What is Hawaiian music? There's no one answer - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

What is Hawaiian music? There's no one answer

Daniel Ho Daniel Ho
Ku'uipo Kumukahi Ku'uipo Kumukahi
Ricardo Trimillos Ricardo Trimillos
Tia Carrere Tia Carrere

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's been just a few weeks since the Grammys announced it was dropping the Hawaiian Music category. And now, the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts is getting ready to celebrate, Hawaiian style, with it's annual Na Hoku Hanohano awards.

After that controversy, we decided to see if there's any one definition of Hawaiian Music.

Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho attracted a lot of criticism for winning the Hawaiian Music Grammy several times.

The critics said they were "working the system," Ho told a crowd at the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studios at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. "Tia Carrere winning only based on her celebrity, saying she's not a real vocalist."

But is their music, Hawaiian music?

"You can consider that as contemporary," said Ku'uipo Kumukahi, president of the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts, which is responsible for Na Hoku awards. "Obviously it's not traditional. But it doesn't meant that it doesn't define what is Hawaiian music, because over the centuries - we're in the 21st century -- that's going to change. So people will have a variety of definitions."

"Hawaiian music is moving target because it changes from one kind to another," said ethnomusicologist Ricardo Trimillos. "You have to think of the ancient Hawaiian music, or kahiko, which sounds quite different from what we call himene, or even what we would call hapa haole, or contemporary.  All of these are Hawaiian music."

So when a Grammy was awarded to Carrere's album, was it really for Hawaiian music?

"Yes and no," Trimillos said. "I mean, they're using Hawaiian tunings, and certainly it's in the Hawaiian language, so from that point of view, it fulfills at least two parts of the definition."

Carrere's album was mainly in the Hawaiian language, with lyrics by Professor Amy Ku'uleialoha Stillman. Carrere said she had hoped that her albums with Ho and Stillman would open a dialogue and spread more Hawaiian music.

"Because they know my face and my name, which is what I've been slammed for because I'm recognizable, I've introduced people to thinking about Hawaiian music in the first place," Carrere said.

So ultimately, what is Hawaiian music?

"I know it when I hear it. That's a lot of what I think is part of the working definition," said Trimillos.

"When it feels like Hawaiian music, and we can't get away from the feeling."

Related story: Na Hoku Hanohano finalists announced

Note: Ben Gutierrez is a voting member of the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts


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