41st annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards
Maui’s presence undeniably strong
Once again, Maui will have a major presence at the annual Na Hoku Hanahano Awards in Honolulu on Saturday. Many of our musicians have been nominated in a variety of categories, with two of our acclaimed kumu hula, Napua Greig (who now goes only by Napua) and Kamaka Kukona, bestowed with the most nominations this year.
A multiple Hoku-winner for her previous recordings, Napua received nine nominations in eight categories for her marvelous album, “Makawalu.”
Opening with the powerful chant “E Manono,” for the Maui Chiefess Manono, who died in battle alongside her husband Kekuaokalani defending Hawaii’s native religion, Napua interprets classic songs by Lena Machado (“Moanike’alaonapuamakahikina”), Bill Lincoln (“Pua ‘Iliahi”), and the Peter Moon Band (“E Pili Mai”), all sung with her gorgeous vocals. Rounding out the stellar collection, she features the country hit, “Good As I Was To You,” and the Okinawan song, “Warabigami.”
Kukona was nominated in seven categories for his wonderful ” ‘Ala Anuhea.” A Grammy nominee in 2015, he previously won Hokus for Most Promising Artist of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year for his memorable debut album “Hanu ‘A’ala.”
Joined by friends such as Na Hoa and Natalie Ai Kamauu, Kukona opens his album with a sweet chant, “I Wehi Rose No Ka Lani.” Highlights range from the blending of Mary Kawena Pukui’s “Ke Ao Nani” with “What a Wonderful World,” and his original gem “Kahi, Lua, Kolu” to Genoa Keawe’s classic “Nani Wai’ale’ale,” with perfect steel guitar accompaniment. He even gives a nod to ’50s-era rock with the uptempo ballad “Where There Is Love.”
Pat Simmons Jr. received two nominations for Most Promising Artist and EP (Extended Play) of the Year for “This Mountain.” With his famous father, Doobie Brother Pat Simmons, producing and playing, stellar backing on his debut included Keali’i Reichel, Willie K, Elvin Bishop and Bonnie Raitt-bassist Hutch Hutchinson. It features six sparkling songs that encompass his love for Maui, respect and appreciation for the culture and our natural wonder.
Three Maui artists are nominated in the Island Music Album category. The trio Cane Fire’s debut album “Coming Home” features catchy songs ranging from “Hawaiian Woman” to “Reggae Jam Party.”
Halemanu, who aptly describes his music as “jazz-infused rock ‘n’ roll with Hawaiian soul” is up for “So the Story Goes.” “Ala Kahiko A’o Hana (Old Hana Road)” is about the old Hana road, which was a joy in itself, as this song suggests.
And Damien Paiva is nominated for “Island Treasures,” which includes covers of the Gabby Pahinui Hawaiian Band’s “Moonlight Lady” and Alfred Apaka’s “Hapa Haole Hula Girl.”
Three Maui musicians also dominate the Ukulele Album category. Andrew Molina’s “A New Journey,” features primarily original compositions that showcase his expressive playing, including “Dancing Strings” where he duets with Jake Shimabukuro.
With influences ranging from Bach to Van Halen, Arlie-Avery Asiu often jams on stage with Willie K. His latest album, “My Dog Has Fleas,” ranges from the Asian-inflected “Won Ton Min” and the lively “Cup O’tea,” to the entrancing “Mauka to Makai.”
Born and raised on Maui and now living in Seattle, Neal Chin is known for his charming covers of standards. His latest, “The Spotless Mind,” includes “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and a jazzy take on “Sunny Side of the Street.”
A bunch of students from Maui’s Institute of Hawaiian Music perform on the four track “Aia I Laila Ka Wai,” produced by Dr. Keola Donaghy and Joel Katz, up for EP of the Year. An Institute student recording won “Best Compilation Album” in 2016.
Other Maui artists nominated in general categories include Matagi with help from Fiji on “Sincerely,” and Ekolu with the uplifting reggae anthem, “We Are Hawai’i’s Finest,” who are both nominated for Single of the Year. Grammy winner Kalani Pe’a’s Christmas homage, “Kanakaloka,” is nominated in the new category of Hawaiian Single of the Year. Pe’a and Greig were also nominated in the new Music Video of the Year category.
The Most Promising Artist category features Leipono with “Ku’u Pualei.” This impressive debut release from Maui kumu hula Pono Murray blends original songs (“Honua’ula Hula”) with Hawaiian classics (” ‘Olu O Pu’ulani”), and features guest appearances by Josh Tatofi, Ikaika Blackburn and Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing.
Also nominated, Kihei-born Kala’e Camarillo’s versatile “Working Man,” with memorable tracks “Why Not Me” (composed for Brian Kajiyama, which could be a hit) and “Living 23,” a lovely duet with Layla Tripp.
Nominated for Instrumental Album, “Across the Sea,” features Maui’s Jeff Peterson teamed with Hawaiian steel guitarist Greg Sardinha and Chinese erhu player Tsun-Hui Hung on a unique cross-cultural collaboration.
Influenced by bands like the Roots, Goldawn Won & The Universe are nominated for R&B Album for their enticing fusion of hip hop, reggae, jazz and rock influences on “Universal Invitation.”
The Hip Hop Album category includes Openeyes (former Kihei Charter School student Tristan Rucynski and friends) with “Geronimo.”
A previous Jazz Album of the Year nominee, vocalist/drummer Jimmy C is nominated for “Rendezvous At Eight,” where he unleashes his inner crooner on Sinatra’s “You Make Me Feel so Young” and George Benson’s “This Masquerade.”
Finally, nominations for a Graphics Award include Scott Johnson of Polyphonic Industries for his work on Ledward Kaapana’s anthology album “Jus’ Bes’,” and Wailani Artates for Napua’s “Makawalu.”
It’s likely the hippest version of “Listen to the Music” ever recorded, with the Doobie Brothers founders teaming with musicians from around the world performing the iconic song live for a new Playing for Change compilation.
A brilliant YouTube video features the Doobie Brothers’ Tom Johnston opening the song in a Redwood forest, and later Pat Simmons and John McFee playing along to the track by the ocean in San Diego.
Joining them are 30 musicians from 12 countries including Indian veena player Rajhesh Vaidhya, Lebanese oud player Tarek Ayoubi and the Roots Gospel Voices of Mississippi.
“The charm of the whole thing is everybody performed live,” says Simmons, back on Maui before heading out with the Doobie Brothers to tour with Steely Dan. “We knew there would be people from all over the world. I was thrilled. All the tracks they (Playing for Change) have done with other artists have been really great. It’s really cool to see all the different people involved.”
Among the other highlights on the new “Listen to the Music” album, John Cruz heads a musical cast on “All Along the Watchtower,” ranging from Doors’ drummer John Densmore and Allman Brothers Band’s guitarist Warren Haynes, to Kapono band percussionist Lopaka Colon.
Jack Johnson joins Paula Fuga and Congolese musicians Afro Fiesta on Bob Marley’s “Natural Mystic,” and the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” gets the royal treatment with Jimmy Buffett, David Crosby, Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and the Chicago Children’s Choir all performing.
Another Maui musician, bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson just recorded two classic songs for a Playing for Change project — The Band’s “The Weight” and an amazing, joyous version of the O’Jays’ “Love Train.”
“I love Playing for Change,” says Hutchinson, calling from New Orleans where he was about to perform with Bonnie Raitt at the city’s jazz festival. “A friend, Mark Johnson, started the organization and he does great work with kids around the world. These compilations combine street artists and unknowns with a lot of legends. The money goes to build schools. It’s amazing.”
The new version of “The Weight” will feature Robbie Robertson, Lukas Nelson, John Cruz and many others.
“I wanted to pay a tribute to Rick Danko (The Band’s bassist) so I wanted to get his bass sound,” says Hutch. “The video should come out soon.”
Ukulele phenomenon Taimane also plays on Playing for Change’s “The Weight.” She is also featured in the PFC video “Pluto — King of the Underworld” — a track from her forthcoming album. Dazzling in concert, she brings her “Elemental” CD release tour to the McCoy Studio Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului at 7:30 p.m. June 16.
* Tickets are $25 and $35 (plus applicable fees). For tickets or information, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or go online to www.mauiarts.org.
Better get your tickets fast for rockers Greta Van Fleet heading to the MACC’s Yokouchi Pavilion & Courtyard at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 23. Its upcoming mainland tour of 2,000 to 3,000-capacity venues completely sold out in days. Playing the massive Coachella festival in April, one reviewer noted: “Coachella may have been headlined by Beyonce, Eminem, and The Weeknd, but it was Greta Van Fleet that rocked the house.”
* Tickets are $35, $45 and $90/VIP (plus applicable fees) and may be purchased at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.