Honolulu Advertiser
By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Slack Key Snags Third Hawaiian Grammy

Producers George Kahumoku Jr., left, Paul Konwiser (behind George), Wayne Wong and Daniel Ho, (not pictured), accept the Grammy for best Hawaiian music album in Los Angeles at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards.

Photo by MARK J. TERRILL | Associated Press

Grammy proved sweet on slack key for a third consecutive year yesterday as the multi-artist instrumental and vocal compilation “Legends of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar — Live from Maui”  took home the award for best Hawaiian music album.

Golden gramophones were awarded to the disc’s producers Daniel Ho, George Kahumoku Jr., Paul Konwiser and Wayne Wong. The wins were the second in the category for Ho, Konwiser and Wong, who won last year’s best Hawaiian music album Grammy for the live, multi-artist instrumental and vocal compilation “Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 1.” It was a first for Maui ki ho’alu master and music educator Kahumoku.

The win for producers Ho, Konwiser and Wong gave the trio bragging rights to two consecutive Grammys in the three-year-old category.

The Grammy was awarded at an afternoon ceremony at the Los Angeles Convention Center, followed by a prime-time telecast at the neighboring Staples Center.

Joining the winning producers on stage were musicians Ledward Ka’apana, Richard Ho’opi’i and Peter deAquino and Garrett Probst of Da Ukulele Boys, all of whom contributed live tracks to the winning album.

Before accepting the award, the entire group paused at the microphone to sing the chorus of “Hawai’i Aloha” a capella for the audience.

Everyone on stage acknowledged the win, thanking each other, their families and musicians on the album who couldn’t attend.


It’s equally as exciting!” Ho said backstage after learning of this second Grammy win. “We jumped around. I hugged everyone in sight. I hugged people I don’t know. … But I think the coolest thing was just singing ‘Hawai’i Aloha’ together. Uncle George (Kahumoku Jr.) said, ‘Let’s sing a chorus together!’ So we did.”

At the podium, Kahumoku spoke of the importance of funding music and arts education in the public school curriculum, and the audience responded with a standing ovation.

I said that a lot of our kids are getting left behind when it comes to the arts,” said Kahumoku, who teaches at Lahainaluna High School.

The No Child Left Behind federal government act is not supporting the arts. It’s not supporting music. And I’m worried about it. I’ve been an educator for 35 years. And the arts are always what suffers when things are tough. … Something is really warped with our education system when we don’t concentrate on music and the arts.

Tracks on the “Legends” compilation (and last year’s winning “Masters” disc) were culled from live performances at Kahumoku’s weekly Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar concerts at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua.

Besides Ho, Kahumoku, Ho’opi’i, Ka’apana, deAquino and Probst, other musicians on the winning album include Cyril Pahinui, Martin Pahinui, Dennis Kamakahi, Bobby Ingano and Ozzie Kotani.

Kahumoku’s son, Keoki, can now claim the honor of contributing a track to all three winning albums in the category.


Slack-key compilations have now taken the best Hawaiian music album prize for three years running.

The category’s first Grammy went to the instrumental, multi-artist compilation “Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 2” in 2005.

Three of the five discs nominated this year were ki ho’alu based. The exceptions were vocal-driven albums by Amy Hanaiali’i and Henry Kapono.

Despite the Grammy-winning pedigree of its production team, “Legends” (like each winner in the category before it) received precious little buzz in mainstream Hawaiian music circles. But the best Hawaiian music album category is part of Grammy’s folk music field, and its primarily Mainland-based voters are probably more familiar with the music of nationwide-touring ki ho’alu players than Hawaiian-language vocals or chants.

Kahumoku credited the genre’s overwhelming Grammy success to new-age musician George Winston’s high-profile, long-running series of slack-key CD releases on his Dancing Cat label.

None of this would’ve happened without that,” Kahumoku said. “(Winston) published more than 30 artists from Uncle Sonny Chillingworth to Uncle Ray Kane. He made slack key a household name throughout the world. Dancing Cat was distributed by (recording and publishing giant) BMG, which put us in 55 countries throughout the world.”

Kahumoku supports the addition of more Grammy categories, recognizing the variety of Hawaiian music available. But he said that was likely only if more Hawai’i-based music industry people join the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences as voting members and decision makers.

The number of Hawai’i-based Grammy voters has hovered at just over a hundred for the past three years. The number of eligible voting members in the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has been estimated at more than 17,000.

The win for “Legends” is sure to revive past years’ rancor about slack key taking home the best Hawaiian music album prize; some observers argue that a disc with Hawaiian language vocals is most deserving.

But Kahumoku said ki ho’alu musicians are just as worthy of Grammy recognition.

People get pissed off and ask why slack key is winning (every year). Well, guess what? … We’re just getting respect for something we’ve done for most of our lives,” Kahumoku said.

I’ve been playing slack key since I was 8 years old. That’s almost 50 years. It’s not like we were born overnight and started doing slack key yesterday.

My great-great-grandfather played slack key in the 1830s, my great-grandfather did slack key in the 1870s. My grandmother played slack key. It’s been in our family. And it’s the same with Ledward and other (players),” he said.

Kahumoku even instructed his “Legends” producing partner Ho, who gave his teacher the Grammy Ho received for last year’s win.

I wouldn’t be playing Hawaiian music if it weren’t for Uncle George,” Ho said. “This is (a recording of) his show. He works hard at it. He brings all the guys to Maui and plays with them. For him to be recognized for his years of being a slack-key guitarist is meaningful.”

Asked how it felt to have a Grammy all his own this year, Kahumoku laughed.  “Maybe I’ll give Daniel (Ho) his Grammy back now.”

© COPYRIGHT 2007 The Honolulu Advertiser, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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