Kamaka Kukona of Kahului stood onstage during Saturday night's Na Hoku Hanohano Awards ceremony in complete shock.
A hula dancer for the past 30 years and instructor for 10, Kukona released his first Hawaiian music album, "Hanu 'A'ala," last year - and it had just won him the award for most promising artist, and a share of male vocalist of the year award with Mark Yamanaka of Hilo.
"I was completely shocked. I'm still shocked," Kukona said Sunday via phone.
Kamaka Kukona of Kahului (right) and Daryl Fujiwara of Wailuku pose for a photo after winning at Saturday night’s Na Hoku Hanohano Awards at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.
JAYDON ISOBE photo
He was not alone.
Kula resident Carmen "Hulu" Lindsey, a veteran in the Hawaiian music scene who has been singing for some 55 years, had never won a Na Hoku Hanohano Award until Saturday night. Her third album, "A He Leo Wale No E," helped her claim the award for female vocalist of the year.
"When the dust finally settled I felt like I had had a Cinderella experience," Lindsey said Sunday. "I couldn't believe it, and didn't expect it. I guess when you sing so long you don't expect it anymore, and it wasn't a goal of mine but it was an extreme honor."
In all, Maui artists took home seven awards during the 37th annual event presented by the Hawai'i Academy of Recording Arts in the Kalakaua Ballroom of the Hawai'i Convention Center on Oahu.
The winners included Lindsey's daughter, Napua Greig, who won Christmas album of the year for "Lei Kulaia"; Jeff Peterson, who won slack key album of the year for "Slack Key Travels"; Hula Honeys, who won the jazz album award with "A Hui Hou: Until We Meet Again"; and Daryl Fujiwara, who won the graphics award for his work on Kukona's album cover and interior booklet.
Kukona reportedly became the sixth person in the event's history to win the most promising artist and vocalist awards in the same year. It also was the first time in 30 years that the ceremony had two male vocalist winners.
As kumu hula for Halau O Ka Hanu Lehua in Kahului, Kukona knows that you cannot have hula without mele, or chants.
That understanding, however, did not make things any easier in the recording studio and on live television Saturday night.
"The awards had nothing to do with my nervousness," he said. "It was all about that live telecast where you only have one shot so you cannot screw up.
"But it turned out how we had hoped."
During the event, Kukona performed alongside several Maui singers including Lindsey, Greig and last year's big winner, Ikaika Blackburn, who won four awards with the group Na Hoa.
"It was emotional to stand next to them," Kukona said. "They're almost family. They've set a standard, especially since they're all from Maui.
"You know there's an unspoken feeling. It's a Maui thing."
Those Maui roots were the inspiration for Lindsey to make her newest album, which came 12 years after the previous one.
Lindsey, who is the Maui trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, said that she originally did not plan on making another album due to the stresses of recording in the studio and her duties as a trustee.
However, her daughter convinced her to "do the songs that we grew up with."
From then on, Lindsey would attend OHA meetings during the day and would spend nights recording in the studio.
"I worked all day and sung at night," she said.
Lindsey, as well as Kukona and Greig, gave credit to Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing, who played all of the instruments for the three artists and prepared many of their musical arrangements. The trio also recognized producer Dave Tucciarone for helping with their albums.
"He's such a gifted musician and a lot of times the guys that play the tracks don't get recognized enough," Greig said of Lindsey-Asing, her cousin. "The voice is just part of what you hear. His timing is impeccable and he has such a vast knowledge of traditional and contemporary music."
Greig said that while she was excited and honored about the award, her true happiness came from her mother's win.
"I always felt that she deserved it," Greig said. "She's the voice that created me. She was long deserving for an award like this."
Fujiwara, a Wailuku resident, was grateful to have received his award in graphic design with Kukona, especially since he had created the logo and business cards that Kukona used for his halau 10 years ago.
"It was only fitting he felt that I continue the journey with him," Fujiwara said. "It was so touching. I'm blessed to call him my friend."
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.