By MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS
Rafu Entertainment Editor
Motoring her way to Las Vegas Monday, Tia Carrere was still in the post-Grammy glow.
Though known primarily on the mainland as an actress, Carrere has long had a love for music. That love remained plainly evident after she picked up the award for best Hawaiian music Sunday the 2011 Grammy Awards. It was her fourth nomination in the category.
“Sitting there, when they announced my name, I didn’t have time to react, because my mom and sister jumped out of their seats,” Carrere told The Rafu Monday afternoon.
“In past years, I had been a presenter, and I always told people who won to run to the stage, because walking up to accept their awards is what makes the show run so long,” she explained.
Carrere won the honor for her collection of songs with lyrics in Hawaiian, “Huana ke Aloha,” which was produced by her longtime friend and collaborator, Daniel Ho. Other big winners on Monday night included violinist Mitsuko Uchida, who took best instrumental soloist performance honors for “Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 23 and 24,” and Tak Matsumoto, a member of the Japanese rock band B’z picked up a Grammy for best pop instrumental album “Take Your Pick.” Honolulu-native Bruno Mars, who was nominated for seven Grammys, won best pop male vocal performance for “Just The Way You Are.”
During a promotional event for her album last October, Ho said that the opportunity to record has transformed Carrere, with whom he has been singing and performing since they were 14 years old.
“She’s always had music inside and was afraid to let it out,” Ho explained. “I knew that, because we were playing music when we were 14, so I knew that she was an amazing vocalist back then, she’s even better now. It was music that we grew up singing. Our first record was all familiar Hawaiian songs and we took it a step further by doing all originals for the next two CDs. With this album, these are traditional and classical melodies set to original Hawaiian lyrics, mixed with jazz and classical. It’s an exploration.”
A notable side note to the award for “Huana ke Aloha” is that it contains no slack key guitar, the trademark sound of traditional Hawaiian music recognized worldwide. Carrere said that there has been some grumbling by Hawaiian music purists about the awards for a new direction in island music, but that she hopes her notoriety helps spread appreciation of the genre.
“It’s kind of shame that there’s some sour grapes,” Carrere said. “I like to think we’re taking Hawaiian music to a wider world stage, and that we bring more attention to the music of Hawaii. Whatever the style or interpretation, we love playing it.”
This is Carrere’s second Grammy, after winning one with Ho for their 2008 album “Ikena.” She said that Ho was every bit a part of “Huana ke Aloha” as herself, and that he deserved equal credit.
“Daniel’s name should have been on this album,” she claimed. “He’s a music genius and he’s the one who has made all this possible. He does everything and I am fortunate to be able to call him my friend. He has made all my dreams come true.”
With Ho stepping to the stage with her Sunday during the pre-telecast awards ceremony, Carrere said in her acceptance speech, “Everybody thinks I’m an actress, but I’m a singer and a musician first and foremost and that’s where my heart lies.”