Daniel Ho Pwns The Hawaiian Grammys: Friday Links

There’s a big hoo-haa over the Hawaiian music Grammy awardturns out someone cares (via Ukulelia). Daniel Ho, whose all-ukulele album is nominated this year, has won every year since 2006. He’s the living embodiment of the elevator-musicification of Hawaiian music and people aren’t happy.

AV Club interview ukers including Aaron Keim and Danielle ATS. “Why not just play guitar like a “normal” musician?”

Jake brings his ads.

Singing Ukulele.

Instrumental version of To Make You Feel My Love on Uker Tabs.

MP3s: Jake Wildwood has a new album out and you can download it – and all his other records – free on his website, After the Lung Collapsed has a couple of tracks from Mr B and Neon Musical Insight has one from Doug Hoyer.

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  1. Tim February 12th, 2011 2:53 am

    A similar thing happens over at the Grammy for best Polka album. For a long time it was Jimmy Sturr winning a bunch of them, whereas some great polka albums from Brave Combo, Eddie Blazonczak, Chicago Push, Toledo Polka Motion have been all been ignored.

  2. Scott February 15th, 2011 7:36 am

    Sounds to me like sour grapes from the “unhappy people.” From what I’ve read other places from the unhappy ones, their problem is that they are of the opinion that Daniel “sucks up” to the academy to win his awards. They forget that other artists vote for the winners of each category. And I personally think Daniel has both played and produced music worthy of the awards. He is the only artist in Hawaiian music that makes it his bread and butter. If he doesn’t make or produce music, he starves. It is his day job. Maybe some of these other artists who, in my belief, also deserve the recognition and awards that Daniel has, should take the flying leap and do the same as he has. If they go to LA, I’ll bet he would even produce albums for them. And no, I do not know Daniel Ho, but I like his music.

  3. Spike Gomes February 16th, 2011 10:43 am


    Sour grapes? Considering that what Daniel Ho puts out is so far divorced from both traditional and contemporary Hawaiian music as practiced in the islands, and that folks who’ve been musicians that contributed to the Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970s have been overlooked while he stomps the competition year after year, I’d say the sour grapes have aged to a fine wine of well deserved bitterness.

    Saying that Hawaiian musicians in order to succeed at making Hawaiian music must leave the islands to enter the commercial music world of L.A. is so ludicrous as to boggle the mind. It’s rather like saying that if one wishes to learn how to cook authentic Mexican food, one ought to look to open a Taco Bell franchise, since they’re the most popular Mexican restaurant.

    It’s also an ignorant and disrespectful statement to imply that the musicians here in Hawaii are not professionals. Some of them undergo long hours performing for tourists at fairly low rates of pay in order to be full-time musicians. There are many many here for whom music is their “bread and butter”, and there are many more who while holding down unrelated jobs pour all their free time into making music.

    Attitudes like yours is why there are so much “sour grapes” in the islands. Guys who’ve maybe spent a couple weeks here tops profess to speak with authority about Hawaiian music, the Hawaiian music scene and Hawaiian musicians.

    I apologize for the tone of this response, but this is more than just “sour grapes”, and the statement that Daniel Ho is the only person who *really* works in Hawaiian music is a slap in the face of musicians here, of whom I count both friends and family, and that Hawaiian music would best be served by abandoning these islands… gah, I’ll just stop now.

  4. Scott Webb February 17th, 2011 7:20 am


    Now I know why there is talk of pulling the category at the grammys. If you are truly a representation of the islands attitude, then it deserves to be pulled.

    Listen my friend, there is a huge difference between “abandoning these islands” and going somewhere else to get the message out there of what you want others to hear. It’s kind of like the missionaries of old that spread the Gospel to other place in the world. If you feel as strongly as you seem to, you SHOULD encourage others to leave the islands to take the “true” music to the people of the world. I’ve never said Daniel was the best representative of the Hawaiian music scene, but he is pretty much the only one that has tried to put it out there for the mainstream to hear. Shamefully, until he came along, the most anyone in the mainland US heard was ‘Aloha Oe’ and thought of ‘Tiny Bubbles’ as representing island music.

    I, of course, am from the mainland, in fact from Kentucky, and I do appreciate Hawaiian music, especially ukulele music such as Ohta-san and Junior. By the way, I pronounce the instrument ookoolaylee as it should be, and I own 3 of them including a full custom. This does NOT make me an authority on your music, nor do I claim to be.

    I’m not sure that in your ire, you read my entire post, but I DID say the other artists DO in my humble opinion deserve both the recognition and the awards that Daniel Ho has recieved.

    Here it is in a nutshell. Instead of infighting and bitterness, don’t gripe about what is going on so publicly, so the category stays open in the grammys. Things change. They haven’t in a while, but eventually they will. If the Hawaiian music category is eliminated, everyone loses. The island music definitely deserves the chance to be in the running for its own award. Others will get their shot. A little patience is all that’s required.

    I really didn’t mean to offend, but I called it as I saw it. Us ‘outsiders’ only can see so much. But what we see is in these forums such as ukulele underground. All I’ve seen from islanders is how unfair it is that Mr. Ho recieves these awards, and how unfair that others don’t. Yet they don’t seem to be trying to find a solution. I think “spreading the gospel” could be one. Again, I say, things will change. I could go into what happened in the bluegrass music category many years back that was a very similar situation, but I won’t as I’ve already taken up too much space.

    I will say one last thing: I definitely invite another response from you, as I am open to your feeling and what you believe can, if anything be done. Open debate is what its all about.

  5. Spike Gomes February 17th, 2011 9:40 am

    To tell the truth, I would prefer the category be pulled, and I’m not alone in that sentiment. It’s not like we don’t have our own awards to recognize talent and achievement here in Hawaii. Some might say a Grammy category is a privilege and an honor, but if such a category repeatedly goes to someone who mischaracterizes Hawaiian music and is completely divorced from the traditions and community here in Hawaii, then we should gladly go without such an “honor”.

    As for spreading the gospel of Hawaiian music, it rather goes against a traditional Hawaiian custom. Something is only worth something if it is conveyed with good intention, in the correct manner, and with a traceable lineage. You simply can’t listen to Hawaiian music, pick up a few books and call yourself someone who makes Hawaiian music. It involves studying with someone much more experienced than you, and most importantly, mastering the Hawaiian language. By that standard I can’t call myself a true Hawaiian musician due to the fact that I still struggle with the intricacies of correct phrasing and intonation, much less writing my own lyrics. By one of my teacher’s estimations, it takes about six years to really get a grasp on the language.

    Why is the language so important? Because music was the one place where the language was preserved during the decades between the overthrow and the 1970s Renaissance. For nearly 70 years, speaking the language would get you punished in school, and parents that spoke Hawaiian as their first language banned it from their homes, lest their children be less than fluent speakers of English. The only way the language was passed down was from musician to musician, and thus oral fluency was preserved.

    There is also the element of paying one’s dues. You mentioned Tiny Bubbles as one of the few “Hawaiian” songs mainlanders would know. Don Ho (no relation to Daniel Ho) was a great entertainer, but at best a lounge singer in his musical ability. However he is well-beloved by Hawaiian musicians (and comedians) for one big thing. Despite doing a completely tourist oriented shtick, he used his influence and largess to open a lot of doors for more serious and traditional musicians to play the Waikiki circuit and abroad. He gave back. Daniel Ho up and decided to make himself a Hawaiian musician apart from the community and the islands, and seems completely intent to ignore those who came before, or help those who will come after, unless they happen to be Hollywood types residing in L.A.

    It’s not that we *don’t* want people to be interested in Hawaiian music. It’s more that Hawaiian music is something deep in the heart of the cultural spirit of Hawaii. It exists to perpetuate what was almost lost, and all else is secondary. To see it flogged out and disrespected brings out very strong emotion.

  6. Woodshed February 17th, 2011 10:46 am

    Tim: Interesting to know. It seems like the way the Grammys are set up, this sort of thing is inevitable.

    Scott and Spike: Thanks very much for your well thought out comments.

  7. Cyril Pahinui April 9th, 2011 9:28 am

    Aloha, I was sent you link and did read the comments. It was interesting to say the least. I would like to add a little light to your discussion and then see what you think.

    First off I am a Hawaiian and a Hawaiian musician and so was my dad. In fact he was a leader in the Hawaiian Music Renaissance. He was a full time musician and held weekend long kanikapila sessions (jams) in the back yard with over a 100 musicians who stayed all weekend to play together. And we had hula too. That is how I grew up.

    One thing i know is there was protocol. Families who used to keep their music secret and take it to the grave so someone did not abuse the privilege came there and shared their styles and songs to help preserve the language and the music which was nearly killed by the missionaries who came to Hawaii.

    As kids we were not allowed to speak Hawaiian because of these missionaries. We were punished and in fact it was actually illegal. So much of the language was reserved in the songs which every one enjoyed hearing and imitating with huchi kuchi style that caught on in Hollywood kind stuffs. My father professionally since he was about 15 and played until his death. He is still recognized for his unique style. He developed over 20 tunings for slack key and played any kind of string instrument you can hand him. All without any formal training all by ear.

    We were all allowed to watch and listen. No ask questions. Kanikapila style, Nana ka maka; ho ‘olohe ka pepeiao -watch with the eyes, and listen with the ears. Thus one learns. If you act high makamaka you out. Kumu would not share with you and you never got to the real secrets of their kauna (hidden meanings), stylings, and tunings.

    If you show respect, pay attention and try hard they share and help you. You always respect the ones who taught you and shared their knowledge with you. You would never claim it as your own or use it to make money without first asking permission. Songs were part of a family’s treasures not just pieces of music for anyone to take. As with the old chants they told the story of the family and special place they lived. When someone gave you a song to play like when my dad was given Hiilawe. That was then your song. You never go one party or show and play Hiilawe if Gabby in the room without asking.

    You always recognize your lineage when you perform, genealogy. Why you were appropriate to do the material you did and who taught and endorsed you. And to show respect and aloha and thank those who gave you the talent and skills and music you now share.

    When my dad asked me, “Son, want to earn some bread and come play with me”. Only then I knew I had graduated. For me my masters, my dad, Sonny Cillingworth, Atta Issacs, Leonard Kwan, they are my true Grammy. something Daniel Ho will never have. Only a few alive today learned and played with the likes of them. And I have my students who are excellent and will take their turn when the time comes. And also I teach others all over the world. And if they show respect I help them to learn the true heart of Hawaiian music and share a few secrets.

    I got my first professional gig when I was 13. i Played at “Honeys Tavern”, it was owned by Don Ho’s parents. And I had to get my dad permission, sign a waiver because I was under aged.

    In my back yard and throughout the islands I have played with the best of best and it is all with aloha for our Hawaiian music. I won plenty awards and did some innovative stuff with Peter Moon and Palani Vaughan that people got a little on edge about because it was a little out there but still kept that ipu beat that makes it Hawaiian. So it became contemporary Hawaiian music of today. I recorded on more than 50 albums, and wrote songs that won awards.

    This year alone I have donated 13 concerts to Hawaiian organizations and language schools to help them raise money. And taught over 500 students for free in Hawaii public schools. I donate performances to the Hawaiian old folks home every year. That is my give back for the blessings of music that was taught to me by my Hawaiian kupuna (elders).

    At one time a few years ago I was introduced to Daniel Ho by some guys who wanted to do the Slack Key project. I was a little worried but decided to give it a chance.

    Well that is were it all got off track. On the Masters series albums several cuts like Palani Vaughan’s train song was recorded and never licensed or even ask permission . No royalties ever paid. He one kupuna He one real Master of the language and music. Show some respect! Letter coming in the mailbox on that one soon..

    One of my licks that I played with a student was recorded with that student without asking me if the student could use the material, or even if I wanted to play on it, and it was never released by me yet. In fact the lick is only a part of the actual song it will go with. And they named it “Cyril Slack Key”. Steel the song and put it on an album that they put up against my own He’eia that year. That by protocol is about as low as you go. Not to mention it is illegal even on the mainland probably even in Kentucky.

    And his album won the Grammy that year. Well I can say the student is no longer a student of mines and I will never work with Daniel Ho again. And I never played at their concert series again either.

    I did not file any kind of suit because we did not want to cause anymore problems for the image of Hawaiian Music and we are always called poor losers. Well now that we lost the Grammy I have turned it over to an attorney and will take it as far as it can go at this point. And those are not the only two there are others that I can’t mention due to similar situations that will be coming up. Check the mail Daniel and it won’t be checks a coming.

    He steals the material and doesn’t even ask the artists or pay them royalties for the albums they sold. It’s not just about Hawaiian protocol. Its about intellectual property.

    While he was up to all this he was building a huge data base. If you go on the Grammy 365 he has over 4,000 friends on his page. If you go to many of their pages he is their only friend. and he solicits votes as we have seen the solicitations and have them saved for evidence when we need them.

    He writes books on the Secrets of Slack Key…after going to workshops that we teach. Who is he to write books about this. It’s true that anyone can write a book. But it is not his book to write. In my book I don’t care for him or the way he does business.

    And now he can win Grammys because he has built a huge voting block on the backs of the Masters.

    And he is deciding who is a Master by putting young students on albums with Masters and now their all Masters and Grammy winners. And they go around claiming to be 5 time Grammy winners and they are not. Only he won the Grammy as producer. So that is all BS too. check the Grammy site to see if you see Keoki Kahumoku’s name under Grammy winners.

    When I am asked I say I contributed to 3 Grammy winning albums. Not claim to be Grammy winner. But I can tell you for sure I have 2 Grammy Nominees that I received fair and square and with all material that was properly used. songs my Masters gave me to play and taught me how to play with heart.

    So last year several of us full time professional lifelong Hawaiian musicians did an album that we all contributed to and all of us would have gotten the award or maybe Ledward Kaapana who’s album was also up. Another life long (I first met and played with him at my home when we were about 12) full time professional musicians. But we did not hire people to go online and build a fake block of friends to vote for us so can’t beat Daniel.

    And by the way one of those a full time Hawaiian working lifetime Musician Denise Kamakahi has also written over 500 songs in Hawaiian and plays a mean Sack Key and ukulele too for that matter.

    Ledward and I went all over the world. We took it to France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, Carnegie Hall twice. East Coast West coast toured in a bus every state you got…all before Daniel Ho was born. And that is why people know what is Slack Key.

    Maybe now you starting to get the idea of what is up over here.

    It is not that it is the best album it is who can get the votes. building a data base for 6 years and living in L.A. where you can go the meetings and parties has its rewards. But that doesn’t make it Hawaiian Music. and we have to answer to the kupuna. Because we the ones who chose to share it and try to keep it alive and what they see is we just got another thing stolen form the Hawaiians. They know what is Hawaiian music and who payed their dues and how the music was learned and it ain’t Daniel Ho. And it certainly ain’t Tia Carerra. Wonder if you ever saw her Dick Cavett interview where she practically denied being from Hawaii and said she had put all that behind her…and now she is “getting back to her roots”…… And ask yourself what roots? She left years ago. She never played with one Hawaiian musician in her life that I know of.

    Anyway maybe you are getting the idea that there is more to this story and good to dig a little more.

    And by the way if you really like learn to play Hawaiian music look me up some time at one of my classes and I will be glad to share some real Hawaiian music from the heart with you.

    Aloha to you my brothers. A hui hou, Cyril

  8. Scott Webb April 10th, 2011 10:55 am

    Okay…so I spoke completely out of turn and put my foot in my mouth up to my knee. But, in my defense,I have actually listened to Daniel Ho’s albums (not Tia Carrere’s) and like both his slack key albums and his ukulele albums. I like the music. Am I a bad guy for that?

    I didn’t know the history of it, and as with pretty much every other type of music I’ve ever listened to, I haven’t checked into the history of it either. I just listened…and liked or didn’t like.

    As for the grammys, many categories have had plenty of controversy. Lots of people have been angered over different things. Such as Michael Bolton winning a grammy with other people’s music, or Milli Vanilli winning a grammy without even using their own voices. But in each of these particular cases, they were found out, and exposed for the frauds they were. Bad comparisons I know, but you get the idea.

    You and other injured parties should have started some kind of litigation long ago! There is no reason to let this continue. I’ve been told (don’t pretend to understand) that there is a kind of “code” among the Hawaiian people against taking that kind of action. If he’s using other people’s music without their permission, it’s time to pay the piper. Yes, even here in Kentucky, us dumb hillbillies think this is against the law.

    By the way, just to clarify, when I was talking about full-time musicians, I was referring to entries in the grammy category this past year. I was basing my information as to whether most were full-time or not from friends who have lived in Hawaii their entire lives, and Hawaiian music is their full-time business. And no, they don’t play for Daniel Ho. I simply asked why all the hubbub after I had read several articles on the subject. The answer was that Daniel Ho makes playing and producing Hawaiian music his bread and butter.

    Just to let you know, Mr. Pahinui, I am both humbled and honored that you have shared some of the history, and your own personal life experiences with me.

    Sounds to me that you are to slack key guitar what Gordon Mark is to ukulele. Great instructors as well as musicians. I don’t know what your opinion of Mr. Mark is, so I hope this doesn’t offend you.

    And I do not have the talent for the guitar. I can barely play an ukulele at this point, but would like to learn. Being in Kentucky with this instrument isn’t exactly easy. No one to teach me, but myself. And I’m not a very patient teacher!

  9. Claudio April 11th, 2011 10:34 pm

    I’m in awe of masters who can live and breathe an art like Ki ho‘alu and keep it alive. I enjoyed hearing this. The awards bullshit is no surprise and not unique to Grammy. So good luck Cyril.

  10. Francine Yagi June 10th, 2011 1:02 am

    Uncle Cyril, Mahalo for sharing with us your mana’o on the subject of the grammys!
    I grew up with all that sweet music that your father and the other Masters played and I enjoy your music and that which all of your brothers play.
    As I get older I understand more and more all the lessons that our kupuna taught us. It makes me miss my Tutu so much for she was the heart and soul of my learning to finding the part of me that is my Hawaiian.
    Ke Akua Ho’o maika’i oe!

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