Music: 2012 Grammy nominees announced

Dec. 1, 2011 | 1 Comment


George Kahumoku Jr. is the lone Hawaiian music artist nominated in a new regional roots category for the 54th Annual Grammy Awards, which will be announced in February.

The nominees were announced Wednesday, Nov. 30.

<em>Award-winning producer George Kahumoku, Jr. (Courtesy photo)</em>

Award-winning producer George Kahumoku, Jr. (Courtesy photo)

The slack-key master’s album “Wao Akua: The Forest of the Gods” was one of 13 Hawaiian music albums submitted for consideration in the category that includes recordings by Native American, Zydeco, Cajun and polka artists.

Kahumoku already has won three Grammys as a producer of compilation albums in the Hawaiian music category, which was eliminated in April in a restructuring of the Grammy categories.

“It’s a complete surprise. I didn’t think Hawaiian music or myself would have a chance. We’re not even in the continental U.S.; we’re a whole different country,” said Kahumoku by phone from the Napili Kai Beach Resort on Maui, where he was waiting to go on stage for his long-running “George Kahumoku Jr.’s Slack Key Show — Master of Hawaiian Music.”

“I don’t know how we ended up in the same category as Zydeco and those other guys, but who cares? It’s remarkable that we got this far in the category.”

Daniel Ho, who produced Kahumoku’s nominated album, received a Grammy nomination of his own, for best pop instrumental album for “E Kahe Mahie.” Ho has four Hawaiian music Grammys as a producer and one as a performer.

In another nomination of note, former Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder’s ukulele album, “Ukulele Songs,” was nominated for best folk album.

Other nominees for best regional roots music album are “Can’t Sit Down” by C.J. Chenier, “Rebirth Of New Orleans” by Rebirth Brass Band, “Grand Isle” by Steve Riley & The Mamou Playboys, and “Not Just Another Polka” by Jimmy Sturr & His Orchesta.

Kahumoku said he is friends with many of his fellow nominees because they often voted for each other when they competed in their own music genres before the Grammy restructuring, which eliminated 29 categories. Consistently low numbers of submissions in the Hawaiian category was cited as the reason for consolidating it with the other smaller categories.

“It’s great for Hawaiian music,” he said of his nomination. “But it’s bittersweet because of all the controversy among Hawaiians (about past winners). I feel like one of the reasons we got votes is that we were doing really good music. My whole focus was not the awards, just the music, and I still did it when I did this album.”

The all-instrumental “Wao Akua: The Forest of the Gods” was well on its way to success before Wednesday’s Grammy nomination. Four songs from the album are featured in the George Clooney hit movie “The Descendants,” and another was used in an episode of “Hawaii Five-0.”

The album includes new songs and instrumental versions of original songs previously recorded by Kahumoku. He said found inspiration for the work while teaching an ethnobotany class at the University of Hawaii-Maui College.

“The idea was to present music that if you went into the forest you would like to listen to,” he said.

The winner of the regional roots category will be announced during the untelevised pre-show portion of the 54th Annual Grammy Awards Show at the Los Angeles Convention on Feb. 12, 2012.

The Hawaiian artists and their albums that were under consideration as regional roots finalists, in addition to Kahumoku, included:

» Ahumanu, “No Ku‘uipo”
» Kawaki Alfiche, “Kale‘a”
» Robert Cazimero, “Hula”
» Hi‘ikua, “Aia i Hi‘ialo”
» Kuana Torres Kahele, “Kaunaloa”
» John Keawe, “Play With Me Papa”
» Mailani, “’Aina”
» Kenneth Makuakane, “Kawaipono”
» Doug & Sandy McMaster, “In My Heart”
» Various Artists, “A Tribute to Na Lani ‘Eha”
» Various Artists, “Na Haku Mele o Hawai‘i”
» Various Artists, “Wahine”

The Hawaiian music album category was one of 29 that were eliminated in the Grammy restructuring. Consistently low numbers of submissions in the Hawaiian category was cited as the reason for consolidating it with the other smaller categories.

Hawaii-born artist Bruno Mars scored big as well, pulling in six nominations for his album, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans,” and hit single, “Grenade.” The album was nominated for album of the year and best pop vocal album, while “Grenade” earned nominations in the song of the year, best pop solo performance and record of the year categories.

In addition, Mars work as part of the production group the Smeezingtons earned him a producer of the year, non-classical nomination for work on “Doo-Wops” along with “Lighters” by Bad Meets Evil and Lil Wayne’s “Mirror.”

Click here for the complete list of Grammy nominees in all categories.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for nearly 40 years. Contact him via email at

  • Anonymous

    What about LTSmooth and his new album My Journey.  He has a very loyal and big following here on the Big Island. Have you covered him recently in your column? We welcome you and love your writings.