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Performance turns into pro-Occupy statement

By Mary Vorsino


Guitarist and singer Makana used his performance at an APEC dinner Saturday night with President Barack Obama and other world leaders as a chance to broadcast his support for the pro-Occupy Wall Street movement.

Makana, 33, wore a T-shirt that read "Occupy with Aloha" under a black blazer as he sang his newest song, "We Are the Many," billed as an anthem of sorts for Occupy protesters.

Makana's song begins, "Ye come here gather 'round the stage; the time has come for us to voice our rage."

Makana said he sang "We Are the Many" for about 45 minutes during his 21⁄2-hour performance at the leaders' dinner, changing its pacing because he "had to be subtle about it."

He segued into the piece by first performing "Kaulana na Pua," a Hawaiian protest song, then moving to Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" and Sting's "Fragile."

"I didn't want to get shut down," said Makana, who was asked to play background music at the dinner.

Though he said some attendees at the dinner appeared to catch the message behind "We Are the Many," no one stopped him. He said the president and other leaders did not appear to notice.

Makana estimates he sang "We Are the Many" as many as 50 times.

"My intention wasn't to disrupt them or be rude," Makana said. "The primary message was in the lyrics of the song, that they are not representing the people they purport to represent. My message to them was that they are occupying Hawaii right now, and they need to do it with aloha and not just say it. I followed my heart. I wrote a song that I feel strongly about."

The dinner, held at the Hale Koa Hotel's luau garden, was hosted by the president and the first lady and included the leaders and representatives of 20 other Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations.

Despite tight security, and a warning from the U.S. Secret Service that mobile devices being used to capture video would be confiscated, Makana's guitar technician was able to use his cellphone to record video of the performance.

Portions of that video, along with a message from Makana, were posted online Sunday and were quickly circulated.

By midday the story had appeared on cable television's CNN International and, and hundreds of people had watched the video and left comments — most of them supportive — on Makana's Facebook page.

Makana said he was initially afraid about singing the piece and wasn't certain he should go through with it. But once he started singing, he realized that the dinner's attendees weren't paying much attention to the lyrics.

"They don't really know what happened, and that's the beauty of it," he said.

To pull off the stunt, Makana partnered with Yes Lab, which works to help activist organizations get their message in the media, and Occupy the Boardroom, according to a news release.

"Makana really raised the bar by delivering the Occupy message inside what is probably the most secure place on the planet," Mike Bonanno of Yes Lab, said in a news release.

Makana had performed for the president before. In 2009 he was invited to the White House to perform at a holiday reception.

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