The live show was a culmination of the first-ever Nā Hōkū O Hawai‘i Music Festival, an extended weekend of music workshops, panel discussions, performances and more throughout Waikīkī. Sources from festival partner 4 Miles LLC—who produced Sunday’s big event and a separate Lifetime Achievement documentary—revealed the pre-show turnout was not as large as they had hoped, yet were happy with inaugural efforts.
Maui’s queen of class, Amy Hanaiali‘i, scored her 16th Nā Hōkū award just before Sunday’s live broadcast concluded. Out of the five nominations she received for her hit collaborative, Friends and Family of Hawai‘i, producer Matt Catingub and her won for album of the year (for artist and producer). A guitar-less John Cruz and the stunning songbird Amy warmed hearts with their performance of George Harrison cover What is Life? off the album.
If Amy was the queen, then Uluwehi Guerrero was the demure king of the annual Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts ceremony. Of his seven nominations, the Maui kumu hula’s victory for Hawaiian album was the sweetest, especially after a nine-year hiatus from recording. His Uluwehi Sings Nā Mele Hula Aloha (Kaulupono) also won for liner notes.
Amy Hanaiali‘i was honored with the evening’s crown jewel of album of the year for Friends and Family of Hawai‘i (Ua).
Photo: Jessica Pearl Photography
Olinda-bred Jeff Peterson’s homegrown Maui On My Mind (Peterson) won for slack-key album, a category created just last year. The personal collection represents his love of growing up on Maui, said Peterson, who now resides on O‘ahu.
Rising radio stars of MauiFM 102NINE, the North Shore duo Hula Honeys, snagged best jazz album, a category normally dominated by men.
“Robyn (Kneubuhl) and I get away with musical murder, and it’s all based in a deep friendship. This will make us grow even more,” said Ginger Johnson, who also thanked bassist Jonathan Drechsler for adding his “pizzazz.”
Moloka‘i sweetheart Raiatea Helm earned a Hōkū for her Raiatea Live! DVD. She beat out Willie K’s Uncle Willie K Live from Mulligan’s On the Blue (Maui Tribe), but he made up for it with male vocalist of the year.
International star Jake Shimabukuro won the coveted “Favorite Entertainer of the Year” award and his live album won for best instrumental. He beat out talented Maui soulman Derick Sebastian in the latter category, whose From His Heart earned the ‘ukulele virtuoso his first nomination. “I’m just honored to be here, and appreciate every blessing that comes my way,” said Sebastian, looking chic in his tuxedo.
Maui favorites Gail Swanson and The Throwdowns fell short in the rock album category, but don’t expect either outfits to slow down just yet.
“This is a great experience for us, and we’re happy to be a part of the local music scene,” said Throwdown Erin Smith.