A Gift of Music at the Waikiki Aquarium

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A Gift of Music at the Waikiki Aquarium

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Oahu
Jul 12, 2010

It may seem an unlikely place for a musical performance. Two endangered Hawaiian monk seals lounge nearby. A Blacktip Reef Shark undulates through the water. Giant clams do what giant clams do so well—sit quietly. Colonies of living corals provide habitat for others. And an octopus opens jars. (No, not Paul the Octopus, the Oracle of Oberhausen, who matched his tentacles for correct picks in the recent World Cup.)

The Waikiki Beach. It showcases more than 500 marine species and maintains more than 3,000 marine specimens. Public exhibits, education programs, research and conservation are the cornerstones of the aquarium.

That and music. I guess even nautilus and squid enjoy a little musical accompaniment during their evening foraging activities.

In the summer, the aquarium hosts Ke Kani O Ke Kai, The Sound of the Ocean, a series of five Hawaiian music concerts. You tour some exhibits, nosh on a selected menu of dinner entrees from local restaurants, and about the time the sun sets, you take your place on the grassy lawn and settle in for the evening performance.

I didn’t plan to be on Oahu the Thursday evening that Makana performed at the Waikiki Aquarium. But when I agreed to a meeting earlier in the day, the first thing I did was check to see who was performing that evening. I must have good Makana karma, because, indeed, he was the headliner. Ah, the luck.

Not since Bobby Sherman have I followed a musician's career with such interest. But this time around, I don't carry a lunch box adorned with his smiling face. Instead, I carry an iPhone loaded with his music, and I write about him every chance I get. I hope that doesn't make me a stalker.

I’ve said something like this before: Hawaii is known for its surfing but what the world may not know is Hawaii also loves its music. Children grow up with an ukulele or guitar in their hands, songs on their lips and music in their hips, and much of Hawaii’s music happens on the beach, as the surf laps or pounds on shore. Like Thursday nights in the summer at the Waikiki Aquarium.

In Hawaiian, the word “makana” means gift. I’ll let you make the association to this musical genius.

Makana began singing at 9, he took up the ukulele when he was 11 and began slack key guitar training at age 13 with legendary Uncle Sonny Chillingworth. He turned professional at age 14. This past March, his latest album,Venus, and the Sky Turns to Clay won the 2010 Hawaii Music Awards for Slack Key Album of the Year.

You can watch a video we produced about Makana and read an interview we conducted with him here. He gives one of the best explanations that I've ever heard on what exactly slack key guitar is. You can listen to some of his tracks at his website here.

Hawaii, surf and music at the Waikiki Aquarium. A gift.

Check the remaining schedule for summer concerts at the Waikiki Aquarium here.

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