. It’s a consolidation of the people performing at the Ritz. I was happy to be among the up-and-coming and all the rest of the musicians.”
Richard rose to prominence performing with his brother, Sol, as the Ho’opi’i Brothers. They were winners of National Endowment of the Arts recognition in 1996, followed by Na Hoku Hanohano laurels the following year. As his career continues as a soloist, he said, “I’m fortunate in my aging just to be able to provide music for young and old.”
At the other end of the age spectrum are Da Ukulele Boyz, who also shared in last year’s Grammy win.
“I’m just excited about the album itself,” Garrett Probst said from Oahu, where he a student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
“It’s bigger than what we did before. It’s just a real solid album, a lot better than the first.
“I’m excited to be in such a great lineup,” he went on. “They really are the legends, the pioneers. We’re just following in the footsteps of Uncle George (Kahumoku). We’re so fortunate and blessed to be with all these people we look up to. Now we’re going to awards banquets with them.”
Despite being a Grammy winner, Probst echoed the humility of his mentors. “I just went back to UH. I’m hoping to get a bachelor’s degree in the music program.”
Ledward Kaapana, a contributor to the “Legends” compilation, as well as a winner last year, competes against himself this year, with nominations for his solo “Grandmaster Slack Key Guitar” album as well as his contribution to the “Hawaiian Slack Key Kings” collection.
“Led’s on all three,” observed Konwiser. “He has a three-way chance of winning.”
Similarly, Keoki Kahumoku, George’s son who grew up on Maui before moving to the Big Island, has been a contributor on both previous Grammy slack-key winners with a chance for a third win this year.
The slack key style was developed in the 1800s after Spanish cowboys – who arrived on the islands to show the natives how to care for cattle – introduced them to the guitar.
The Hawaiians devised their own tunings, loosening the strings and creating a languid, blending sound.
Hawaiian music had its own Grammy category for the first time at the 2005 awards show. ”Slack Key Guitar Volume 2,” a compilation of songs by various artists, won the 2005 Grammy for best Hawaiian music album.
Before the Recording Academy added the award, artists performing traditional Hawaiian music had been relegated to folk music categories.
While slack key recently has become synonymous with Hawaiian music in Grammy voters’ minds, Konwiser pointed out that it’s hardly an overnight sensation in island music.
“Hawaiian Slack Key Kings” producer Milton Lau has been producing the Ki Ho’alu Slack Key Guitar Festival, which has been presented free, statewide, for decades, Konwiser said. “He’s been doing this a long time. Artists like Led have been doing it their whole lives.”
The 49th Grammy Awards ceremony will be held Feb. 11 in Los Angeles.
Copyright © 2006 — The Maui News