May 28--The biggest story of tonight's 39th annual Na Hoku Hanohano Awards isn't about Hawaiian music. Its emotional peak will involve Jimmy Borges, Hawaii's foremost jazz vocalist since the 1970s.
39TH ANNUAL NA HOKU HANOHANO AWARDS
Presented by Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts
>> Where: Hawai'i Convention Center
>> When: 4 p.m. (cocktails), 5:15 p.m. (dinner), today
>> Cost: $145-$225 ($135 for members); remaining tickets will be sold at the registration table beginning at 3 p.m. today
>> Info: nahokuhanohano.org
>> Note: Live telecast starts at 7 p.m. on KFVE
Borges, 80, announced in December that he is dying of liver and lung cancer. He is too ill to attend tonight's awards ceremony at the Hawai'i Convention Center, where his self-titled album -- his first in 14 years -- is up for Hoku Awards for album of the year, male vocalist of the year, jazz album of the year and graphic design. He is also a finalist for favorite entertainer of the year, the only category to be determined by public vote.
The Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts gave Borges its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, but he has never won a Hoku. His only previous album, "Honolulu Lady," was released in 1991. That was several years before the jazz category was added, and the album did not win in any of the existing categories.
History and sentiment aside, Borges' album should be considered a slam dunk for the 2016 Hoku for jazz album. It is a beautifully performed body of work and was superbly produced by Mountain Apple's Jon de Mello and packaged by designer B. Kanai'a Nakamura, who will get the trophy if "Jimmy Borges" wins for graphic design.
Borges is facing tough competition elsewhere.
Other nominees for album of the year are Natalie Ai Kamauu, Nathan Aweau, Amy Hanaiali'i, Maunalua and Sean Na'auao -- all clearly favoring the Hawaiian music genre, though Hanaiali'i is also a talented jazz singer.
Hawaiian music dominates the female vocalist category as well, with Hanaiali'i and Kamauu joined by Mailani as the front-runners. Albums by Lily Meola and Kimie Miner, who are competing against each other in the contemporary category, complete the list. If either wins for female vocalist, it would be one of the biggest upsets in the history of the awards.
If sentiment counts for anything, then Kamauu could have an edge. She and Keali'i Reichel were also-rans at the 2016 Grammy Awards in February, but the Grammys use a different eligibility year from the Hokus, and Reichel's album was a Hoku winner in 2015. Sentiment would be served if Kamauu's beautiful album wins at least one award this year.
Some of Hawaii's top music stars -- Reichel and Mark Yamanaka, to name two -- made grand debuts as recording artists by winning the Hoku for most promising artist while capturing multiple top awards in the same year. Four of the five finalists in this year's eclectic most promising artist category -- Blayne Asing, Crimson Apple, Meola and Tim Rose -- are finalists in other categories. Any of them could be big winners.
Or the keiki could lead: The other nominee for most promising artist is the Kamehameha Schools Children's Chorus.
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