Music has always been the beat to Makana’s life.
Growing up in Hawaii, he has become one of Hawaii’s cultural ambassadors to the world.
Makana’s “Legacies of Hawai’i” tour will make a stop at Chatter, 912 Third St. NW in Albuquerque on Thursday, May 19. He will then stop in Santa Fe at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, at Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery.
“I have performed in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. New Mexico holds an important place in my consciousness,” he says. “It is where the oldest town in America exists, and some of my indigenous friends live; it is the birthplace of the atom bomb, which I have dedicated much of my life and career to bringing awareness toward nonproliferation; it is a nexus of both Indigenous and colonial cultures and art, and, it is dry and high, and I’m always curious to see how my body will perform in such a climate so different from my home, Hawai’i.”
Music has been at the forefront of Makana’s life. At the age of 7, he joined the Honolulu Boy Choir.
“It was intense and demanding and taught me discipline. I think early on I realized the sanctity of the musical space. And I was drawn into it,” he says. ” “But I never had thoughts about a career in music. I wanted to be a firefighter like both my grandfathers. When I graduated from high school and was already gigging five nights a week, it occurred to me that this could be an actual career.”
When it comes to music, Makana never wants to be a parody of himself.
Which is why he keeps it fresh.
“I like to tell people, ‘I’m in an open relationship with traditional Hawaiian music.’ This means that it is always exciting for me because I can always leave and go do something else, as I have from time to time,” he says. “I’ve produced and recorded hundreds of songs, written in dozens of genres, yet always return to my roots: Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar and the traditional songs of Hawai’i. So by inviting diversity and being willing to explore beyond my musical comfort zone, I constantly challenge myself. I do this on the guitar as well by using over 100 tunings. Each tuning demands new learning, which invites discovery and creativity. The only hurdle I face is time — a lack of time to channel everything that is trying to pour through my vessel.”
Makana describes his composition process akin “to a cloud forming.
“It’s very nebulous at first and almost formless,” he says. “My job is to be incredibly sensitive and to hear it into existence. Sometimes I’m impassioned about a topic- that’s one approach: I simply say what I need to say and the music forms around the message. But- most of the time — I just fillet open my soul so that there are a billion points of sensitivity, and I start to feel deeply, with no intention. Then, I exercise choice in collapsing that wave of potential into a point, a form. It’s always an exhilarating process.”
Because Makana is rooted in Hawaiian music, there’s a large catalog of music, in addition to his own compositions.
This is where he is challenged because something has to be left out.
“On the tour I have not played the same show twice,” he says. “I always have a very large list of songs in front of me and then I just play what I feel. Every show is unique, I feel the audience and my mood and it forms on the spot.”
WHEN AND WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19, Chatter, 912 Third St. NW
7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery, 2791 Agua Fria St., Santa Fe
HOW MUCH: $22 advance, $27 day of show for Albuquerque show; $22 advance, $27 day of show for Santa Fe show. Tickets at ampconcerts.org.