Her kupuna on her mind
Amy Hanaiali‘i will be thinking of her ancestors at the Grammy Awards in January
Amy Hanaiali’i, who was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Regional Roots Music Album category last month, continues her effort to bring the aloha spirit to the world through her music.
The nomination, her sixth, was for her latest album, “Kalawai’anui.” It was released May 31.
The Maui native, a longtime performer known for her powerhouse vocals, has returned to her roots through her newest project. “Kalawai’anui” features 15 tracks that pay homage to her ancestors and her deep connection to past Hawaiian generations. The album recalls and reflects on her origins, her family and her heritage through the layers of emotion each song brings.
The album is called “Kalawai’anui,” after a recently discovered ancestor in Hanaiali’i’s long Hawaiian lineage. Kalawai’anui is the grandson of Kamohoali’i — the shark god. He’s also Queen Emma’s grandmother’s brother, she said.
In conjunction with the release of the album, Hanaiali’i produced a breathtaking video of the title song, which was filmed aboard the Mo’okiha o Pi’ilani ocean voyaging canoe as it sailed the Kealaikahiki Channel between Lanai and Kahoolawe. (The video can be viewed at youtu.be/c5IJGGpXZwY.)
To the chant and the beat of a pahu drum by kumu hula Micah Kamohoali’i, her cousin, Hanaiali’i sings, while her brother, Timi Gilliom, captains the canoe he helped build.
“I want to acknowledge my cousin and all of his work on this album,” Hanaiali’i said. “This whole project was driven and inspired by our ancestors, and I am so grateful for Micah’s ability to capture that in his beautiful lyrics.”
Singing primarily in Hawaiian, she includes a few English language songs, focusing on original compositions.
Winning a Grammy would mean a lot to Hanaiali’i.
“This album is dedicated to my kupuna, and I would love to bring back this prestigious award to acknowledge them,” she said.
Helping craft the songs is a stellar Maui ensemble that includes guitarist Jeff Peterson and pianist Sal Godinez. Other musicians on board include bassist Mark S. Johnson, former Chuck Mangione drummer Darryl Pellegrini, Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning guitarist Wailau Ryder and violinist Wenlu Duffy, who plays with the Maui Pops and Maui Chamber Orchestra.
Hanaiali’i produced “Kala-wai’anui,” her 15th solo album, herself.
“I had a great time in the studio by myself, doing it the way I wanted,” she said. “I really enjoyed the freedom.”
“From the moment I started working on this album, I knew it was going to be something special,” she added. “Throughout the writing, composing, recording — and now performing this music — I have had the opportunity to interact with some of the most wonderful people. So many people here in Hawaii have shared their own experiences with connecting to their ancestors. It really has been a beautiful and humbling experience.”
“I am very grateful for my sixth Grammy nomination,” said Hanaiali’i on her website last month. “This album is very important to me. . . . Mahalo to all of the musicians and producers and sound engineers who worked so hard to make this album such a success. I really believe we had the best of the best working on this album. . . . Mahalo for your guidance.”
“In addition to the band, I would like to thank my manager, Dylan Bode, for all of his help on this path to the Grammys,” she said.
Her previous Grammy nominations include:
• 53rd Annual Grammy Awards (2010) Best Hawaiian Music Album: “Amy Hanaiali’i and Slack Key Masters Of Hawaii.”
• 52nd Annual Grammy Awards (2009) Best Hawaiian Music Album: “Friends & Family of Hawai’i.”
• 51st Annual Grammy Awards (2008) Best Hawaiian Music Album: “Aumakua.”
• 49th Annual Grammy Awards (2006) Best Hawaiian Music Album: “Generation Hawai’i.”
• 47th Annual Grammy Awards (2004) Best Hawaiian Music Album: “Amy & Willie Live.”
The Best Regional Roots Music Album category is for albums containing at least 51 percent playing time of new vocal or instrumental regional roots music recordings. In 2012, The Recording Academy reduced the total number of categories; Hawaiian Album of the Year was eliminated, Hanaiali’i explained.
“The category I am nominated for now covers Hawaiian, zydeco, Cajun, Native American, polka, etc.,” she said.
Hanaiali’i said she will attend the awards ceremony in January, adding that she is very excited to represent Maui at the event.
Also from Maui, pianist, composer, performer and author Peter Kater, already a Grammy winner, received a Best New Age Album nomination for “Wings” this year and 14 nominations in previous years.
Nominees in all 84 categories will have the chance to attach their names to the legacy of Grammy winners at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on Jan. 26 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The awards recognize the best recordings, compositions and artists of the eligibility year, running from Oct. 1, 2018, to Aug. 31.