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Maui artists net multiple Hoku award nominations

Lukela Keala, co-founder of Ekolu, in the running in five categories

Maui reggae band Ekolu is nominated for Album of the Year, Group of the Year and Reggae Album of the Year in the 2021 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. Photo courtesy of Ekolu

Veteran island reggae band Ekolu, the band’s co-founder Lukela Keala, and fellow musicians Kaleo Phillips, Makamae Auwae and Ka Pilina head the list of Maui artists nominated for the 2021 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.

Ekolu is nominated for Group of the Year and their latest recording, “2020,” is up for Album of the Year and Reggae Album of the Year.

“I’m super excited,” said Keala, the lead singer, who was getting ready to head off island for a concert.

Keala also received five nominations for his debut solo Hawaiian album “Lukela Keala,” for Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and Island Music Album, as well as Hawaiian Single and Song of the Year for “Uilani.”

“I am very humbled and honored for all the nominations that I received for both albums,” he said. “This is my first ever solo Hawaiian album and Ekolu’s 11th album. This is the first time I have ever released two albums at one time, in two different genres. It has definitely been a bucket list of mine and I am stoked that I was able to bring it to fruition. I am so proud to be born and raised on the island of Maui and to represent my home.”

Lukela Keala, co-founder of Ekolu, received three nominations with the band and five nominations for his debut solo album — the first time he’s released two albums at once. Photo courtesy of Ekolu

Born in Wailuku, Keala, a graduate of Baldwin High School, first formed the Valley Boys. He then helped form Ekolu, which released its debut album, “Down In The Valley,” in 1999. The band won Hokus in 2020 — Single of the Year for “Desecration” and Anthology for “20 Year Anniversary Timeless.”

The Male Vocalist of the Year category also includes Kumu Hula Kamaka Kukona for his album “Kahekeonapua” and Kalani Miles for “He Mele No Papa.” Nominated also for Hawaiian Language Performance, Kukona’s debut album, “Hanu ‘A’ala,” earned him Male Vocalist and Most Promising Artist awards at the 2014 Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, plus a Grammy nomination. In 2018, he again won Male Vocalist of the Year. Miles is also nominated in the Hawaiian EP category.

Phillips, meanwhile, is up for Contemporary Acoustic Album of the Year for “First Dance,” Instrumental Composition of the Year for “Hinano” and Hawaiian Music Video of the Year for two videos, “Ku’u Mele Aloha ‘Aina” and “Mele Inoa No Kele.”

“It’s amazing to represent Maui,” said Phillips, who is about to play two Mother’s Day shows in Reno, Nev. “I’m very blessed and thankful and humbled to just be nominated for Hokus.”

Nominated for Hoku Awards for his last two albums, Phillips’ “First Dance” captured this versatile Maui musician across a spectrum of styles from soulful pop and island reggae to traditional Hawaiian. As a special highlight, it featured a new song with the late Willie K. A Lahainaluna High School graduate, Phillips has played music most of his life.

Versatile Maui musician Kaleo Phillips is up for Contemporary Acoustic Album of the Year for “First Dance,” Instrumental Composition of the Year for “Hinano” and Hawaiian Music Video of the Year for two videos, “Ku’u Mele Aloha ‘Aina” and “Mele Inoa No Kele.” Photo courtesy of Kaleo Phillips

Auwae earned nominations for Female Vocalist of the Year, Hawaiian EP and Most Promising Artist for “Lei Makamae.” “This past year has been very difficult for many of us. I pray this EP can bring some healing to many of you, like it has for me,” Auwae said in a Facebook post.

A Baldwin High School graduate, she auditioned for the role of Disney princess Moana.

The Wailuku-based female trio Ka Pilina is up for Hawaiian Music Album of the Year, Hawaiian Language Performance and Most Promising Artist(s) for their debut recording “Na Wahi Pana.” The album includes the songs “Na Kanaloa” composed by Kumu Hula Hokulani Holt honoring Kahoolawe, and “Paoakalani” composed by Queen Liliuokalani while imprisoned in ‘Iolani Palace.

Reggae band Maoli received three nominations, for Single of the Year and Music Video of the Year for “My Reason,” and Reggae Album for “The Breakthrough.” Maui’s Inna Vision is also nominated for Reggae Album for “2020 Vision,” as well as Instrumental Album.

Kumu Hula Napua Greig, teaming with Damon Williams, earned two nominations, for Single of the Year and Music Video of the Year for “There Was Jesus.”

Two Maui artists are up for Christmas Single of the Year — Kalani Pe’a for “O Holy Night” and Tarvin Makia, featuring Natalie Ai Kamauu, for his original song “Christmas Day.” Pe’a is also nominated for Hawaiian Music Video of the Year for “I Love You.” A Grammy winner, he just released his latest album, “Kau Ka Pe’a.”

Besides Phillips, two other Maui musicians were nominated for Contemporary Acoustic Album — Rama Camarillo for “Ku’u Wahi Pili,” and Anthony Pfluke for “We Will Rise.” Pfluke will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Live @ the MACC’s virtual concert series.

Cindy Paulos was nominated twice for Compilation Album of the Year for her inspirational works, “Words and Music” and “All In This Together.”

“This is my sixth and seventh nomination, but I’ve never been nominated for two CDs before,” Paulos said. “This has been an incredibly hard year and there was a need to ease suffering.”

The Compilation Album category also features “Lei Nahonoapi’ilani: Na Mele Hou,” featuring 15 newly composed songs for West Maui, with performances by artists such as Kumu Hula Cody Pueo Pata, Kaulike Pescaia, Pono Murray and Na Wai ‘Eha.

Molokai’s duo High Watah is nominated for Most Promising Artist(s) for their second EP “Watahs Rising.” Rock Album of the Year nominations include YumYum Beast. Raised on Maui, Ka’imi Hanano’eau is nominated for Alternative Album of the Year for “Pohaku Motu.”

Up for R&B Album, Sweet Mama Dee’s “The Blues With Sweet Mama Dee And Mama’s Boys,” features a bunch of Maui musicians including Jimmy Dillon, Marcus Johnson, Jerry Kovarsky and drummer Kris Thomas.

Other nominations include Andrew Molina in the ‘Ukulele Album of the Year category for “Evolv3,” Pata for Haku Mele for co-composing “No Pihemanu,” Michael Casil and Wailau Ryder for Hawaiian Engineering on Kukona’s album “Kahekeonapua” and Auwae’s “Lei Makamae.” Casil is also nominated in General Engineering for Kalo DeLeon’s “From The Inside.”

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