Makana’s Father’s Day concert at the Palace Theater was filled with heartfelt emotion and exceptional showmanship. The gifted slack key guitar master took the opportunity to publicly honor his dad, who passed away in January due to COVID, by performing traditional Hawaiian music that his father enjoyed.
“I thought I’d do a Father’s Day show because I thought it would help me heal,” Makana said in a respectful moment during the two-hour performance. “I realized that my dad gave me the greatest gift; he taught me how to breathe properly, not for just consciousness and health, but also for my music. We come and go in this life, but every breath we have is a gift, and that is our greatest gift. Mahalo, Dad.”
With that touching intro, Makana segued into “Song For Sonny.” It’s hard to believe there was a dry eye in the house after hearing the lyrics, “Oh, how I miss your face/I do believe you’re a gift to this place/Yes I do believe you’re in a better place.”
Makana also paid tribute to his mother, who passed away at the beginning of the pandemic, with two songs, “Waikā” and “A Song in the Wind.” On the second tune, he brought out dancer Pōʻai who performed hula at his mother’s service.
Makana also shared a few songs from his alter ego’s character, HI Makz. “Da Game Plan” is done in ‘pidgin rap’ with a hip-hop beat and talks about life on the Big Island. He highlighted the bass parts by thumping on the base of his guitar, noting that it sounds like something that you might hear booming out of a passing Ford F150.
The singer also played selections from his new album Pūlama – Legacies of Hawai’i including an original titled “Aloha Found.” “The message behind that song is a connection with the land and is the highest value in terms of an experience for visitors and people who live here,” Makana said in our interview. “It was inspired by the words of Aunty Pilahi Paki, one of the great kupuna from the 1970s, who spoke on Aloha to a broad audience of millions.”
“Aloha Found” is also part of a musical about the Hawaiian culture that the musician has worked on for years. “I’ve thrown out dozens and dozens of songs and entire scripts. It’s evolving, and I trust it’s becoming what it’s meant to be. I hope it will be brought to the stage by next year.”
In a lighthearted moment, Makana talked about his Christan upbringing and how his family watched evangelists on TV in the 1980s talk about backmasking in rock songs with hidden evil messages. Then someone in the crowd shouted, “You should do that!” Makana laughed and quipped, “Yeah, and I’ll call it slack-masking.” With that, he played a stunning version of Led Zeppelin’s “Going To California,” matching Robert Plant’s falsetto parts.
Toward the show’s end, Makana also revealed that his sister is currently in the hospital and asked for the audience’s prayers. “As you can tell, my family has been through a lot lately, and extending my ohana, rather than being alone, is my way of sharing the aloha with you folks.”
After a standing ovation, Makana came back for a hana hou and played a beautiful rendition of Dennis Kamakahi’s “Wahine ʻIlikea.”
Listen to a podcast interview about this show and new album.
About the author: Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: ©2022 Steve Roby