And The Na Hoku Goes To ...

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - June 09, 2010
Mark Saito, Ryan Hiraoka and Maelan Abran

It was an interesting evening that included many firsts last week Sunday as the first Na Hoku O Hawaii Music Festival came to a close with the prestigious 33rd annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards held at the Hawaii Convention Center.

For those who caught the action on television, you might have noticed that this was the first year the live broadcast of the awards show was in hi-def.

Those who were there enjoyed a rather different experience as well. Instead of the usual sit-down dinner, round-table affair, for the first time the event took on a Grammy-inspired feel - theater seating, an elaborate stage, huge screens, state-ofthe-art lighting and a red carpet arrival.

Then, once all the awards were in the hands of their new owners, everyone celebrated downstairs at the first-of-its-kind after-party staged with three areas of live entertainment, food and drinks.

Jerome and John Koko of Makaha Sons

That’s a lot of firsts for one night.

In all, it was a successful evening that accomplished its mission of recognizing the industry’s best and perpetuating Hawaii’s music, language and culture. And while Hawaiian music still remains the focus of the festival, the categories added in recent years such as R&B/Hip-Hop Album of the Year have made the event a complete representation of the great talent Hawaii has to offer.

Taking home the R&B/Hip-Hop award this year is Big Island’s Ryan Hiraoka for his album Before My Last Breath. The Honokaa native made the trip to Oahu along with two other Big Island talents, Mark Saito and Maelan Abran, who were featured on his RSP Crew Vol. 1 album.

Anuhea performs ‘Big Deal’ from her self-titled Contemporary Album of the Year

“We’re working on our compilation album (RSP Crew Vol. 2) that will hopefully be out by the end of the year,” says Hiraoka. “On that album it’ll be myself, Mark and Maelan, and a few other surprise guests.

And we’ll probably start working on Mark’s solo album.”

Head-turner Anuhea arrived on the red carpet in rock star fashion. It was a big night for the Kamehameha Schools graduate, with a knockout performance and two wins for her self-titled debut album: Contemporary Album of the Year and Most Promising Artist. Expect big things from this rising superstar!

KCCN’s Lina Girl interviews Na Palapalai’s Kehau and Kuana on the red carpet

Rock star of the upright acoustic bass, John Koko of Makaha Sons, chose the parking garage entrance instead. He laughed when I asked him why I didn’t see him on the red carpet. Perhaps he was saving up his big entrance for the stage as he and the Sons teamed up with Ho’okena for a fabulous performance - something many of us present felt honored to witness.

But, as for him and the boys, John says that it’s touring as usual.

“Just a lot of touring, but hopefully we’ll be going back to the studios to record another CD, but when we have time,” he says. “We just started rehearsing and we have couple songs, but there’s no rush.”

Ho’okena’s Glen Smith, Chris Kamaka, Horace Dudoit and Manu Boyd took home three awards<

Na Palapalai‘s Kuana Torres Kahele and Kehau Tamure looked like Hawaiian royalty as they made their way down the red carpet. The trendsetters in style and falsetto, who currently live in their hometown of Hilo, were honored this year with five nominations. The duo later took the stage with Mailani Makainai, this year’s Female Vocalist of the Year.

Also no stranger to the Hokus, Maui’s Ekolu (Lukela Keala, Makapu Hoopii and Kamakoa Lindsey-Asing), winner of Reggae Album of the Year in 2005 and 2006, returned with a nomination for Reggae Album of the Year - and won! The trio took home the win for their album Ekolu Music II: Anthem.

“We are so excited about this award because at first we thought no way we would win because this category was stacked with heavy hitters Nesian N.I.N.E, Kolohe Kai and Rebel Souljahz - those guys are so hot right now,” says Keala. “This is really awesome.”

Stay tuned because there’s more music to come from this talented group, this time a Hawaiian album on which they plan to start working next month and release around January or February next year.

Ekolu’s Kamakoa, Lukela and Makapu won Reggae Album of the Year

And how about those guys of Ho’okena? Jumping back on the scene with the release of Nani Mau Loa: Everlasting Beauty, Manu Boyd, Horace Dudoit III, Glen Smith and Chris Kamaka added three awards to their collection, including the illustrious Group of the Year.

And a nui loa congrats to all the other winners, many of whom graced our MidWeek cover, such as, Willie K (Male Vocalist of the Year), Amy Hanaialii (Album of the Year) and Jake Shimabukuro (Instrumental Album of the Year and Favorite Entertainer of the Year).

And mahalo to HARA, 4Miles and the event sponsors who support Hawaii’s music and continue to pay tribute to the talent and dedication of our Islands’artists.


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