The 2009 Na Hoku Hano Hano Award nominations were recently announced and as usual, a number of Maui musicians have been honored. Amy Hanaiali'i heads the pack with four nominations, including Female Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Contemporary Album of the Year for her Grammy-nominated CD, " 'Aumakua."
Drawing on the concept of ancestral spirits and elemental forces, this beautiful album features 14 songs sung in Hawaiian and English portraying guiding energy, whether rain, a star, the moon, a family ancestor or the collective spirit of the islands.
With no new studio releases Keali'i Reichel was nominated for Anthology Album of the Year for "Kamalei: Keali'i Reichel Collection -Two." This digitally remastered collection ranges from favorites like "Akaka Falls" and "E O Mai" to his memorable version of the Beatles' classic "In My Life."
Maui’s Na Hoku Hanohano hopeful include perennial winner Amy Hanaiali‘i.
Also up for Anthology Album, "50 Greatest Songs of Hawaii," which includes songs by Emma Veary, Amy and Hapa.
Hana-born Dani "Girl" Waring isnominated for Reggae Album of the Year for "It's About Time." With help from producer/songwriter Vernon Kapua'ala and Poncho Ho'opai, Dani delivers an artfully crafted, island-radio-friendly mix of Jawaiian and pop. Check out the chicken-skin acapella "More Than Anyone Deserves."
Maui-born guitarist Jeff Peterson's fourth collaboration with acclaimed shakuhachi flutist Riley Lee, "Haleakala," was nominated for Instrumental Album of the Year. Fitting with the title, the new CD mixed original instrumental compositions inspired by our magnificent mountain with charming arrangements of some classic Hawaiian songs.
Gene Argel's son, Shea Argel sees his debut CD, "The Very Thought of You," nominated for Jazz Album of the Year. He's backed by some of our jazz veterans including his dad on keyboards and Doug White on bass. Known for his interpretation of jazz standards, Shea includes English, Spanish and Portuguese songs in his club repertoire.
Acclaimed on Maui for her theater roles Debra Lynn's inspirational work, "Heaven In Your Heart," was nominated for Religious Album of the Year. A former principal soprano soloist with the Maui Symphony and the Maui Pops Orchestra, Lynn recently relocated to Florida.
Maui's "American Idol" contender, Camile Velasco's "Guava Jelly" is up for the music video DVD prize.
Two Maui connections for Christmas Album of the Year nominations: "Aloha Kalikimaka: A Hawaiian Christmas" by Maui Jam featuring Al Nip and Jon Toda, and the Mountain Apple "Christmas Aloha" collection which includes songs by Willie K, Amy and Hapa.
Keeping rap alive in Hawaii, Maui-born King Kekai was included in the R&B Hip Hop Album of the Year nominations for "Alive and Well." Related to members of Sly Dog, Ekolu and the Waihe'e Sons, King (Kanakaokekai Kenji Namauu) Kekai mixes romantic raps ("Island Girl") with political ones ("Mr. Governor").
And the Compilation Album of the Year category includes "The Pink CD" benefit album featuring Willie K, Ikaika Brown, Kaena Brown, Dani Girl and KPOA's Alakai Paleka; Kevin and Ikaika Brown performing on "Hawaiian Slack Key Kings Master Series Vol. II"; and Lahaina Grown contributing a track to "Hawaiian Style 5."
The ceremony for the 32nd annual Na Hoku awards will be held June 9 at the Sheraton Waikiki Hotel.
It's rare to see the multi-Na Hoku-winning Hapa play a small club on Maui these days, but Saturday night they head Upcountry to Casanova. The popular group last played the Makawao restaurant in 1999, celebrating Casanova's 10th birthday. Hapa will help Casanova celebrate its 20th anniversary, having just returned from a club tour of Japan.
"This was our Blue Note/Cotton Club run, which is just Nathan and I, which we do once a year to promote the bigger shows," says Barry. "It's really fun and like what we will do at Casanova with no hula."
The Saturday show will feature Hapa's familiar repertoire plus some new songs. "We have a couple of new songs from the new recording coming up, an instrumental along the lines of 'Olinda Road' and a vocal, 'Like a Road Leading Home,' which we have been ending shows with," Barry continues. "Jerry Garcia and Merle Saunders did it years ago, and it will be the last song on the next recording. And Nathan will do his arrangement of 'Something' which we did on a Matt Catingub CD ("Back to Romance"). It's pretty dramatic, such a different arrangement."
* The show is at 9 p.m. Tickets are $35. A four-course special menu will be offered for an additional $35 - this meal-plus-concert ticket includes preferred seating. Call 572-0220.
Hapa heads out to the West Coast in July touring with Ledward Kaapana and John Cruz. Filling in for Willie K while he tours Germany, Cruz will play Mulligan's on the Blue again on Wednesday evening.
Back in March, Cruz introduced his soulful music to audiences in Austin, Texas, one of a group of musicians from Hawaii attending the massive SXSW music festival.
"It was cool because all the bands were different, and my dad was there and my sisters' band," he says.
Earlier in the year, he had the honor of playing with Jack Johnson for President Barack Obama at an Inaugural ball. He was invited after discovering that the president is a fan who enjoys his "Island Style" music.
"He knows 'Island Style,' " Cruz explains. "His sister told us he has it on his iPod. Jack was invited to play the Home State Inaugural Ball and they got me to sit in and play it."
On June 13, Cruz will join his dad, Ernie Cruz Sr., performing at the Upcountry Fair in Olinda. And he's looking forward to entering the studio with brother Ernie Jr. to record an album at Jack Johnson's studio. "We've been trying to coordinate between the three of us," he says. "It's been in the talking stages for a couple of years now. It will be great to play with my brother."
* Dinner show tickets for an all-you-can-eat Irish/Hawaiian buffet are $49. Show only is $25. A food, show and drinks package costs $69. Dining starts at 5:30 p.m., music from 7 to 9 p.m.
The Island Rumours Band featuring former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Rick Vito will headline the inaugural Maui Brewers Festival from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. May 30 at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.
Also on the bill, Battle of the Bands winner Erin Smith & The Throwdowns, Off Tomorrow and the Celtic Tigers.
With Mick Fleetwood drumming on the current Mac tour, Kris Thomas will fill in for the night joined by Eric Gilliom, Lenny Castellanos, lead vocalist Gretchen Rhodes, former Miss Hawaii Kanoe Gibson on vocals, plus hula dancers Germaine Balino and Cyndi Davis.
* Admission is $50 advance ($75 day-of-event), which allows eight tastings of the various brews in a keepsake commemorative mug, and pupu. Nonalcoholic tickets for designated drivers are also available.