Beautiful music

KOLOA — For Kepa Kruse, winning an award at the 39th annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards is much more than just getting recognition.

“It’s always great to receive validation for something you’re passionate about, but to receive an award like that in front of your heroes is amazing,” Kruse said. “The room was full of Hawaiian musicians who have contributed to Hawaiian music. The legacy of Hawaiian music is really strong, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Kruse, who lives in Koloa, was one of five Kauai musical acts who took home titles during Saturday’s ceremony at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

He won Comedy Album of the Year for his album, “Electric Island.”

Stuart Hollinger took home the title for Rock Album of the Year for “Endangered Species.” It’s a compilation of 12 original songs written by Hollinger.

“We are once again humbled and honored for his music being recognized by all his peers,” wrote Mika Ashley-Hollinger.

Taj Mahal won R&B Album of the Year for “Live from Kauai.”

Lihau Paik, who performs as a duo with her husband Kellen under the name Kupaoa, took home the award for the Christmas Album of the Year.

“We feel so lucky to be fortunate enough to receive the award,” she said. “There are so many talented people in the music industry in Hawaii, and to be recognized by our peers is so humbling.”

The album, called “A Gift of the Heart,” which was a collaboration with Mark Yamanaka, is unique because it features mostly original holiday songs, Paik said.

“We made a real effort to compose new songs for the season,” she said. “Out of the 12 or 13 songs, there were only four remakes. Everything else was new.”

Paul Togioka, who won the Ki Ho’alu Legacy Award, said it’s unusual that so many from Kauai took home awards.

“Usually there’s only one winner from Kauai, and it’s sporadic when Kauai wins,” he said. “It’s really surprising what happened, but I’m proud.”

Togioka said he was “blown away” when it was announced he won the Ki Ho’alu Legacy Award, or lifetime achievement award.

“It’s made everything worthwhile,” he said. “I’m honored because the previous winners were people I really idolized.”

Togioka started playing the slack key guitar in the 1980s. He previously won two Hoku Awards for compilation albums and a Hawaii Music Award, which is different from Na Hoku Hanohano, for a solo album.

The Grammy nominee often performs at festivals and weddings.

Kauai musicians have a close bond, Togioka said.

“We have respect for one another because we know how hard it is to get here,” he said.

Paik added: “Kauai has always had so many talented musicians, and I’m thrilled they are becoming known outside the island.

Kruse agreed.

“We’re small, so it’s nice to have a solid group of people who support each other,” he said.

From his music and the theme of “Endangered Species,” Hollinger hopes people recognize they need to take action to make the world a better place, a lasting place — for all creatures that call Earth home.

“People can make a difference,” he told The Garden Island. “It takes only one.”

He hopes his music inspires people to believe in themselves.

“It’s important for us to embrace life and live it to the fullest. Follow your dreams. It’s OK if you don’t make it. But if you never try, you failed. That’s unacceptable,” he told TGI.

Kruse says he puts humor in his songs by writing about his observations of human irony and human interaction.

“If it can make people smile, that’s the ultimate for me,” he said.

Kruse, who won the Hoku Award in 2011 for R&B Album of the Year, said he’s grateful to be a part of the ceremony.

“I’m still reeling from the experience,” he said. “I’m really proud and honored to have been there and participate in such a prestigious event.”

Kauai musician Michael Keale was a nominee in several categories.

Paik and her husband have been performing together for 11 years. They have each received a total of eight Hoku awards.

The most rewarding part about being a part of the Hawaiian music scene is keeping Hawaiian language alive, Paik said.

“My husband and I are passionate about Hawaiian music and language, ” she said. “So being able to perpetuate the language and to contribute to Hawaii’s music industry is important to us.”

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