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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 14, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 02
Makana sprinkles warmth, sunshine on Seattle fans
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Makana sprinkles warmth, sunshine on Seattle fans

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Makana
January 9
The Triple Door


The perfect escape on a very chilly Seattle night was inside The Triple Door, as Hawaiian artist Makana defrosted a sold-out crowd with a sizzling set of music that included ukulele wiz Taimane Gardner.

After a long-winded introduction, Makana strode on stage in beige pants, blue-gray dress shirt, and eggshell-colored vest and began his two-hour-plus performance with an instrumental piece that took an unexpected turn: The nose flute played by band member Lono Kaumeheiwa wasn't tuned, forcing the trio to abruptly end the song and then restart it.

'Ku'ulei Awapuhi' was soft and sweet in contrast to a robust cover of Sting's 'Fragile,' highlighted by crisp bongo tappings from percussionist Lopaka Colon. When he got to 'The Poi Song,' Makana plucked his acoustic guitar like a banjo and inserted some trick guitar moves. Known around the world as a torchbearer of the slack key guitar tradition, Makana paid homage on Sunday to one of his instructors, Sonny Chillingworth (aka 'The Waimea Cowboy') with 'Song for Sonny.'

The concert was partially stolen by Aunty Florence Iwalani Koanui ('Auntie Flo'), a legendary performer who danced hula as the group played 'Pauoa Liko Ka Lehua,' a Hawaiian classic by another of Makana's teachers, the late Raymond Kane. Closing out the first portion of the show, Makana mentioned his interview with Seattle Gay News from the December 31 issue and said, 'I would like to dedicate this song to my readership, it's called 'Erection' - the tune appears on his 2001 self-titled album.

A 20-minute intermission allowed the audience, which packed every booth and seat in the entire venue including a standing-room-only section, to swap Hawaii stories while wearing brightly colored floral leis.

Gardner, in snow-white bell bottoms and royal blue top with a tropical flower pinned to the side of her hair, gave a blazing performance that included a piece she refers to as 'Led Zeppelin meets Beethoven,' which she's played ever since her early days on Don Ho's show on Oahu. A charming entertainer, aside from being truly gifted on ukulele, she waltzed from side to side on stage and wowed the crowd during her own composition, 'Circus Freak,' backed by Makana, Kaumeheiwa, and Colon.

Cradled by a hushed guitar, Makana did a soothing rendition of James Taylor's 'Fire and Rain,' and then dedicated 'Hi'ilawe,' from the vintage island favorite Pure Gabby by Gabby Pahanui, to 'everyone who misses Hawaii.' Soon thereafter, Aunty Flo returned and had the place rolling with laughter by her rather naughty-infused hula - let's just say it wasn't your grandmother's hula.

An encore included a fiery version of Chuck Mangione's 'Children of Sanchez' led by Kaumeheiwa on vocals, and back-to-back pieces by Makana on piano - the first was a beautiful take on The Killers' 'Human,' the second was a newly-penned song called 'Manic.'

Having played for President Obama at the White House and opening for numerous pop stars, including Jason Mraz, Santana, and Sting, the depth of Makana's work on Sunday night was no surprise, though perhaps the limited use of slack key guitar was - I expected more from this contemporary master. Still, the show was an impressive display of authentic and modern Hawaiian music, providing all of us an escape to paradise in these bitter January temperatures.

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