Described as “dazzling” by the New York Times, Makana is an internationally acclaimed guitarist, singer, composer, and activist who is widely known for lending his musical talent for social change. He has been a TEDx Talk presenter, and his guitar playing has been featured on three Grammy-nominated albums, including the soundtrack of the Academy Award–winning film The Descendants. In 2011, at the apex of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Makana’s song “We Are the Many” went viral on YouTube, garnering more than half a million collective views, and was coined the “Occupy Anthem” by Rolling Stone magazine.
His performance of the song at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) world leaders’ dinner hosted by the President and Mrs. Obama also went viral and became the number one news story on Yahoo worldwide for two days, garnering appearances on CNN, BBC, ABC, Democracy Now!, the Sean Hannity Show, and other major news outlets. Makana’s captivating and wide-ranging performance style has led him to share the stage with Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson; to open for music legends Sting, Carlos Santana, and Elvis Costello; and to perform in venues ranging from Asian and European opera houses to the White House. Makana has released eight records to date and, most recently, a music video anthem, “Fire Is Ours,” for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Makana’s career is incredibly diverse. He opened for Common at the 2015 Global Green Pre-Oscar Gala in Hollywood; co-headlined a music festival with Nahko and Medicine for the People; and scored the Hawai’i Visitors and Convention Bureau’s entire 2016 television campaign, airing on networks and in movie theaters nationwide, for which he was awarded a PELE advertising award for his score. He also composed a song honoring the historic pier of the coastal town of Cayucos, after helping raise funds for its restoration, and produced three tribute concerts honoring his late mentor, slack-key legend Sonny Chillingworth. In the summer of 2016, he was invited to open a US national arena tour for rock legends Bad Company and Joe Walsh, and he debuted his newest album, Introducing SLACK ROCK.
Born and raised in Hawai’i, Makana grew up on the shores of Waikiki amid the likes of legend Don Ho and young Elvis-impersonator Bruno Mars. Makana, whose name means “a gift given freely,” began singing when he was seven years old. He took up the ukulele at nine and began learning the ancient art of slack-key guitar at eleven. By fourteen, he was performing professionally and, before long, playing five nights a week. His reputation as the youngest virtuoso of slack-key guitar spread like molten volcanic lava throughout the islands.
Makana provided a textbook illustration of slack-key style. . . . Dazzling.
—New York Times
He is a master, for certain, but blessed with sizzling showmanship.