Maui Arts & Entertainment

GRAMMY Drops Hawaiian Music Category

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By Wendy Osher

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The GRAMMY Awards presented by the Recording Academy is dropping 31 categories, including the GRAMMY for Hawaiian Music as part of a restructuring effort.

Next year, the entries that would have been considered for Best Hawaiian Music Album will fall into the broader category of Best Regional Roots Music Album instead.  This also includes traditional music recorded regionally from Native Americans, polka, zydeco and Canjun genres.

The Hawaiian Music GRAMMY was added in 2005, and has produced five winners in Slack Key Guitar, and two albums featuring actress Tia Carrere. That has drawn criticism from some in the Hawaiian Music industry, who question whether the award was truly reflective of the cultures and traditions of Hawaii.  Criticism has also ranged from argument over the voting process, to background knowledge of voters in traditional Hawaiian music, and criteria for GRAMMY nominations.


The list of winners from 2005 to 2011 were as follows:

  • 2005: “Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Masters Collection, Volume II,”  produced by Charles Michael Brotman.
  • 2006: “Masters Of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Vol. 1,” produced by Daniel Ho Creations
  • 2007: “Legends of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar: Live From Maui,” produced by Daniel Ho Creations.
  • 2008: “Treasures of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar,” produced by Ho, Kahumoku, Konwiser, and Wong.
  • 2009: “Ikena” featuring Tia Carrere and Daniel Ho, produced by Daniel Ho Creations.
  • 2010: “Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar, Volume 2,” produced by Daniel Ho Creations
  • 2011: “Huana Ke Aloha,” featuring Tia Carrere

Among the musicians who were nominated, but did not win over the years include: Keali’i Reichel, Raiatea Helm, Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom, Willie K, Cyril Pahinui, and Hookena.  One year, all but one of the albums nominated were Slack Key based.

Academy officials say the new structure was designed to ensure that all fields are treated with parity, and that each submission continues to have a home.


The 54th Grammy Awards in 2012 will feature 78 awards, down from the 109 awards designated this year.  The Academy is also requiring that a minimum of 40 distinct artist entries be required in each category.  That’s up from the existing requirement of 25.

If a Category receives between 25 and 39 entries, only three recordings would receive nominations that year.  The Academy will also put a Category on hiatus if it receives fewer than 25 entries in a given year, and discontinue the category if the trend continues for three consecutive years.

Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow was among the executives that made the announcement this morning.


“Every year, we diligently examine our Awards structure to develop an overall guiding vision and ensure that it remains a balanced and viable process,” said Portnow said in a media release.  “After careful and extensive review and analysis of all Categories and Fields, it was objectively determined that our GRAMMY Categories be restructured to the continued competition and prestige of the highest and only peer-recognized award in music.”

The GRAMMY Awards are considered one of the most prestigious and only peer-recognized award in music.  The Academy started out with 28 Categories in 1959.  In 2009, a comprehensive evaluation of the Awards process was initiated, prompting the change today.

The Recording Academy’s Awards & Nominations (A&N) Committee spent more than a year reviewing, analyzing, and evaluating the process and Categories.

*** Supporting information courtesy GRAMMY and the Recording Academy.


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