Makana is a composer, singer, slack key guitar master and pioneer of the SLACK ROCK guitar style.
The National Geographic Society recorded Makana in concert for their “Geo Sessions” series and stated, “With five albums to his credit, he has taken this centuries-old tradition and blasted it into the 21st century.”
Makana was born and raised on the island of O’ahu. He began singing at the age of seven and at nine, took up the ‘ukulele. At 11 he began his journey into slack key guitar, learning with Bobby Moderow, protégé of master Raymond Kane, and then received a grant from the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to study under Hawaiian slack key legend Sonny Chillingworth. By the age of 14, he had already turned professional, gigging 4 nights a week by 15 in various establishments throughout Honolulu.
His debut album “Makana” was released in 1999; it won the Best World Music Album Award at the Hawai’i Music Awards. It was followed by “Koi Au” in 2002 (“A landmark musical statement” – Star Bulletin) and “Ki Ho’alu: Journey of Hawaiian Slack Key” in 2003. Soon thereafter Makana contributed to the Grammy-nominated albums “Hawaiian Slack Key Kings I & II”. In 2008, his first all-original release “Different Game” came out and in 2009 he released a 20th anniversary slack key guitar instrumental compilation, “Venus, and the Sky Turns to Clay”.
Makana’s music transcends category and trend by integrating elements of folk, rock, ethnic, classical, bluegrass, jazz, traditional, ambient, electronic and Hawaiian slack key in gentle to commanding arrangements. The result is innovation and the charting of new sonic frontiers with deep ties to tradition.
The roots of his music are deeply cultural: Ki Ho’alu, or “slack key”, is the indigenous Hawaiian art form that is the foundation upon which Makana creates ground-breaking original music and reanimates classics. Playing bass, rhythm and melody simultaneously while employing intricate fretting techniques in a myriad of open tunings, slack key players (there are but a handful alive today) are versatile and evocative. Makana sings in multiple languages; his voice is instantly recognizable, yet he employs a broad flexibility of style and approach according to the material and lyrical expression of each song. His scope of creativity is diverse, with influences that include Tim & Jeff Buckley, Pink Floyd, Gabby Pahinui & The Sunday Manoa, McCartney & Lennon, Cat Stevens, early Genesis, Sting, Dylan, Elton John, Andreas Vollenweider and Jimmy Page.
From his strong foundation he has branched out to create his own unique approach to guitar called Slack Rock, drawing on the cultural techniques of slack key and applying them in a more high energy, universal fashion. This new direction brought him to be recognized in 2008 by Guitar Player Magazine as one of America’s Top 3 guitarists (he won 2nd runner-up in the Guitar Player Magazine Superstar Contest). Makana’s music is universal in its essence and appeals to broad audiences- such is reflected in the wide array of internationally recognized artists he has toured with or opened for.
Jason Mraz (opened 27 city tour and co-headlined with in Hawai’i) • Santana (opened three 10,000+ concerts in Germany) • Elvis Costello, Paul Rodgers, YES (opened to standing ovations) • Sting, No Doubt, Jack Johnson, IZ, Chris Isaak, Richard Thompson, Foreigner, REO Speedwagon, John Legend (opened for) • Michael Franti, Glen Phillips (lead singer for Toad The Wet Sprocket), Cachaito Lopez of Buena Vista Social Club, Andreas Vollenweider, Buffy Sainte-Marie (co-headlined concerts).
Makana has headlined multiple seasons at the historic Hawai’i Theatre and is regularly featured at Slack Key festivals throughout the US. He has performed worldwide in venues ranging from Tianjin Opera House to Bumbershoot in Seattle to WOMAD in England to The White House. Makana has made six solo tours of Japan — presented in 14 major cities by Victor Entertainment and his last Japanese tour (2008) was sponsored by Levi-Strauss as a national promotion for their limited-edition line of “Makana” jeans, co-designed by the artist. More recently, he was featured in NHK’s music documentary “Amazing Voices” which broadcasted on Japan national television.
A strong advocate of community, Makana was honored with the Artist for Peace Award in 2005 by the city council of Kaua’i. A large percentage of Makana’s performances are donated to community oriented causes, including cultural education, school visits, environmental campaigns, social awareness issues, and fundraisers for those in need of community support. He is the founder of I Ho’ili Kamali’i, a not-for-profit movement that brings culturally relevant music, dance, poetry and art performances into schools.
In early November 2011, Makana wrote/recorded and shot a video for a protest song in the style of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan called “We Are The Many”. The song expresses the sentiment of many through a succinct, penetrating socioeconomic commentary on corporate corruption in banking and governance.
Makana performed for the Obamas at the Whitehouse in 2009 and they invited him to perform at the APEC summit in Honolulu on November 12, 2011. Makana accepted the invitation, and decided to perform his song “We Are The Many” at the APEC dinner, where the Obamas and 20 world leaders were present. Following the performance many of the major news outlets picked up the story, resulting in features on CNN, Democracy Now!, Sean Hannity, ABC, BBC, WIRED, etc. For 2 days Makana’s performance at APEC was the No. 1 news story on Yahoo News. All of this resulted in over half a million views of the various videos of his performance and music video, with Rolling Stone magazine (Dec 2011) calling his song “The Occupy Anthem”.
Makana’s slack key guitar instrumental “Deep in an Ancient Hawaiian Forest” is prominently featured in the George Clooney film, The Descendants. His song “Will I Ever See You Again?” is used in the movie trailer, “Deep” is on the Sony-released soundtrack, and a number of his songs are featured in the DVD extras. The picture won the Golden Globe Award for Best Drama, and the soundtrack was #1 on Billboard’s World Music Charts for 7 consecutive weeks.
On December 8, 2011 in Sacramento, Makana played Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” at a ceremony to induct Carlos Santana to the California Hall of Fame.
Amazingly, Makana has achieved all of this success without major label support. Thanks to both management connections and fan support, Makana is completing his first album collaboration with a multi-platinum producer (Ron Nevison/ The Who, Led Zeppelin, Heart), to be released in Summer 2013, following a highly-successful Kickstarter Fan Funding Campaign.
Following the release of this album, Makana plans to record another traditional Hawaiian record, as Makana’s first passion is the music of his home Hawai’i, and he understands that his Hawaiian music fans have long been the cornerstone of his successful music career.
Makana – Official Websitehttp://makanamusic.com/
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Makana - Bandcamp
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Makana - Rhapsody
“Makana provided a textbook illustration of slack-key style”…
“dazzling.” – NY Times
“dazzling.” – NY Times
“Slack key guitar music, indigenous to Hawai’i, has been around longer than the blues, and Makana is considered the greatest living player.” – Esquire Magazine
“His transfixingly agile slack-key technique and genre-crossing music have relit a fire for live music in Waikīkī.” – San Francisco Chronicle
“Charting a new sonic frontier with deep ties to tradition” – National Geographic Society
“Back on the main stage, one-man Hawaiian band Makana captivated the audience with a high voice, personal songs and powerful acoustic guitar.” – BBC News, on the WOMAD Festival in Reading, England
“Clearly, he’s a world-class talent” – Star Bulletin
“Makana proves he’s a master of the showroom.” – Honolulu Advertiser
“I’ve been deep into classical music and Hawaiian slack-key guitar. I’ve gotten way into Andres Segovia, and this Hawaiian guitar player called Makana” – Kirk Hammett interview, Guitar World (Lead guitarist for Metallica)
“He’s lean, young, expressive, with impressive stage presence and jewel box precision… He is a master, for certain, but blessed with sizzling showmanship.” – Honolulu Advertiser
“Absolutely amazing… You have a great stage presence” – Joe Satriani, to Makana at Guitar Player Magazine’s Superstar Competition
“An immensely gifted artist, Makana’s instrumental brilliance bears comparison with the work of such groundbreaking acoustic guitarists as John Fahey and Michael Hedges.” – Jon Woodhouse, Maui News
“There is an aura about Makana while he is on stage. His heart is completely apparent in his music and this transcends into a command of his audience.” – Scott Macgowen, O’ahu Island News
Top 3 winner in Guitar Player Magazine’s 2008 National Guitar Superstar Competition
Contributor to 2 Grammy Nominated albums
Winner of 2 Hawai’i Music Awards (Best World Music Album & Best Adult Contemporary Album)
“Artist for Peace Award”, 2005, In recognition of Makana’s outstanding support of community and continuing message of peace
“Makana” voted “Best CD” by the readers of Honolulu Weekly
First artist in 14 years to headline with his own show at the Monarch Room of The Royal Hawaiian Hotel.