Na Hoku Hanohano Awards

Hawaii’s most prestigious musical awards, the Na Hoku Hanohano Music Festival, will begin this Thursday, May 26th, in Honolulu. For the 34th year, the Hokus (as they are affectionately known) will honor the top stars in Hawaiian music. Originally conceived as a radio station promotion in 1977 by Hawaiian radio legend Krash Kealoha, the award festival has blossomed into the biggest night for the Hawaiian music industry. Interestingly, this year’s Na Hoku Festival follows the recent announcement that the Hawaiian Music category was cut from the Grammy’s. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) decided this past April that Hawaiian music (a new category that debuted in 2005) would be one of 31 categories eliminated. Not that a lot of Hawaiian musicians are lamenting the loss of the Grammy award. Mired in controversy since the first Grammy was awarded to a slack key compilation in 2005, each successive year discontentment grew, even warranting a feature article in The New York Times this last February. And that was before Tia Carrere’s Hawaiian language album Huana Ke Aloha won the 2011 Grammy. Much of what caused this friction lies in the different variations of Hawaiian music, from the always popular slack key guitar songs to the traditional Hawaiian language compositions. With 27 award categories, almost all of which are voted on by the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts organization, this Sunday’s Na Hoku Hanohano Music Awards continues to be the most comprehensive representation of Hawaiian music. Leading the 2011 Na Hoku ballot with eight nominations is Kainani Kahaunaele. This talented musician and singer from Kauai will be honored for her second album, Ohai Ula. Despite the rising popularity of Hawaiian music around the world, it still remains a relatively undervalued genre of music. To the majority of the world Hawaiian music will always conjure one indelible name, Don Ho. The most well-known Hawaiian entertainer, Don Ho’s tremendous talent entertained visitors to Hawaii for over 40 years. With such signature hits as “Tiny Bubbles” and “Pearl Shells,” Ho’s nightly performances in Waikiki were beloved by visitors and locals alike. Hawaii’s latest musical export to the world was Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwoole, whose medley of “Over the Rainbow/It’s a Wonderful World” has been featured in multiple movies, television shows and commercials. The song, with its sparse arrangement of ukulele and Iz’s serene voice, has become not only a Hawaiian classic but a favorite of music lovers around the world. Not surprisingly, Iz was also the recipient of multiple Na Hoku awards during his illustrious career. The 2011 award show, hosted at the Honolulu Convention Center, will be broadcast on the TV station KFVE at 7 p.m. on May 29th. You can even watch it online at the KFVE website if you’re not here in Hawaii.

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