Hilo’s Mark Yamanaka wins third Hoku Album of the Year

  • Hilo's Mark Yamanaka, who won five Na Hoku Hanohano awards Saturday, bringing his career Hoku count to 14, poses with one of the coveted statuettes from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts. (Courtesy photo)

HILO — When Mark Yamanaka’s name was called multiple times at the 42nd Na Hoku Hanohano Awards Saturday night in Honolulu, his collaborators, Kellen and Lihau Paik — collectively known as Kupaoa — collected the coveted statuettes from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts.

Yamanaka, a Hiloan and Hawaiian music star, had more important business — attending the graduation ceremony of his 17-year-old son, Jorden, from Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii.

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“There’s no other place in the word I needed to be, other than my son’s graduation,” said Yamanaka. “I just wanted to hang out with my son as long as I could before he went off to grad night. I just wanted to spend as much time as I could with my son, and the rest was strictly with my family and for my family.”

Jorden Yamanaka, a budding entertainer in his own right, will major in music at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.

As for Jorden’s dad, he collected five Hokus Saturday night. The awards include: Album of the Year for “Lei Lehua,” an award he shares with producer Kellen Paik; Male Vocalist of the Year; Song of the Year for “Lei Lehua” with songwriting partner Lihau Paik; Single of the Year for “Morning Drive”; and Island Music Album of the Year.

That brings the career Na Hoku Hanohano award tally for Yamanaka to 14.

“I guess it’s a true testament to what I try to do, which is to release good music and try to make sure I give it my best,” Yamanaka said.

Asked what’s next, Yamanaka quipped, “Back to work at Aiona Car Sales.” A natural baritone vocalist whose soaring falsetto and yodeling are trademarks, Yamanaka has often credited the support he receives from his employer and the latitude to record and tour as an element of his success.

“The day job keeps me level-headed and motivated in other aspects of my life,” he added. “As far as the music, I’m really at a place where I’m just going to enjoy the ride with ‘Lei Lehua.’

“I didn’t anticipate the album having this much success at the Hokus. I kind of left my schedule open, as far as the summertime, to help my son transition. I didn’t want to be busy and away too much. I wanted to be around and available to help him with whatever he needs to graduate and to take that flight to Arizona.”

Not counting his Christmas album, “A Gift of the Heart,” on which he’s co-billed with Kupaoa, “Lei Lehua” is Yamanaka’s third solo album. The others, “Lei Pua Kenikeni” and “Lei Maile,” also won Album of the Year, in 2011 and 2014, respectively, no small feat.

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“To have all three of my solo albums recognized as Album of the Year, that just blows my mind,” Yamanaka said. “I don’t want to jinx the future, but I think being three for three is amazing. Album of the Year is the last award they give out that night.

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

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