Na Hoku Hanohano Awards move into the future - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Na Hoku Hanohano Awards move into the future

Raiatea Helm Raiatea Helm
John Aeto John Aeto
Kuuipo Kumukahi Kuuipo Kumukahi
Kenneth Makuakane Kenneth Makuakane
Cyril Pahinui Cyril Pahinui

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's the biggest night in the Hawaiian music industry. Many call it the "Hawaiian Grammys."

But after an ill-fated Hawaiian Music Grammy category, and in the age of digital downloads, is the star of the Hoku awards diminished?

Many say the answer is "no." After 34 years, the awards have only gotten bigger. You don't even have to win to share in its prestige.

"When you get nominated it's a big deal," said nominee Raiatea Helm. "And it's a huge, huge achievement just to be nominated, and to even win an award. It's really great what the Hokus are doing."

One reason is that many of the people picking the nominees and the winners are other musicians.

"Nobody knows music like their peers. So when you have another guitarist voting for you, or another vocalist, it's the highest form of flattery," said John Aeto, a former member of the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts board and a business executive.

This year's awards will be the first one held after the Hawaiian Music category was cut from the Grammys after much controversy. Some local musicians say it was something nice to have, but it was just a single category.

"It's not like (best) male vocalist, female, group of the year, songwriter, composer, liner notes and all those things," said Grammy nominee and Hoku winner Cyril Pahinui. "it does not show on that Grammy."

"The Hokus is a little more -- I'd say a lot more of the people of Hawaii choosing who their favorite artists are, or the best music of that particular year," Aeto said. "And with the Grammys, I think that's one of the challenges that they were running into."

For local musicians, a Hoku may have more meaning.

"You have to take care of it," said HARA president Kuuipo Kumukahi, herself a musician. "It's not just a trophy that sits on the shelf. There's a lot of kuleana that goes behind there. How do you stand by your music industry? Your product? Your fellow members? Your fellow musicians, whether or not they are members?"

The Hoku awards have also changed with radical changes in the music industry.

"It's a lot easier to burn CDs, so one cousin can buy a CD and five cousins can have it," Aeto said. "But at the same time, with any change, there's opportunity. And that opportunity is being able to reach the world with our music."

HARA has also acknowledged that more people are buying single tracks instead of an entire album or CD.

"Now we open up the EP (extended play category), and we've reinstituted the single of the year category, which had a plethora of single releases by different artists, which is a wonderful thing," said Kenneth Makuakane, a Hoku nominee and HARA board member whose last few recordings have been available mainly as digital downloads.

Ultimately, it still comes down to the meaning of Na Hoku Hanohano -- "Stars of Distinction."

"We are all about one thing and one thing in common," Kumukahi said, "and the star is not us. The star is the music. That's important."

Previous story: List of Na Hoku Hanohano 2011 Nominees

Related story: What is Hawaiian music? There's no one answer

Related link: Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts

Related link: Na Hoku Hanohano Music Festival 

Ben Gutierrez is a member of the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.


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