MELE Grammy Experience – Part 4

by Joel Chasteen, Glenn Molina, Vanessa DeCascos, Milani Maybin, and Noah Cronin

Last night was the “big show,” as they call it here in L.A. We just got back from the Grammys and are now back at our hotel rooms watching it again on CBS. Words can’t explain the energy and excitement we feel.

We arrived at the Staples Center at around 1:30 Sunday afternoon, dressed to impress and walking with a confidence knowing that this is where we belong. The convention center had just opened and we helped ourselves, among the rest of the fashionable and glamorous, to appetizers and refreshments. As the pre-telecast award ceremony was about to begin, celebrities started to arrive and we bumped into a few such as The Roots, Herbie Hancock (who shook a couple of our hands), and Musiq Soulchild. The pre-telecast event began with a jazzy scat-duet by Bobby McFerrin and Esperanza Spalding, who later snagged the award for Best New Artist. Many people don’t know that over 90% of the Grammy awards are given away during the pre-telecast awards, held right before the actual show. The event went by quickly, presenting awards from everything from Best Childrens Musical Album to Best Comedy Album, and of course, Best Hawaiian Music Album.

It was incredible to be in the same room, so close to the very artists and musicians that inspire us to pursue music. To be in arm’s reach with so many amazing people was more than we imagined. Some of us even sat right behind The Roots and watched as they received three awards in a row, including Best R&B Song and Best R&B Album for “Wake Up!” a collaboration with John Legend.

Glenn Molina caught up with Tia Carrere before and after winning the Best Hawaiian Album award, mentioning that her nephew is an old classmate. He also managed to take a picture with her after winning the award but wasn’t able to ask her how she felt about winning nor about the controversy surrounding the Hawaiian category. As someone of that celebrity status, Tia Carrere was pulled in all different directions at the same time.

Glenn did manage to talk to some of the Hawaiian nominees, including Amy Hanaiali’i-Gilliom and Cyril Pahinui, who said that this would probably be the last year for the category. They have been considering dissolving it and placing Hawaiian music in the World category as well as opting to stick to the Hoku Awards. Hanaiali’i-Gilliom said that ‘it is what it is.’ But it is then that we, students of the MELE program, realize why we were sent to the Grammys, to try to build Hawaii’s industry to be in that level, production and music-wise.

Following the pre-telecast awards it was time to strut our stuff at the red carpet and move on to the main event. The walk wasn’t as great as you may think because so many people are stuffed into a small area, which is a long tunnel with two different red carpets – one for celebs and one for the latter. As we walked down we were told to keep moving and none of the nominees were there at the time, but I must admit, it felt good. At the end of the tunnel was back into the Staples Center, where I was hungry enough to pay $11 for a McDonald’s hamburger meal.

After taking our seats, the moment we had been waiting for had finally arrived. The show was amazing from the beginning with an opening tribute performance to Aretha Franklin from Christina Aguilera, Martina McBride, Yolanda Adams, Jennifer Hudson, and Florence Welch. The energy of the performance was immense, with each singer singing out an Aretha Franklin hit, but the one that struck a nerve with us was Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of “Respect”, giving us goosebumps. Other performers include Cee Lo Green (donning a costume that resembles Big Bird and George Clinton combined), Lady Gaga (with her new song “Born This Way”), Eminem, Mick Jagger, Barbara Streisand, Bruno Mars, and many others. What amazed us was how fast the transition of the various sets was; just like during the backstage tour, workers were running around non-stop during bumpers and commercial breaks to set up for the next performer, ensuring a smooth transition. And during commercial breaks, we were treated to memorable performances from Grammys past. Throughout the show, we compared our experiences working at the Hoku Awards with this and realized how much we have to live up to back at home.

Looking back at earlier tonight and even the entire trip in general, it was a more than just a vacation or even a learning experience for that matter. It is a glimpse into the possible future of Hawaii’s music industry, in which we start making world-class hit songs and stage shows with high-quality production values. Also, it is a goal for us to make for our homegrown industry and ourselves to live up to the set standards that major hubs like Los Angeles and New York have created in terms of music and entertainment. And through these goals we can perpetuate our Hawaiian heritage much more clearly through music. It is an uphill challenge and there will be some resistance to change but in the end it will be all worth the while.


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