By Wayne Harada
The Lim Family from Kohala, on the Big Island, and a reunion of original and replacement members of The Ali'is, were big hits at the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts’ Lifetime Achievement Awards Saturday (May 5) at the Ala Moana Hotel.
I remember when I first heard and saw the Lim ‘ohana perform, decades ago, when they were recorded by producer Bill Murata. They went on to win Traditional Hawaiian Album and later Group of the Year honors for what comes naturally: a backyard-simple, from-the-heart Hawaiiana posture.
Of course, how can you forget The Ali'is — who were instrumental (and vocal) in the early popularity of Don Ho, who hired Joe Mundo, Benny Chong, Rudy Aquino, Manny Lagodlagod (now Lagod) and Al Akana — at Duke Kahanamoku’s at the International Place. Antics. Harmony. Sizzling sounds.
Both acts were among 12 honorees at the HARA event, an expanded roster of Achievement awardees, because this marks the 35th anniversary of the awards and the organization.
I was blessed to be one of those honored. But I felt insecure, inadequate, since I don’t sing, dance, write music, engineer, create mele or entertain — some of the requirements for this lifetime honor.
I know, since I served as one of the founding board of governors of HARA for the first 10 years of its existence; and it’s a challenge to come up with a list of honorees and then hone it down to a select few. You have had to make some imprint and lasting legacy on the music industry; you have had to devote your life to sharing and perpetuating the culture of the Islands.
I’ve never made an album (but I did sing with an all-star gathering when Henry Kapono wrote and composed an anthem in the spirit of “We Are the World” years ago), so imagine how I felt like an outsider who, late in life (I’m 70, retired, but still working), suddenly became an insider.
My only “instrument,” over time, was a typewriter, initially manual and eventually IBM Selectric (young folks, ask your moms and dads or kupuna) ... which segued into a computer. As the retired entertainment editor, reporter and columnist for The Honolulu Advertiser and its TGIF section, the beat goes on — I’m still a Sunday columnist
for the merged Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
My “instrument” has allowed me have the best seat in the house for nearly five decades of chronicling the wave of talent that has surfed through the waters in my tenure. For the academy to hurl me into this circle of distinguished achievers, I feel like a very lucky soul, rewarded not for any major accomplishment but for simply doing a cherished job.
Since day one, I still get very excited and thrilled when a local entertainer makes good. It was that way when I was a cub reporter (think the Robin Luke era, and again, kids, ask your elders), and throughout the decades with an ongoing parade of national achievers — Yvonne Elliman, Bette Midler, Dean Pitchford, Georgia Engel, Glenn Medeiros, Jason Tam, Kevin McCollum, Loretta Ables Sayre, Jake Shimabukuro and Bruno Mars. Yes, even Bruddah Iz, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. They’ve all enjoyed widespread acclaim; they’ve all made my Show Biz column because they had some of these common threads: a unique talent, a lucky break, an indelible spirit. The short list includes singers, a producers, actors, and recording stars.
Because I’ve written about them, with bold face names jumping out of the column, HARA welcomed me into this exclusive club. They say I helped launch careers with the exposure. Perhaps. But I think I merely shared my enthusiasm and joy, about the various pleasures and treasures with another common root: they’re all Island natives, from The Brothers Cazimero to Frank DeLima, from Don Ho to Andy Bumatai, from the Tihati ohana to the acting fraternity that put Lisa Matsumoto on the map, from Audy Kimura to Jimmy Borges, from Carole Kai to the Society of Seven, from Karen Keawehawai’i to The Krush, from Cecilio and Kapono to John Hirokawa, from Audy Kimura to Jay Larrin, from Hapa to Amy Hanaiali’i, from Jimmy Borges to Olomana, from Loyal Garner to Olomana, from Keola and Kapono Beamer to Gabby Pahinui, from the Makaha Sons to Melveen Leed, from Rene Paulo to Emma Veary. And many more, from Augie T. to Booga Booga. You get the idea.
But back to the HARA luncheon.
It had been some time since I’ve been to a Na Hoku event, and the luncheon chimed with yesteryear charm. Old chums hugging and catching up. Earnest joy. I think the nooner, with a model of honoring achievers, left hostilities out of the door. No one was going to “win,” since the laurels were already announced. Because of the more “senior” honorees, there was old school reflection and buzz, unlike the often cliquish tone of the larger evening Na Hoku finale, when nominees are anxious and anticipatory in mood, when the spirit of competition and “sides” prevail. No? Well, I felt that divisive aura at the Na Hoku night.
Spontaneity joins the celebratory agenda at the lifetime party. Noelani Mahoe jumps up to do an impromptu hula; Nalani Olds sings with the Royal Hawaiian Band; the grandkids from the Lim Ohana dance to the ‘ohana’s signature “Pua Olena.”
And yes, Jimmy Borges adds his charisma and charm to the Betty Loo Taylor segment; and The Ali'is, minus Joe Mundo, stroll down memory lane via songs.
Real charms, from devoted and iconic chums.
I would be remiss not to name and thank this year’s inductees to the lifetime loop: The Royal Hawaiian Band, Alice Johnson, ‘Ihilani Miller, Nalani Olds, Pua Almeida, The Lim Family, Betty Loo Taylor, Frank DeLima, Moe Ke’ale, Kimo Kahoano and The Ali’is. Oh yes, me, too.
And oh, Kimo, Kimo, Kimo. We all adore you and your multi-hyphenate skills: emcee, singer, dancer, radio guy, actor, etc. As a veteran host, however, you should remember not to hog the mike and linger and chat and reflect, with that verbose posture. Yes, you were elated, but so were the others. This was not a competition of who could stay at the mike the longest.
So, take a bow; we bestow to you the most adored but ingratiating personality of the day. No malice intended, but that’s my reviewer voice speaking. From champ to chump, bruddah. There, I’ve said it.
Thanks to the academy — and every one else who brought leis, cheers, aloha and love during the day. Mahalo plenty, on behalf of all honorees.
If you were there, share your thoughts.