Grantee: Aaron J. Salā
Native Ancestry: Native Hawaiian
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Award: 2016 National Artist Fellowship
The blending and mixing of modern and ancient cultural tradition and knowledge is always challenging and Aaron J. Salā magically brings the convergence of both worlds into his musical arrangements. Salā trained classically in both piano and voice but also trained in the art of traditional Native Hawaiian chant. He has etched his musical niche by unifying these two vastly different genres of music.
The recipient of many accolades, Aaron J. Salā is an accomplished recording artist and consummate musician in his own right. He is an award-winning vocalist, pianist, composer, arranger, conductor, producer, director, adjudicator, music scholar, and Hawaiian music professor.
In Hawaiian music circles Salā has been primarily known as the musician with the extraordinary piano talent who has helped turn other performers into award-winning recording artists. His self-produced debut album entitled, “Ka ‘Upu Aloha— Alone With My Thoughts”, gained him the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Award (Hawaiian Grammy) for Most Promising Artist of 2006. The album received the Haku Mele (Hawaiian language composition) Award as well as nominations in five other categories for the Hawaiian Grammy that year. His sophomore album entitled, “Napo‘ona Mahina: the Illusion of Reality,” released in 2008 and garnered nominations for Male Vocalist of the Year, Hawaiian Language Performance, Haku Mele, and Graphics.
Salā has performed in renowned venues around the world including Carnegie Hall, Wembley Arena, the Wilten Basilica, Bunkamura Hall, and the Hawai‘i Theatre. His studies in choral and orchestral conducting and scoring make him a sought after arranger. Since 2002, he has served as a choral arranger for the annual Kamehameha Schools Song Contest, and has worked as music director and arranger for several Walt Disney projects,
Salā’s goal for the fellowship is to complete the music for a stage production and then to begin another project. He is confident the fellowship will enable his completion of the composition and scoring of the production and further enable him to record a soundtrack of the production.
In all of my work, I aim to make the statement that, while we are native people growing up in a not-so-native world, the process of maturing and evolving should not obstruct our search for identity but should empower it.
~ Aaron J. Salā