HONOLULU, Hawaii — A popular Hawaiian recording artist turned a top-security dinner of Pacific Rim leaders hosted by President Barack Obama into a subtle protest with a song in support of the “Occupy” movement.
Makana, who goes by one name, was enlisted to play a luau, or Hawaiian feast, Saturday night for leaders assembled in Obama’s birthplace Honolulu for an annual summit that is formulating plans for a Pacific free-trade pact.
But in the midst of the dinner on the resort strip Waikiki Beach, he pulled open his jacket to reveal a T-shirt that read “Occupy with Aloha,” using the Hawaiian word whose various meanings include love and peace. He then sang a marathon version of his new song “We Are The Many.”
“I was pretty nervous. In fact I was terrified. I kept thinking ‘what are the consequences going to be?’” Makana, 33, told AFP.
“It was incredibly comical. I was terrified but also enjoying it,” he said.
Makana, who was born Matthew Swalinkavich, said the song prompted awkward stares from a few of those present but the Obamas appeared too absorbed with their guests to notice what was happening.
The performance occurred at a dinner for summit participants from 21 economies around the Asia-Pacific, including Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, amid a security lockdown in Waikiki.
As Makana sang, about 400 protesters including anti-globalization and native Hawaiian rights activists staged a protest march toward the dinner site but turned back after encountering the smothering security.
Makana released the song on the Internet the day before and decided to play it at the urging of fans, he said.
Inspired by the anti-capitalist [sic] movement that began with the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations in New York, it denounces Washington politicians, corporate greed and what he sees as an unfair American economic system.
The song features the refrain, “We’ll occupy the streets, we’ll occupy the courts, we’ll occupy the offices of you, till you do the bidding of the many, not the few.”
He sang it “over and over” for 40 minutes, varying his tempo and delivery to avoid triggering an overt reaction.
“Whenever I felt the heat might come down, I would ease off. It was a very careful procedure,” he said.