Hilo-born Grammy winner coming home

  • 4915109_web1_image1201721374940745.jpeg
  • 4915109_web1_EWaleaCover--1-20161271682251320172138440162.jpg

Ask Hilo native and newly minted Grammy award winner Kalani Pe‘a what’s next and you might expect him to reply, “I’m going to Disneyland!” After all, his win of the recording industry’s most prestigious award occurred Sunday in Los Angeles, little more than a mighty heave of the Naha Stone from the self-proclaimed “happiest place on Earth.”

ADVERTISING


Ask Hilo native and newly minted Grammy award winner Kalani Pe‘a what’s next and you might expect him to reply, “I’m going to Disneyland!” After all, his win of the recording industry’s most prestigious award occurred Sunday in Los Angeles, little more than a mighty heave of the Naha Stone from the self-proclaimed “happiest place on Earth.”

That, however, is not how the dapper “millennial Hawaiian” singer-songwriter, who hails from Panaewa, rolls.

“This Saturday, I’m coming back to Hilo. I’m going back to my alma mater, my roots, Ke Kula ‘o Nawahiokalani‘opu‘u’s Pulama Mauli Ola Hawaiian language event and concert out in Keaau,” Pe‘a said Monday. The all-day celebration is free and Pe‘a is scheduled to take the stage at noon.

Pe‘a’s historic win for Best Regional Roots Music Album for his debut CD, “E Walea,” occurred in the non-televised portion of the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. It’s the first time since the category was introduced in 2012 that a Hawaiian recording has won and the first time the category has been won by an artist outside the Louisiana Cajun and zydeco genres. The regional roots category, which encompasses the genres of Hawaiian, Native American, polka, zydeco and Cajun-Creole music, was established in an effort to streamline the number of categories.

“After I heard my name, I said, ‘Oh, my gosh. Hawaii’s being recognized for the first time in this category since 2012. I’m just overwhelmed with joy,” Pe‘a said.

“E Walea” is a hybrid, with seven original Hawaiian-language compositions, a sprinkling of familiar Hawaiian favorites and covers of two 1970s pop hits — “You Are So Beautiful” and “Always and Forever” — sung in English and Hawaiian.

The other nominees this year were “Broken Promised Land” by Cajun musicians Barry Jean Ancelet and Sam Broussard, “Gulfstream” by Cajun and Creole band Roddie Romero and The Hub City All-Stars, Cajun album “I Wanna Sing Right: Rediscovering Lomax In The Evangeline Country” by various artists, and “It’s A Cree Thing” by Native American artists Northern Cree from Alberta, Canada.

Pe‘a, a 2001 graduate of Ke Kula ‘o Nawahiokalani‘opu‘u, a Hawaiian-language immersion school, is the Hawaiian resource coordinator for Kamehameha Schools-Maui, so it should come as no surprise his acceptance speech was in Hawaiian and English.

“I had a speech impediment at 4 years old and my mom introduced me to music. Music saved my life. I love you mom,” Pe‘a told the audience, melting hearts as he accepted his statuette.

And after he descended from his brief star turn on the recording industry’s most vaunted stage?

“I asked my mom, ‘How do you feel?’” Pe‘a recalled. “She said, ‘I dropped my credit cards all over the place. My bag, I just threw it all out. It was just like watching a game. But it wasn’t a game. It was you getting awarded for you hard work.’ I said, ‘Mom, it’s all because of you.’”

Pe‘a said luminaries he met at the awards show include Chance the Rapper, who won three Grammys including Best New Artist, and Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, who lives in Honolulu.

“He said, ‘Metallica would love to collaborate with you.’ I was, like, ‘Hawaiian music and contemporary with Metallica. That’ll rock!’” Pe‘a exclaimed.

While in Los Angeles, Pe‘a performed with several other Hawaiian musicians, including Henry Kapono, to celebrate the museum’s latest exhibit. The exhibit’s title was taken from two popular Cecilio & Kapono songs — “We Are Friends: A Lifetime Party of ’70s Hawaiian Music.”

Pe‘a said his plan is to use the “energy and synergy” of the Grammy to build on his auspicious beginning as a recording artist.

“I’m starting to work on a new album, my second album. I’m still working with (producer-engineer) Dave Tucciarone. I’m his 301st album and I’m his first Grammy-nominated and now Grammy award-winning album,” he said.

ADVERTISING


To borrow — uh, make that steal — another line from the legendary Kapono, “And the best is yet to come.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.