By Brooks Baehr - bio | email
Island music hit a sour note Wednesday when trustees of the Recording Academy announced they are dropping the category of Best Hawaiian Music Album from the Grammy Awards.
Mountain Apple Company, a Honolulu based music production company, issued a statement saying, "It is regrettable that - at a time when Hawaiian music as a genre is experiencing greater popularity and gaining traction with new audiences - the music industry will lose an international platform for recognizing gifted artists."
The award for best Hawaiian album was first given in 2005. Many island musicians saw it as a way to raise awareness about Hawaiian music. Many of them are disappointed the category is being dropped.
"I think it is disappointing because a lot of the people who I've been so inspired by, the great artists here in Hawaii, were never recognized," said Jeff Peterson who was nominated for a Grammy this year.
The Recording Academy reduced the number of Grammy award categories from 109 to just 78.
"I don't think Hawaiian music should take it personally because so many categories were affected. And I think it is an indication of what NARAS, The National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences, is doing in reaction to the long term down turn in commercial music sales," said Jay Junker, who teaches traditional and commercial music in the ethnomusicology program at the University of Hawaii.
Hawaiian music can still win at the Grammys but now it will be competing with polka, Cajun, and Native American music in a new category called Best Regional Roots Album.
"Hawaiian music deserves to be acknowledged as a category in its own right, not only for reasons of language but for cultural and historical reasons as well," Mountain Apple Company said in its statement.
"You cannot compare polka with Hawaiian music, with native American music and have it all in the same category," said Vicky Holt Takamine, a lecturer who teaches Hawaiian chant and dance at U.H.
Takamine calls the Grammys a "joke" because in her opinion they always give the award to the wrong artists. But Takamine is disappointed the category is being eliminated.
Amy Stillman has a different reaction. She has won two Grammys as a producer including the trophy for Best Hawaiian Album in 2011 by collaborating on "Huana Ke Aloha" with Co-producer Daniel Ho and vocalist Tia Carrere.
Stillman said having to compete with other genres for a Grammy will force local artists do a better job of promoting their product.
"I'm very thrilled about the new category of best regional roots music. I understand the disappointment that the term 'Hawaiian' is disappearing, at least for the moment, but I think this is an opportunity for Hawaiian musicians to really get out there and do some serious outreach and educating the voting membership about Hawaiian music," Stillman said. "It raises the bar to reach out to decision makers and educate them about why this music is artistically and technically merits the award," she added.