Hawaiian music is prominently recognized in three major awards productions:
- Nā Hōkū Hanohano (“Stars of Distinction”)
- Hawai‘i Music Awards
- The GRAMMY Awards
In addition, Hawaiian music and hula artists have also been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts as National Heritage Fellows.
1. Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards
The annual Nā Hōkū Hanohano (“Stars of Distinction”) Awards honor achievement in the Hawai‘i-based recording industry. First organized by radio personality Krash Kealoha in 1978, the awards are now governed by the Hawai‘i Academy of Recording Arts (HARA). The Academy is a non-profit organization formed in 1982 to promote Hawai‘i’s recording industry and the music of Hawai‘i. HARA‘s voting members are professionals in the recording industry and allied fields.
HARAʻs website includes information on the current award categories, and lists of past winners. The “Na Hoku Hanohano Awards” page on the website “Hawaiian Music History” allows visitors to search by artist name, category, and year.
On this site, I am keeping track of two Nā Hōkū Hanohano award categories that recognize songwriting creativity and contributions.
- Song of the Year — a composer‘s award, for “best achievement in creating a first-time recorded song
- Haku Mele — a composer‘s award (and adjudicated by an appointed panel), for “best achievement for creating a new song or chant primarily in the Hawaiian language”
2. Hawai‘i Music Awards
The annual Hawai‘i Music Awards is a Peopleʻs Choice Awards program founded in 1996. Voting is done on an interactive voting website, and votes are submitted from around the world. The “Hawaiian Music History” website maintains lists of winners.
3. The GRAMMY Awards
Best Regional Roots Music Album, 2011-
Since 2011, eligible Hawaiian music recordings were placed into the “Best Regional Roots Music Album” category.
Best Hawaiian Album, 2004-2010
The GRAMMY Awards, first presented in 1959, bestow peer recognition of “artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.” (Overview of The GRAMMY Awards). Voters are industry professionals who are members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS). .
Hawaiian music was granted its own category in 2005, recognizing achievement in recordings released in 2003-2004. Prior to having a standalone category, Hawaiian music was included in the “World Music” category. Intense lobbying by the NARAS Pacific Northwest Chapter in collaboration with members of Hawai‘i’s recording industry resulted in a separate category, first awarded in 2005.
“Entries” are submissions that are submitted, and are verified to meet eligibility criteria. The criteria for the “Hawaiian Music Album” category, posted on the Recording Academyʻs website, is as follows:
For vocal or instrumental Hawaiian music albums containing at least 51% playing time of newly recorded material. This category is for recordings of a more traditional nature but allowing contemporary recordings containing substantial traditional elements. Hawaiian language must be used in a predominance of the vocal tracks.
Entries are placed on a preliminary ballot sent to voting members, who may vote for up to five selections within a category. The top 5 vote-getters are GRAMMY Nominees.
Nominees are placed on the final ballot which is sent out to voting members. In the final voting, members may vote for ONE selection in a category.
4. National Heritage Fellows
One of three lifetime honors bestowed by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Heritage Fellows are recognized for lifetime achievement, artistic excellence, and contributions to our nationʻs traditional arts heritage. Recipients are selected on the basis of nominations from the public.
- Click here to see the list of Hawaiian artists in music and hula who have been recognized as National Heritage Fellows.