KAHULUI – When the 48th annual Grammy Awards are televised in February from Los Angeles, five artists with Maui County ties may be walking the red carpet – Molokai falsetto stylist Raiatea Helm for her second album, “Sweet & Lovely”; and musicians George Kahumoku Jr., Keoki Kahumoku, Peter deAquino and Garrett Probst for the compilation “Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar – Volume 1.”
In its second year as a Grammy Award category, the Best Hawaiian Music Album field also includes Kapono Beamer’s “Slack Key Dreams of the Ponomoe”; “Kiho’alu – Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar” by Ledward Ka’apana; and Sonny Lim’s “Slack Key Guitar: The Artistry of Sonny Lim.” Nominees were announced Thursday in New York.
“Wow, I just want to go and have a great time,” Helm said Thursday morning on Maui. “It’s going to be a great, great experience. For me it’s really exciting to be part of that, knowing that I’m 21 and coming out with my talent, my gift and bringing out my music that I have.
“And coming from Molokai, that’s a big thing coming from Molokai. I just can’t wait to go. All these mainstream artists on the Mainland – I just want to go for the experience, knowing that I’m going to represent Hawaii.”
Helm’s album features cuts with the legendary Genoa Keawe (“Hu’i E”), past Grammy nominee Keali’i Reichel (“Haole Hula”) and Molokai kumu hula John Ka’imikaua, who chants to introduce his composition, “Ku’u Lei Pua Kukui O Kamakou.”
“I had a chance to spend time with Aunty Genoa,” Helm recalled. “She has been a great aspect in my career. That’s what everyone says, ‘Oh Raiatea, she’s the next Genoa Keawe.’ Actually having her come into the studio and we worked together – it’s really a great, great honor to have her be part of the album.”
Kahumoku Jr., caught between classes at Lahainaluna High School, where he teaches drawing, painting and ceramics, said he comes out of the slack key tradition of his great-great-grandparents, Willy and Koko’o Kahumoku, who raised him in Kealia, South Kona.
“I feel really ecstatic,” he said of the nomination, also crediting his Kona cousin Michael Naihe for passing along the family stylings.
“Masters” is a compilation of live performances from the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua’s Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Concert Series on Wednesday evenings. The album was Slack Key Album of the Year at this year’s eighth annual Hawai’i Music Awards.
Kahumoku Jr. said Ritz-Carlton executives may accompany him to the Grammys to be held on Feb. 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. His son, Keoki Kahumoku, was a part of this year’s Grammy-winning Hawaiian music album – “Slack Key Guitar Volume 2.”
“Last time he won. It’s kinda neat, it’s all in the family,” the dad said.
Keoki Kahumoku performed and taught ukulele for eight years on Maui before becoming a pig trapper in Hilo three Christmases ago. The younger Kahumoku said his Grammy project enhanced his image among those who knew him only as a purveyor of pork.
“Now, for all the gigs for all the farmers and companies that have their holiday celebration parties, they tell me to not only bring the kalua pig, but also bring my guitar,” he said by phone between pig-feeding chores.
Two of the album’s three producers are at least part-time Maui residents. Paul Konwiser, a Honokowai resident, said the award was unimagined and not only cool, but “cryogenic.”
Wayne Wong, a quarter-time resident of the Valley Isle, said from Seattle, “We’re all extremely excited. It’s just hard to believe something of this magnitude can happen to us local boys. . . . It’s such a nice validation from our record industry peers.
“We’re performing our guitar traditions and finally getting recognition from the rest of the world. It’s fantastic not just for us but also for ki ho’alu (slack key),” he said.
DeAquino and Probst, two Maui artists on the album’s, “Little Rock Getaway,” perform as Da ‘Ukulele Boys regularly at Hula Grill.
The CD features other notable guitarists including previous nominee Ledward Kaapana, Cyril Pahinui, Ozzie Kotani and Daniel Ho of Los Angeles, who is the “Masters” album’s third producer.
Oahu resident Jack Johnson received two nominations in higher-profile Grammy categories – Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” and Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals for “Gone Going” with the Black Eyed Peas.
Gov. Linda Lingle issued a statement congratulating Johnson and the Hawaiian album nominees.
“Their creative efforts have enriched people around the world, while defining the rich cultural heritage of our islands,” Lingle said.
KGMB, channels 9 and 3 on Maui, will televise the Grammys at 7 p.m. on Feb. 8.
DeAquino said he’s ready to see the big lights.
“I’ll roll up in my aloha tuxedo,” the 21-year-old Baldwin High graduate said.
“It would be an experience to see all those stars, maybe walk the red carpet – nah, nah. . . . If I can cover my gigs, I would love to.”
His many accomplishments and projects consume his life. But it is through his music that he shares his spirit with thousands of others and perhaps, in doing so, replenishes his own soul.
Copyright © 2005 — The Maui News