A depth and mystery peeks out from around the edges of renowned musician Makana's lighthearted Hawaiian tracks. Layers of evocative contrast that take music from good to great: angelic vocals juxtaposed with bold guitar chords, a compelling sadness that somehow feels at home next to bright, melodic swatches of aloha. Like an island sunset signaling the day’s end, Makana’s music is at once an invitation to the beautiful and the bittersweet—and it’s taking the global stage.
A fingerstyle genre of playing, slack-key guitar is older than the blues, originally a hidden gem cherished in private island traditions. Makana grew up on these indigenous sounds during his childhood on the shores of Waikiki, and he grew up playing them, too. The Hawaiian native started singing when he was seven, playing the ukelele at age nine, and began his slack-key guitar journey at age eleven. Now, Makana has taken this traditional music global—and has made it his own, creating what he dubs “slack rock" that combines his slack-guitar style with jazz, electronic music, bluegrass and more.
Recalling rock poet icons from the ‘60s, Makana's unique style makes him, as Esquire Magazine says, one of slack-guitar's “greatest living players.” His creativity, and a virtuosic skill, have earned him praise not only from top media outlets—National Geographic called his sound “a new sonic frontier with deep ties to tradition”—but also from fellow master guitarists like Spanish flamenco master Pepe Romero and Metallica’s famed Kirk Hammet.
Over the past two decades, Makana has shared the stage with or opened for international artists ranging from Sting to Jack Johnson to John Legend. His 20-year anniversary album, Venus, with stunning instrumental-only tracks like “Deep in an Ancient Hawaiian Forest” was featured in George Clooney’s award-winning film “The Descendants.”
Known as much for his activism as his musical genius, a performance at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation dinner attended by Barack Obama led to Rolling Stone Magazine calling his “We Are the Many” song the “anthem of the Occupy movement.” And a recent single, “See You on the Mauna” was written in honor of one of Hawaii’s most sacred ancient lands, the Mauna Kea.
For the hip Waikiki Beachcomber, Makana is a culture-slash-art influencer, too. One of its Beachcomber Originals—a dozen or so local artists commissioned to dress up the Beachcomber hotel in cool Hawaii style—Makana wrote his “The New Sound of Waikiki” just for the resort. Full of ultra-chill rhythms and a happily Hawaiian vibe, his music greets guests in the Beachcomber’s public spaces, creating the perfect surfside vacation soundtrack.
Whether it's providing the backdrop to an island getaway or changing the world, there’s beauty and a humble magic in Makana’s music. An undeniably Hawaiian spirit, as if the islands’ ephemeral aloha has taken musical shape—and is ready to carry you on an ocean-misted journey to these magical lands, one layered rhythm at a time.
Don't miss Makana's LIVE Facebook performance here.