Mark Yamanaka wins five Na Hoku awards

Hilo native Mark Yamanaka reeled in five Na Hoku Hanohano awards last Saturday for his latest album, “Lei Maile.”

Hilo native Mark Yamanaka reeled in five Na Hoku Hanohano awards last Saturday for his latest album, “Lei Maile.”


The event, hosted by Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts, took place in the Kalakaua Ballroom at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.

Nominated for 10 awards, Yamanaka won Album of the Year, Hawaiian Music Album of the Year, tied for Male Vocalist of the Year, Single of the Year for “Maui Under Moonlight,” and the album took home an award for Liner Notes: Kale Chang and Kalikolihau Hannahs for “Lei Maile.”

He said the wins are an honor.

“There are so many great songs and I always say to come down to five nominees and out of those five get chosen out of 100, it’s pretty large,” he said.

Some other Big Island winners include Kuana Torres Kahele, Song of the Year (composer’s award) for “E Ku‘ulei, My Love”; Cyril Pahinui &Friends, Music Video/DVD, “Lets Play Music” — Cyril was also given a Lifetime Achievement Award; and Jacqueline “Skylark” Rossetti, the Moe Keale “Aloha Is” Award for Community Service, a previous Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

For Yamanaka, this isn’t his first big win. In 2011, he bagged four Na Hoku Hanohano awards, winning the Most Promising Artist, Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year awards for his debut solo CD “Lei Pua Kenikeni.” He also won Song of the Year in 2011 for his original composition, “Kaleoonalani,” which he wrote about his 6-year-old daughter, Ryane.

However, this was the first time he received 10 nominations, and said since the debut of his last CD, he’s really had to step up his game.

“So with the recognition I got from the first album, it put more expectation on me for this second one,” he said.

But he tries to not let the pressure get the best of him.

“I tell myself to just not worry about expectations; otherwise, it’s just going to create a block. So my producer said just do what you do and everything will work out. When you concern too much about technical stuff, it’ll probably put a little damper on your creativity.”

He’ll be tapping into that creativity soon to record a holiday album. Until then, he’s flying to places like Japan for performances and has an upcoming show in Las Vegas.

Yamanaka said he hopes to do a lot more travelling to mainland for performances, but he’ll always look forward to coming home.

“From Hilo, not much happens. Go to Oahu, and it’s lights, camera, action. It’s different for us Hilo people. I come from a humble town,” he said.

He said one of his most memorable moments this year was winning Single of the Year for “Maui Under Moonlight,” which sparked a moment of nostalgia for the homegrown musician.

“I’m really excited about this song because I can remember going to Maui and spending time with my kids and my girlfriend I told myself, ‘This is so relaxing. I’m going to write a song.’ And from that point until I wrote the song … it felt great,” he said.

Although the awards ceremony shined a spotlight on the musician, he said no matter how many awards he wins, he’s always working to raise the bar.

“There’s some point where it becomes like home cooking. Like home cooking, everyone can appreciate it no matter what, but if you were to take it to the next level and take your dish and propose it to say some high-class restaurant or to wherever it’s going to get critiqued publicly, it’s different,” he said.

Yamanaka will be in a Father’s Day concert with Torres Kahele Sunday, June 15, 7 p.m. at the Naniloa Hotel Crown Room. Beverages will be available but concert-goers can bring their own pupus.


Advance tickets are $20, available at CD Wizard and the Naniloa. To reserve a table of 10, call Pepe at 938-9714. Special room and ticket packages are available by calling the Naniloa at 969-3333.

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley

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