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Hawaiian Grammy opens music to the world

by Desiree Ramirez, staff writer


Watching the Grammy awards can cause anyone excitement, music lover or not. Right before the winner is announced, there is a moment of suspense followed immediately with cheering and celebration for the winner. It may not seem a big deal to television viewers, but to the artists and nominees it is a huge honor to be awarded a Grammy.


The Grammy is the recording industry’s most prestigious award and is presented annually by the Recording Academy. The nominees definitely are the “best of the best” according to the Recording Academy Web site, which explains that the award is not based on sales or chart positions, but rather artistic and technical achievement in the industry.

So, how does an artist actually get to be a nominee? Musicians, producers, and record companies submit recordings made in a specified time frame, usually Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 of the past year. The entries are submitted through the mail or online and then voted on by the academy members.

This is just the first step of many. The academy members and record companies then enter the nominees they consider worthy of recognition in the Grammy award process. More than 150 experts screen the entries and ensure they have been placed in the appropriate categories.

embers then vote in their fields of expertise on first-round ballots. Lists of the finalists are sent to voting members on the second-round ballots, and academy members may vote in the four general categories (Record of the Year, Albums of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist) and in no more than 8 of the 31 fields. All tabulations are conducted by an independent firm. The winners are not revealed until the actual telecast ceremony.

So, how did this all come about? In 1957, the Hollywood Beautification Committee asked five top L.A. record executives to suggest performers who deserved stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. From this the producing executives moved forward with the idea of an association for recording professionals that would reward artistic creativity and gain world recognition.

On May 28, 1957, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences was born. The initial groups of members were L.A.-based music executives. The academy has had great success, with Neil Portnow as the current academy president, and today there are more than 16,000 Recording Academy members.

Not only is the Recording Academy an organization for the artists and producers, but it is also an arts advocacy organization. Holding true to its mission statement, the academy’s goal is to positively impact the lives of musicians, industry members, and society at large. The academy addresses current issues in the recording industry such as labeling legislation, record piracy, and the debates over labor legislation. The most recent development of the academy has been What’s The Download. As a public awareness campaign, it is designed to address the critical issues of downloading and file swapping and the effects these have on the well-being of music and its makers. The campaign is designed to educate, inform, and enlighten consumers on the implications of their actions in the music industry.

The Recording Academy and the Grammy awards have grown simultaneously. The initial Grammys were a series of taped network TV specials titled The Best on Record. Today, the award show is considered a “state-of-the-art” live extravaganza and is the premier music awards show on television.

The Grammy awards include 31 fields and 107 different categories. The fields range from pop, gospel, classical music, and more. Any changes made to the categories can be proposed and submitted by any academy member. It is then reviewed each year by the Academy Awards and Nominations Committee. The academy’s trustees give the final approval.

2005 marked the first year Hawaiian music earned its own category. The category is a big step forward for the Hawai‘ian music industry. Skylark, a morning announcer on KHUI 99.5, explained the process the Hawaiian music industry had to undergo. “The Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts, along with the producers of the annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards”, she said, has spent almost 20 years trying to get Hawai‘i`s music recognized with a Grammy award. HARA’s musicians needed to join the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and become members to get a foot in the door. The past two years an aggressive campaign from the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Grammys prompted local performers to join the NARAS, which was needed to lobby for a Hawaiian music category.”

Prior to this year’s Grammy awards, Hawaiian music was placed in the “Folk or World” category. This year, the winner of Best Hawaiian Album was Kiho‘alu for Slack Key Guitar, Vol.2, an instrumental compilation of different artists. Unfortunately, when the award was presented, it was in a different ceremony preceding the televised Grammy awards. The music was recognized and awarded, but only a select group of professionals were able to watch it. This is often the case with particular categories, such as Latin music, but even Latin music has its own Grammys, and they are televised at a different time of the year.

When asked if there was disappointment in the untelevised award, Skylark said: “Many of us knew we would not get on the televised broadcast, just because there are over 169 categories of music.”

So was it still as exciting to have the Hawaiian music category? HPU student Talsha Tadeo said: “I think it means a lot to the [Hawaiian] artists to be recognized. Kealil‘i Reichel has been around for a long time and is well liked by a lot of people. I was happy that the music was recognized, although it was not televised.”

The Pacific Northwest Chapter of NARAS is growing in membership, and educating other members about Hawaiian music, so the award for Best Hawaiian Album may one day be televised.
“ Any recognition of our music is wonderful,” said Skylark. “The industry is based on sales of products, so if the world begins to hear and, more importantly, buy our music, we all gain. For the people of Hawai‘i, it validates our music to the world.”

She added: “This will also allow our Hawaiian language to grow with more and more artists recording in our language to enter the category of Best Hawaiian Album. To qualify you have to have at least 51 percent of the recording in the Hawaiian language, and use instruments like the ukulele, steel guitar, and slack key. That is why some folks are upset that an all-instrumental album won, because we fought very hard to include the language element in the category.”

Skylark was delighted, nonetheless, by Hawai‘i’s music gaining recognition. “Now the world will know who we are as well,” she said.


2005, Kalamalama, the HPU Student Newspaper. All rights reserved.
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