The math does not support it. The evidence does. There is just way more incredible musical talent in Hawaii than one would think such a small community could possibly produce. And it was beautifully showcased in one magical evening at the Hawaii Convention Center on May 24. Na Hoku Hanohano 2014 brought together musicians and mayors and people who just like to trot their threads--and awe-struck first-timers like myself.
Channeling John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix, Henry Kapono spoke of a world that will know peace "when the power of love overcomes the love of power." Then he and Jake Shimabukuro let their strings do the speaking. As did Yoza and Willie K, Jeff Petersen and Makana and other winners, past and present whose performances punctuated the announcement of awards, demonstrating as they performed, how tough the selection process must have been.
Ties of family and friends ran strong throughout the program. Female Vocalist of the Year, Hulu Lindsey won for her album A He Leo Wale Nō E. She thanked her daughter, Nāpua Greig for "not wanting to take any votes away from her mama"--a reference to Greig's decision to withdraw her album from the list of finalists once she saw her mother's name on it. One observer, calling the mother and daughter "a class act," remarked: "It is a true family that humbly and beautifully chooses not to compete with each other but instead decides to support each other."
Nāpua's Lei Kulāia won in the best Christmas album category.
Female Vocalist of the Year, Hulu Lindsey.
In accepting the award for Instrumental Composition for Nāpili Bay, David Kamakahi paid tribute to his two teachers: his late father, Dennis Kamakahi and Herb Ohta Jr. David Kamakahi had earlier honored the memory of his father by playing three of his compositions in the lead-up to the awards.
Yoza, who won for R & B album of the year, performed with Willy K.
The Contemporary Album of the Year was presented to Cast your Cares by Kapena de Lima, whose mother accepted on his behalf. "We have come full circle," she said pointing out that his father had won the exact same award in the year of her son's birth.
Mark Yamanaka accepted his awards flanked by family. Presenter Keali`i Reichel
hugs Kamaka Kukona who took home two awards.
"Hilo is Good People"
Each of the winners walked to the stage accompanied by whispered -or less bashful shout-outs for their island roots. One could hear the various islands being named and claimed with pride, as the awards were announced. No one was more proud of his Hilo hometown roots than Mark Yamanaka who took honors for Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and Hawaiian Music Album of the Year. Sharing the Male Vocalist award was Kamaka Kukona who was also named Most Promising Artist of the Year.
The Green, currently on tour on the mainland, had Kumu Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu receive the awards they won, including Group of the Year--a first-time win by a reggae group in this category. In a move that fit perfectly with the call to love that opened the evening, Kumu Hina invited the audience to rise and stand with the musicians whose music, she said, is made possible by the support and encouragement of the community.
Kumu Hina Wong received the awards on behalf of The Green.
Another heartfelt shout out -not for his island but for his steel guitar-- came from Greg Sardinha who welcomed his win for the Instrumental Album of the Year as a much needed boost. "We need a little help," he said, referring to the steel guitar lagging behind the lead billing the ukulele and slack-key guitar typically enjoy.
Reach for the Stars: They sing
People wandering out of the ballroom where the festivities were going on could walk to the edge of the lobby and look out at the beautifully lit cascading fountains and across the Ala Wai Canal to the bright lights of the Honolulu city skyline. It is a spectacular sight.
But on Saturday, May 24, all the stars were to be found inside at Na Hoku Hanohano 2014. As Mark Yamanaka said when he came up for the final time to get his award for Album of the Year: "Fo' real."
Na Hoku 2014 drew political stars as well.