Pe‘a: Second Grammy brought lots of tears

For joy, Hawaiians, loved ones, he says

Shelley Blackburn (from left) and Ikaika Blackburn, the latter part of the group Na Hoa, along with singer-songwriter Kalani Pe‘a and his manager and partner, Allan B. Cool, pose together at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday night as the Grammy Awards were winding down. Pe‘a won his second Grammy in the best regional roots music album category. Na Hoa was nominated in the same category. Photos courtesy of Ikaika Blackburn

Maui singer-songwriter Kalani Pe’a was “very surprised” to pick up his second Grammy Award on Sunday in Los Angeles for his second album “No ‘Ane’i,” which he says has brought him much tears.

“I was so surprised, I actually cried on stage,” Pe’a said Monday morning from California. “I cried for a good 20 minutes after that. . . . I cry for our people, I cry for the perpetuation of the Hawaiian language.

“It was a lot of emotions.”

Pe’a gave his acceptance speech for the best regional roots music album first in Hawaiian, then translated it into English. He talked about how the Hawaiian language shall live.

“I cried so much on this album,” the 35-year-old Pe’a said.

Members of Na Hoa, Halehaku Seabury-Akaka (from left), Keoni Souza and Ikaika Blackburn, performed at the Grammy Museum on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

In “No ‘Ane’i,” which means “we belong here,” Pe’a honors his “mama,” or grandmother, Kahunani Cristobal, in the song “Kahunani No ‘Ola’a.” Cristobal suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and cannot remember her grandson. In the song, she is compared to exquisite flowers, such as pikake.

“To me, she won as well,” he said.

Pe’a won his first Grammy Award for his debut album, “E Walea,” in 2017. He is happy to share Hawaiian music and culture on that “global platform.”

“This is not only my win, I want to bring it back to Hawaii,” he said.

The other Hawaii nominee in the category was Na Hoa, featuring Maui’s Ikaika Blackburn and Oahu residents Keoni Souza and Halehaku Seabury-Akaka, for “Aloha From Na Hoa.”

Filling out the category were “Kreole Rock and Soul” by Sean Ardoin, “Spyboy” by Cha Wa, and “Mewasinsational-Cree Round Dance Songs” by Young Spirit.

After being in separate categories for several years, Hawaiian, zydeco, Cajun and Native American music were combined into one category — the regional roots category — for the 2012 Grammys. Cajun and zydeco artists have dominated the category.

“It’s definitely a surreal experience,” Blackburn said Monday afternoon after just arriving home. “When you understand the process how the groups get selected among the thousand of entries and how it gets selected to five for the category, to make that top five is a win in itself.”

Blackburn said Hawaiian musical artists offer a much smaller batch to pull from compared to other pools of artists in the regional roots category.

“For us to have two nominations in this five-member category is already amazing,” he said. “One of us to bring it home is more of a plus.

“Hawaii wins.”

Pe’a’s manager and partner, Allan B. Cool, said he felt honored that Pe’a won the award, but what made it better was having Na Hoa with them.

“It was very nice to have them here. The more the merrier,” he said while eating breakfast with Pe’a and another Hawaii artist, Kimie Miner, who were still in California on Monday morning.

“Our voice and our message can be heard, and our stories can be shared with even more people,” Cool said.

He added that someone told Miner that they did not know about Hawaiian culture until hearing about Pe’a.

“That makes us really feel we did our job. Educating the people up here on this level about Hawaii culture, Hawaiian music and Hawaiian language,” Cool said.

Pe’a said he wants to share and educate people around the world.

“We are the piko of aloha, everyone comes to Hawaii for aloha, I want to exude that,” he said.

Blackburn concurred with Pe’a.

“It inspires us to get our music out there in the world, we are so accustomed to share our music in the islands. We want to get it further out in the world, for the world to hear it,” he said. “But our home base is still Hawaii and our hearts are still there for us.

“It means a lot to do well at the Hokus (Na Hoku Hanohano awards), that’s our event. But definitely having a Grammy (nomination) . . . it’s an accomplishment that cannot be denied.”

Pe’a spread that aloha and personal charm as a presenter at the 61st Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Wearing a purple sequined jacket and a purple beret, he got some laughs as he struggled to open a winner’s envelope for the American roots performance award.

“Sorry, sticky,” he said to laughs.

The winner ended being Brandi Carlile, one of his favorites. “She is adorable,” he said.

At the awards ceremony, Pe’a got to meet Miley Cyrus and Meghan Trainor as well.

“I wanted to sing all that bass to her as well,” Pe’a said with a laugh, alluding to Trainor’s song “All About That Bass.”

Also starry-eyed was Blackburn. He and his wife, Shelley, got to walk the red carpet.

“To see all the A-listers . . . musicians and entertainers, we are all within a hand’s touch,” said Blackburn, mentioning Dolly Parton and Chris Stapleton. “That was just surreal. These are the things we only see on TV.”

Pe’a was looking to being back home on Maui today. He has been gone from the islands for nearly a month while on his “Music for the Soul Tour,” which took him all along the West Coast and to Arizona.

“I’m ready to eat some poi and some kalua pig,” he joked.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.


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