Occupy with Aloha: a Hawaiian Singer’s Subversive Serenade at APEC

This past weekend, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum took place in Hawaii. Twenty-one heads-of-state came together to discuss how economic collaboration can lead to mutual prosperity. That’s right– they discussed trade barriers and all sorts of macro-economic issues that will eventually filter down to have major implications for regular folks.

The summit was pretty big deal for a small city to host. Security was extremely tight and streets were closed for miles around the event to minimize the chances of conflict.

My immediate family lives in Hawaii, and I’ve come to love and admire the local way of doing things. It sounds cheesy, but the spirit of aloha really does embody most interactions, even mundane ones like drugstore purchases or potentially stressful ones like traffic stops. People treat each other with deference and respect.

I’m pleased to see that this attitude extends to protesting. Further, it made a real difference in terms of getting a message out to 20 of the most powerful people in the world.

Famed Hawaiian singer Makana provided the entertainment for the heads-of-state gala dinner on Saturday night. The gala was the most secure event of the entire summit. It was held inside the Hale Koa hotel, a 72-acre facility owned and controlled by the US Defense Department; the site was fortified with an additional three miles of fencing constructed solely for the APEC summit.

Yet, Makana’s sweet voice got him in.

Rather than sticking to classic Hawaiian music, Makana spent almost 45 minutes repeatedly singing a protest ballad he wrote (released earlier that day) entitled “We Are the Many.” Yes Lab has the complete lyrics here

Makana was surprised that no one objected to him playing the overtly critical song. “I just kept doing different versions,” he said. “I must’ve repeated ‘the bidding of the many, not the few’ at least 50 times, like a mantra. It was surreal and sobering.”

Here’s Makana talking about the experience:

Do you think they didn’t notice? Or they were too bowled over to remove him?

Either way, it was quite an impressive stunt.

Jen Boynton

Jen Boynton is editor in chief of TriplePundit and editorial director at 3BL Media. With over 6 million annual readers, TriplePundit is the leading publication on sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line. Prior to TriplePundit, Jen received an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. In her work with TriplePundit she's helped clients from SAP to PwC to Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA -- court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

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