And The Na Hoku Goes To …

Anuhea performs ‘Big Deal’

It was an interesting evening that included many firsts 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 – including head-turner Anuhea, who 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!

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.

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

“Hopefully we’ll be going back to the studios to record another CD,” he says. “We just started rehearsing and we have couple songs, but there’s no rush.”

Na Palapalai‘s Kuana Torres Kahele and Kehau Tamure looked like Hawaiian royalty as they made their way down the red carpet. The trend-setters in style and falsetto 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 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.

Stay tuned because there’s more music to come from this talented group, this time a Hawaiian album.

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.

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