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“He played for us. And oh, how he played! Lyrical. Philosophical. So relaxed.  He took us with him.”


Makana is a singer, composer and master of the native Hawaiian “Slack-Key” guitar tradition.  The New York Times called him “dazzling.” His guitar playing has been featured on three Grammy-nominated albums, including the soundtrack of the Academy-Award winning film “The Descendants.”


Makana toured Russia for two weeks as a goodwill ambassador to share the Aloha spirit of Hawaii and the gift and healing power of his music.  He gave concerts, taught Slack-Key guitar in music academies, played for school kids, jammed in popular clubs and more.

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Performing at Moscow’s legendary Butman Jazz Club, Russia’s #1 jazz club

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At Moscow’s popular Dzhao Da Club, the first ever jam with Slack-Key guitar and  balalaika

After a week in Russia, Makana said, “I feel like I started unwrapping a gift. I’ve taken off some of the paper. And I haven’t even opened the box, and it is already changing me.  It’s like I met another part of myself that I didn’t know...  I’m writing new songs. I’m coming back here—again and again.”

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At School #45 in Moscow

The students asked Makana many questions about his music and his life.  One boy asked: “Do you ever think about quitting?” This led to a touching conversation with Makana sharing about his own life choices and the importance of following your heart, passion and dreams.

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Makana with young Moscow artists after

performance at Nekrasov Library 

“We have to create friendships.  It’s kind of like two children being told by the adults that they can’t play with each other. It doesn’t make any sense to the kids. We need to allow for a space for us to play together. That’s why I’m here. Just to play.”

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“There is a hidden treasure here in the souls of people that I want to experience.”

At home with a new artist friend in St. Petersburg

“I wanted to experience Russia directly. Not just through a film or a book, or through stories from others. That is what brought me here. I needed to know…What is it like here?  Why have some of the greatest minds come from here?  Why has some of the greatest music, the greatest melodies, the greatest philosophy and art come from here?  What is it that shaped it, what were the pressures that turned out those diamonds?  That’s what I’m curious about.”

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“I wanted to experience and create art and relationships that I can share with the public on both sides of the ocean that will inspire people to remember to humanize one another, to dignify one another, to remember mostly just to be curious about each another--because the conversations that get broadcast are political conversations, of threat, of geopolitics.  But those conversations have virtually nothing to do with the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people in each of the nations.  We need to create direct relationships.  It’s the only way that we will ever maintain peace.”

Makana Plays at All-Russia Forum in St. Petersburg

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Makana was the first musician ever invited to perform at the All-Russia Forum for governors, mayors and municipal leaders across Russia. He was featured during the opening plenary session and premiered “Aloha Russia,” a song he composed while in Russia that combines elements of both the Hawaiian and Russian melodic traditions and cadences, inspired by Russian classical & folk composers as well as popular bards. Irina Karelina, Director General of the St. Petersburg Leontief Center who convenes the Forum said, “It was great to receive this fantastic gift of Makana’s music.”

Makana Plays at Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry

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Makana’s tour of Russia concluded with a concert at the Trialogue Club founded 25 years ago by Dr. Vladimir Orlov, Head of the Center for Global Trends at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Makana performed after an hour of substantive discussion on nuclear dangers among representatives from the Russian military, political, and arms control communities, international diplomats and presentations on the Hawaii false missile scare by Bruce Allyn and Cynthia Lazaroff.  


Afterwards Vladimir Orlov said, “This is the first time we’ve ever had a serious dialogue on nuclear security together with music playing in the halls of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry.”

Makana Recorded a New Song, Mourning Armageddon’

in a once top-secret Russian Nuclear Bomb Shelter

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Makana was the first American to descend into the once top-secret Soviet nuclear bomb shelter Bunker 703—deep underground in the center of Moscow.  Makana brought his guitar along and spontaneously began to play, composing a song that came to him on the spot. 

Released for Anniversary of the Hawaii False Nuclear Missile Alert

January 13, 2019

Makana’s entire Russia concert tour was filmed and we are producing a documentary so that this Aloha bridge can be shared with the widest possible audience.

More About Makana

The Trip Was Blessed Even Before Makana Got on the Plane…

On June 21, 2018, indigenous elders Puna Dawson, Sabra Kauka and Ilarion Merculieff offered blessings for Makana’s concert tour of Russia and our efforts to improve US-Russian relations in a Sunrise Solstice Ceremony for Peace on the island of Kaua’i.  Puna called on the more than 100 of us gathered early that morning to form a circle, open our hearts, bless the Russian people with Aloha and set the intention of shifting to a relationship of peace with Russia.

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A drone camera hovered above.  Hours later, we discovered that when we thought we had gathered in a circle, at the moment when Puna was calling on us to open our hearts to Russia, we had somehow unknowingly formed into the shape of a heart!  

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We are grateful to Coherence Lab and Wisdom Weavers of the World for convening the Sunrise Solstice Ceremony and to the wonderful film crew who generously donated their time for our interview with Makana.

Makana Talks About Why He Wants to go to Russia

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