“My inspiration stems from art’s potential to ignite curiosity, the seed of transcendence. I am a native of Hawai’i and a citizen of the Earth; my music is guided by a burning desire to merge the cultural heritage of my kupuna (elders) with global themes, weaving the roots of Hawai’i’s vast musical palette into a universal sound that includes influences from rock, bluegrass, African, Latin, Celtic, modern and folk music traditions.
“It’s not easy to categorize my music; it crosses multiple genres. Like my kumu (teacher) Uncle Sonny Chillingworth, one of Hawai’i’s legendary performers: he played Hawai’ian slack key guitar, Portuguese music, country, bossa nova, katchi-katchi… growing up in Hawai’i exposed me to both a melting pot of ethnicities as well as a constant influx of sounds from around the world. My various records reflect those diverse ingredients. Fortunately my roots are deep, having learned from the Slack Key Masters as a young boy.
As an independent artist I exercise my freedom in creating art that isn’t purely commercially driven, and I am blessed and humbled by the support of listeners around our planet. On this site you’ll find more perspective about my music, philosophy and history, learn about the art of Ki Ho’alu (slack key guitar), as well as get updated on my live performances and releases. Aloha!”
The March 1, 2003, Esquire Magazine notes, “Makana is considered the greatest living player” of Slack Key Guitar. Many others agree. In April of 2009, The National Geographic Society (NGS) presented Makana in concert and the event was recorded for the NGS Music Channel series “Geo Sessions”. On their Web site, the NGS wrote, “With five albums to his credit [now 6], he has taken this centuries-old tradition and blasted it into the 21st century, fusing it with influences from Bob Marley to the Smashing Pumpkins, and opening for Sting and Santana. See why this young guitar hero is poised to break out.” In September of 2009, the San Francisco Chronicle said, “His transfixingly agile slack-key technique and genre-crossing music have relit a fire for live music in Waikiki.” With such accolades, it‟s hard to believe that Makana is only 31.
Early on, Makana was recognized as a child prodigy and he studied with Hawai’i slack key legends Raymond Kane and Sonny Chillingworth. He began performing professionally at Honolulu‟s Duke‟s Canoe Club at age 15 and has since produced his own shows in many of Hawaii‟s other significant venues.
On August 27, 2009, Makana with his band and dancers concluded a successful two-month engagement, reopening the renovated Royal Hawaiian Hotel‟s Monarch Room and inaugurating the hotel‟s new “Curators of Hawaiian Music” series. The legendary venue had been dark for 14 years and the headline of the August 14, 2009, Honolulu Advertiser review by veteran Hawai’i Entertainment Reporter, Wayne Harada read, “Makana proves he’s a master of the showroom.” The legendary „ukulele player, Bill Tapia was in the audience one evening. The 102-year old “Uncle” Bill had opened the historic Monarch Room in 1927.
Bill Tapia has often appeared on stage with Makana. In November of 2003, Tapia and the 96-year old steel guitar legend, Tau Moe were featured in one of the four successful shows the young artist has produced at Honolulu‟s restored Hawai‟i Theater. During his long career, Moe had toured Europe and the US with Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones and The Platters. Makana notes, “Nobody plays like these old-timers. It’s an honor for me to share the stage with them and introduce my audience to them.” Sadly, this was to be Tau Moe‟s last public performance.
A prolific songwriter, Makana‟s audiences run the gamut of age and ethnicity and he enjoys a particularly strong local following. In 2000 his first album “Makana” was voted “Best CD” by the readers of the Honolulu Weekly; he also earned the “Best World Music Album” and “Adult Contemporary Album of the Year” at the Hawai‟i Music Awards. He has contributed songs to two Grammy-nominated albums, “Hawaiian Slack Key Kings Volumes I & II”.
Makana has toured the world numerous times with regular appearances on the Mainland United States. In 2004 he opened a 27-city tour for Billboard Top Pop Artist Jason Mraz. Makana‟s April 2009, New York City solo concert earned a strong New York Times review: “Makana provided a textbook illustration of slack-key style” … “dazzling.”
Makana has made six solo tours of Japan — presented in 14 major cities by Victor Entertainment, a subsidiary of Japan Victor Company. Makana‟s last Japanese tour (2008) was sponsored by Levi-Strauss as a national jeans promotion. His European appearances were produced by Marek Lieberburg, “the Bill Graham of Europe.” In Germany and again solo, he opened for three Santana concerts performing for audiences as large as 12,000 in world-class venues including Frankfurt‟s Opera Platz.
Makana has also performed at world-class mega festivals. In 2001, he was the only solo artist to headline the main stage at the WOMAD Festival (World of Music, Arts and Dance) in Reading, England. The 27-year old international event was co-founded by British rock legend Peter Gabriel “to create awareness of the worth and
potential of a multicultural society.” The BBC wrote, “…one-man Hawaiian band Makana captivated the audience with a high voice, personal songs and powerful acoustic guitar.” Joining a long list of musical luminaries including B.B. King, The Ramones, Ray Charles, REM, and Kanye West, in 2005, Makana performed at Seattle’s 30-year old Bumbershoot Festival which presents “…the best in music, film, comedy, theater, spoken word, dance, visual, performance and literary arts.”
In 2005, Makana also represented the state of Hawai’i in China by invitation of the Director of Hawaii‟s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism. In addition to multiple concerts in Shanghai, he produced and headlined an extravagant cultural showcase from Hawai’i at the Tianjin Opera House.
Amazingly, Makana has achieved all of this success by himself without professional management and he is now working to assemble a management team to help take him to the next level. With over 20 years concert experience and six albums to his credit, exciting offers are rolling in and Makana is carefully evaluating his many options. To again quote the National Geographic Society, “…this young guitar hero is poised to break out.”
Makana‟s exciting band includes Lono Kaumeheiwa on bass and nose flute; Lopaka Colon, “a living treasure in percussion” (son of the great Hawai’i musician, Augie Colon); Buck Giles (protégé of legendary steel master Jerry Byrd) on steel guitar; and Steve Howells on trap set drums. His halau also includes the exotic beauty, dancer Hulali Recca, “and the naughty and charming antics of kupuna (elder) wahine “Aunty” Florence Iwalani Koanui” from the Golden Era of Waikiki showrooms.