In the Mix

‘Hawaiian Grammy’ controversy

February 16th, 2011

After being dominated the last few years by Los Angeles-based recording artist/producer Daniel Ho, the Best Hawaiian Music Album category in the annual Grammy Awards has become quite the controversial topic once again this week, after Hawaii-born artist Tia Carrere (pictured at right with Ho) won her second trophy for "Huana ke Aloha" on Sunday.

If you haven't been paying attention, go check out this story by my Honolulu Star-Advertiser colleague John Berger, who did a good job of speaking to a lot of the parties involved.

Basically, it comes down to this: Hawaii-based recording artists have started to realize that the Grammy playing field isn't exactly level, and there are different opinions as to what needs to be done. While some believe there needs to be more sub-categories in the Best Hawaiian Album category, others are starting to think the right move would be to petition the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences to kill off the category altogether.

If Hawaii-based artists want to take the ball and go home, so to speak, they can try. But it's not likely that NARAS will listen to non-members with a bone to pick, and the thought of complaining because the "right" record didn't win a Grammy is ridiculous.

At the same time, local artists do have the right to voice their opinions. Dennis Kamakahi, who was nominated for his work on Amy Hanaiali'i's "Amy Hanaiali'i and Slack Key Masters of Hawaii," posted on Twitter what a number of other people were thinking last Sunday night.

"We've been robbed," he wrote.

Robbed? Probably. Was it preventable? Definitely.

AS WAS noted in Berger's story, the same record label (Daniel Ho Creations) has won the Grammy for Best Hawaiian Music Album six out of the last seven years.

Ho, who is based in Los Angeles and participates in numerous Grammy-related events during the year, deserves recognition for his ability to play the game and get his music in front of the Academy's voting members. It's a matter of visibility — if you live on the mainland, it's always going to be easier (and cheaper) to take part in the politics that surround the awards.

Another point to consider: Of the 11,000 music industry professionals within NARAS' voting membership, only a small number are from Hawaii or have any practical experience evaluating Hawaiian music. Many local artists are not NARAS members, which means we have no voice on a national level when it comes to submitting our best music for award consideration.

"How many (NARAS voters) are experts in Hawaiian music," The Mountain Apple Co. president Leah Bernstein asked in Berger's story. "We don't know. … If all the people (in Hawaii) who are qualified to vote in the Hawaiian Grammy category here would join, I think we would have enough a bloc that we could determine what everybody feels is the right thing."

Another way to put it: You've got to get in to fit in. Unless more local artists join NARAS and become voting members, it will be up to mostly mainland haole who determine what the best Hawaiian music album is each year. And without someone — or some organization — to rally everyone and coordinate their efforts, there's a good chance nothing will really change in the short term.

IF THE Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts were to step up and take the lead, more local artists might jump on the bandwagon and join NARAS. They also have the experience and contacts to spearhead trips to Los Angeles that can bring local artists and voters together in the same room.

Get the State of Hawaii involved in the process, too (we're talking about tourism dollars here, as many visitors to Hawaii are influenced by the music of our islands), and it's definitely possible to envision a 2012 Grammy Awards junket that could incorporate meet-and-greet events, concerts and other networking options that would raise awareness among mainland voters.

Instead of complaining, Hawaii's music industry needs to rally together and come up with a plan to bring the Grammy for Best Hawaiian Music Album back to Hawaii.

Sure, you don't need to be from Hawaii to win the award (or even Native Hawaiian, for that matter), but that doesn't mean local people can't work together to ensure we have a better chance at winning in the years to come.

Posted in Music | 22 Comments »

22 Responses to “‘Hawaiian Grammy’ controversy”

  1. Anonymous:

    This article assumes that the Tia Carrere's win was based on publicity only and not on talent. I searched her YouTube videos of Aloha Oe. These are comments posted by different sincere people without an agenda: "This video and song literally made me cry." "Just beautiful, wow." "I had no idea she had such a gorgeous voice, though." "Wow, such an amazing voice." "She reminds me of the Carpenters." "OMG<She have a wonderful voice." "She's an amazing singer and I want to be like her." "I'm surprised to know she has a light beautiful voice =)" "Wow! I didn't know she sings, and she does it really smoothly." "This song made me cry. The music video, her voice, her beauty all mixed together made it all calming and relaxing and sad :] it was a good sad feeling though :}" "Tia's voice is so beautiful and Daniel Ho's guiter is so relaxing. This music heals me so much!" "This version is extremely beautiful, needless to say." "Beautiful. I am turning misty." "She sings it with so much passion for Hawaii." "unlike many of todays pop stars, she can actually sing....its a shame that singers arent recognized anymore for their singing ability. Its all glamour and lights now-ehem lady gaga, britney spears ehem." "This vid. is beautifully amazing - the song and the performance." "This rendition of Aloha Oe is so beautiful." "Beautifully done. Written by our Queen Liliʻuokalani." "The gret thing about her is that as a modern woman who embraced western lifestyles, still can touch her foundation in Hawai'i and know who she is and where she came from , not many can say that." "i use to watch her sing whenever she stop by Samoa, sadly though she ain't Samoan!" "Very pjutiful and sweet, the voice and the actres. maybe i go wan day from munich do hawaii." "she has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard! Hawaiian sounds so beautiful!" "Fantastic! I just can't listen to it enough."


  2. Anonymous:

    This article assumes that the Tia Carrere's win was based on publicity only and not merit. I searched her YouTube videos of Aloha Oe. These are comments posted by sincere folks without an agenda: "This video and song literally made me cry." "Just beautiful, wow." "I had no idea she had such a gorgeous voice, though." "Wow, such an amazing voice." "She reminds me of the Carpenters." "OMG<She have a wonderful voice." "She's an amazing singer and I want to be like her." "I'm surprised to know she has a light beautiful voice =)" "Wow! I didn't know she sings, and she does it really smoothly." "This song made me cry. The music video, her voice, her beauty all mixed together made it all calming and relaxing and sad :] it was a good sad feeling though :}" "Tia's voice is so beautiful and Daniel Ho's guiter is so relaxing. This music heals me so much!" "This version is extremely beautiful, needless to say." "Beautiful. I am turning misty." "She sings it with so much passion for Hawaii." "unlike many of todays pop stars, she can actually sing....its a shame that singers arent recognized anymore for their singing ability. Its all glamour and lights now-ehem lady gaga, britney spears ehem." "This vid. is beautifully amazing - the song and the performance." "This rendition of Aloha Oe is so beautiful." "Beautifully done. Written by our Queen Liliʻuokalani." "The gret thing about her is that as a modern woman who embraced western lifestyles, still can touch her foundation in Hawai'i and know who she is and where she came from , not many can say that." "i use to watch her sing whenever she stop by Samoa, sadly though she ain't Samoan!" "Very pjutiful and sweet, the voice and the actres. maybe i go wan day from munich do hawaii." "she has the most beautiful voice I have ever heard! Hawaiian sounds so beautiful!" "Fantastic! I just can't listen to it enough."


  3. Jason Genegabus:

    ZapMe,

    I'm sorry, but you're wrong. I don't believe Tia's win was based solely on publicity.

    If I'm assuming anything about the nominees for Best Hawaiian Music Album, it's that they're ALL talented and deserve the recognition. I respect what NARAS does, and believe that whoever it is that's voting for the nominees and, ultimately, the winning album, is doing it without an agenda.

    I'm just not sure the voting body is truly akamai about Hawaiian music.

    I respect Tia's work. I respect Daniel's work. But I also believe that Hawaii-based musicians, recording artists and record labels need to do a lot more to come together and figure out a way to educate the voters and make them more familiar with some of the legendary talent still making great music here in the islands.

    Jason Genegabus
    jason@staradvertiser.com


  4. Anonymous:

    Hawaii-based musicians are stuck in a fishbowl. It's not about educating others, it's about getting better at your craft. Evidently, they are blind to this. After playing 35 years and countless songs, Bruddah Iz is known for ONLY ONE SONG and that song was written by someone else and it's in English. You gonna come down on IZ now?


  5. Anonymous:

    Jason,

    Good for you to respect Tia's talent and her team's. Sorry, readers only read the words in your article. The article says the other musicians were probably robbed. It talks only about Daniel's ability to "play the game" and not about his ability to create good music. This sounds like you don't respect their music.

    Education about Hawaiian music could broaden which records are nominated. But voters are instructed to vote for the winner based on quality of the nominated music. Number of records sold, years in the business, popularity, and so forth are to be ignored in voting.

    Rather than stack the voting towards what Hawaiian music should be, it is better to have two categories voted on by quality. Do the same that is done for the blues, a grammy for traditional Hawaiian music and another for contemporary Hawaiian music. Educate people about what can be nominated for the traditional category and all others can be nominated for the contemporary category.


  6. Anonymous:

    Say Tia & or Daniel Ho came to your workplace fresh of the streets where you have been employed at for 40 years. They get the higher up position you applied for but it's not based on knowledge or expertise but solely on politics? How gracious would you be? Would anyone chastize you for kicking up some dust? If nobody says anything, nobody knows. If Dennis & others didn't open their mouths there would be no discussion here.The average person & most eveyone here wouldn't have a clue as to what was really going on...........What's wrong with the math where Daniel Ho & Tia Carrera literally have more Grammy's than fans in Hawaii? Isn't the Hawaiian music category supposed to represent the music of Hawaii....how so if none of us listen to it?

    People are bashing those like Dennis for voicing their displeasure. Hawaiians (I'm 50%) saying those speaking up are not pono. Maybe no can be in this situation unless we like keep getting stepped on.

    This brouhaha is not about racism, it's about sincerity for Hawaiian music. Where was Daniel & Tia before there was a Hawaiian music category for the Grammys? Will they continue to make Hawaiian themed CDs if the Hawaiian Music category is relinquished? I don't believe them coming on the scene is just coincidental. An educated guess would be "Opportunistically motivated"


  7. Anonymous:

    how long one has played has no bearing on what is good


  8. Dukedomingo58:

    But it's a hell of a lot more likely.By the same token, because a "so called" musician has won awards does not mean they are good.


  9. Anonymous:

    Tia won a Grammy. She won so she is better than the others. You a sore loser!


  10. homehunter808:

    That remark shows complete lack of understanding. NONE of these popular vote awards is based on any objective standard of merit. They're popular votes. She has NAME RECOGNITION. More votes most definitely does not mean BETTER.


  11. Anonymous:

    Tia has a great album. Why don't you man-up and congratulate her in here?


  12. Pandoraradiorocks:

    As a Native Hawaiian living on the mainland, I am sadden that any contributions to Hawaiian culture are discriminated against because of my mailing address.

    Today's Mainland Haole is so uneducated in the category of Hawaiian Music. Sadly, they can only use music software such as Pandora and ITunes as we cannot get Hawaiian KINE 105 on the FM dial in Chicago. Sorry Hawaii, people on the mainland freely listen to Hawaiian music without the politics of the current radio industry in Hawaii.

    In response to Lito's question: Where was Daniel & Tia before there was a Hawaiian music category for the Grammys?

    A simple, two minute search on any public website, will produce disc results without too much effort:

    Name --1st cd -----1st Hawaiian related cd
    Daniel-1993(Jazz) 1998 (Hawaiian).
    Tia----1993 (Vocals), 2006 (Hawaiian).
    Amy---1995 (Hawaiian) 1995 (Hawaiian)

    Just for comparison, Ms. Hanaiali'i wasn't the first to be distributed, however, her first cd was one related to Hawaiian music. Based upon their record of professional results, safe to say Daniel and Tia will be around for along time to come AND it looks like Ms. Hanaiali'i is 'fresher off the street'.

    Lastly, yes, more people who are experts in Hawaiian Music (from all sources--both haole and non-haole) should join the NARAS. You don't have to live in Hawaii to be an expert.


  13. Anonymous:

    you don't have to be an expert in Hawaiian music to know what pleases your ears.


  14. Anonymous:

    Has any of these disgruntled Hawaiian musicians thought for one second that maybe Tia's record sits better with the Grammy members and is a better record? Old-fashion "authentic" Hawaiian music is just that. Old. Just because you were raised on certain musicians all your life doesn't mean their music will rise to the top outside your fishbowl.

    Once again, the Hawaiian crab in the bucket reaches for and pulls back down the other crabs trying to escape. Sore losers.

    So you have a singer born and raised in Hawaii and sings her entire record in Hawaiian and she's not Hawaiian enough? Sore loser peeps are sad. You have shown bitterness and jealousy.


  15. Guest:

    The Grammy's are a mainland-based, mainland-run award. By petitioning for a Hawaiian music category in the first place, advocates should have understood that the judging was going to be done by people with little to no experience in local music. What did these people think was going to happen? Additionally, there is no reason why candidates in the Hawaiian music category should be restricted to people who reside in Hawaii. Who is to say that the best Hawaiian music comes from Hawaii and not people living in the diaspora?


  16. Anonymous:

    People in the south are hopping mad that Eric Clapton won a Grammy for Best Blues Album because he's not black and he doesn't live there.....particularly mad is Blind Bowler Benny, a local favorite who thinks he should've won it even though his playing and songs are sub-par to ears away from his island.


  17. homehunter808:

    But did anybody accuse Eric Clapton of putting out that blues album with the SOLE INTENT of beating out all those more traditional blues artists?


  18. Anonymous:

    Sole Intent? That's a serious accusation. You'd better show some hard evidence to back it up.


  19. Leilani:

    I do not think that the South was unhappy with Eric Clapton winning
    the Blues Cateogry Best Album. A Nashville native/songwriter penned the song
    that Eric recorded several years back of " In My Father's Eyes. "
    sign me...Lives in the South


  20. Kaleo:

    I'm a proud Hawaiian living four thousand miles away from Hawai'i. In order to feel closer to home, I enjoy listening to so many different entertainers of Hawaiian music including Uncle Dennis, Amy as well as Tia and Daniel. This article hits the nail right on the head by encouraging local artists to join the NARAS in order make a real difference.
    Much like a resident of a town speaking before a Board of Trustees requesting change... this resident would carry much more weight by finding a way to get on the Board of Trustees and then requesting change.


  21. Anonymous:

    Isn't encouraging local residents to join NARAS like stacking the deck in your favor? Why not just write better songs?


  22. Anonymous:

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    This is perfect! I could not have said this better if I
    tried.  Hawaii is a very special
    place where we actually have a larger than average amount of musicians, artist,
    and industry professionals per area. 
    Essentially anyone who has, or has been a working part of having a
    commercial album released is qualified to register and vote for NARAS.  The circles don't run bigger in
    California only because California is bigger.  The circles are just bigger because they are actually
    circles.  A close network of industry
    professional’s will work together to sustain a constantly producing and notable
    industry.  Just like they do in New
    York or Nashville.  NARAS is one
    way Hawaii can centralize the music industry into a closer networked group of
    people.  A bigger NARAS gathering
    would probably give the Hawaii Music Industry more recognition and probably
    help with attaining performing right’s organization representation from BMI,
    ASCAP, or even SESAC.  From there
    anything is possible!  We can host
    more Northwest chapter meetings and events and create an outlet for music from
    Hawaii to branch out to other places. 
    I hope more people register! Thanks for the blog!!


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