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2011-11-14

Occupy Honolulu: Hawaiian Musician Makana Performs Protest Song to World Leaders at APEC Summit

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As President Obama met with world leaders this weekend at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Hawaii to discuss how to bolster global trade, activists with the group Occupy Honolulu protested economic inequity that they say would result from new trade agreements. Meanwhile, within the heavily guarded compound where the summit took place, renowned Hawaiian musician and guitarist Makana carried out his own act of protest. Makana had been invited to play instrumental music at the gala dinner Saturday night. At the dinner, Makana opened his jacket to reveal a t-shirt which read, "Occupy with Aloha." Then, instead of performing the background instrumental he was scheduled to play, he started to sing a protest song he had released earlier that day. As world leaders including Obama and Chinese Premier Hu Jintao sat in the audience, Makana sang his new song inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, "We are the Many." "I started out very subtly and subliminally. And I was like, 'Ye come here, gather ’round the stage. The time has come for us to voice our rage,'" Makana says. "Then I realized that, 'Wow! I didn't get in trouble!’ So I played it again." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This weekend, President Obama greeted world leaders at APEC, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in his birthplace, Hawaii. Opening the plenary session in Honolulu, Obama said the Asia-Pacific region is essential for prosperity in the United States.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And I want to emphasize that the Asia-Pacific region is absolutely critical to America’s economic growth. We consider it a top priority. And we consider it a top priority because we’re not going to be able to put our folks back to work and grow our economy and expand opportunity unless the Asia-Pacific region is also successful.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, activists with the group Occupy Honolulu coordinated a march on the summit to protest neoliberal trade deals under APEC, as well as what they call draconian security measures around this weekend’s gathering in Hawaii. More than a hundred protesters gathered at a local park and marched on Saturday toward central Honolulu, where the APEC summit was being held. This is activist Jason Farris.

JASON FARRIS: The whole ideology of global capitalism is that there’s a trickle-down effect. That’s the myth they’ve been trying to sell us for 40 years, and we’re still waiting for the trickle down. The middle class is disappearing, the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. And, you know, that’s due to these policies, organizations like APEC.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, within the heavily guarded compound where the APEC meeting was taking place, renowned Hawaiian musician, guitarist, Makana, carried out his own act of protest. He had been invited to play instrumental music at the APEC gala dinner on Saturday night. He had previously performed at the White House in 2009. At the dinner, Makana opened his jacket to reveal a T-shirt which read, quote, "Occupy with Aloha." Then, instead of playing the background instrumental he was scheduled to play, he started to sing a protest song he had released earlier that day. As world leaders including President Obama and the Chinese premier Hu Jintao sat in the audience, Makana sang "We are the Many." Here, Makana explains why he chose to act the way he did.

MAKANA: So, I just came from playing the world leaders’ dinner at APEC here in Honolulu for the Obamas and, I guess, 19 or 20 other world leaders. So I showed up and did my gig. And I started to look around, and I thought about this song song I just wrote called "We are the Many." And it was an incredible experience to sing the words, those words, to that room of people. And I didn’t belt it out. I started out very subtly and subliminally. And I was like, "Ye come here, gather ’round the stage. The time has come for us to voice our rage."

"Did he just say what I think he said?"

And then I realized that, "Wow! I didn’t get in trouble!" So I played it again. And I made like a different version of it, ended up playing it for about 45 minutes. To be able to sing that there was an epic feeling. It felt right. My uncle always told me, "Play what’s in your heart, and play to the audience, you know. Play what you feel is right for them." That’s what I did. And I found it odd that I was afraid to do it at first. I found that disturbing. That’s kind of why I did it. I didn’t like the idea of being afraid to sing a song that I created. I’ve never in my life been afraid to sing anything. If that’s what we’ve come to in the world, where we’re afraid to say certain things in the company of certain people, I think that’s a dangerous place to be. And so, for me to move out of that space, I had to sing the song. And that’s what I did.

AMY GOODMAN: Hawaiian musician Makana, speaking about his act of protest at the APEC gala dinner with heads of state this weekend in Honolulu. We turn now to a fuller version of Makana’s song, "We are the Many."

MAKANA: [singing] Ye come here, gather ’round the stage
The time has come for us to voice our rage
Against the ones who’ve trapped us in a cage
To steal from us the value of our wage
From underneath the vestiture of law
The lobbyists at Washington do gnaw
At liberty, the bureaucrats guffaw
And until they are purged, we won’t withdraw
We’ll occupy the streets
We’ll occupy the courts
We’ll occupy the offices of you
’Til you do
The bidding of the many, not the few

Our nation was built upon the right
Of every person to improve their plight
But laws of this republic they rewrite
And now a few own everything in sight
They own it free of liability
They own, but they are not like you and me
Their influence dictates legality
And until they are stopped we are not free
We’ll occupy the streets
We’ll occupy the courts
We’ll occupy the offices of you
’Til you do
The bidding of the many, not the few

You enforce your monopolies with guns
While sacrificing our daughters and sons
But certain things belong to everyone
Your thievery has left the people none
So take heed of our notice to redress
We have little to lose, we must confess
Your empty words do leave us unimpressed
A growing number join us in protest
We occupy the streets
We occupy the courts
We occupy the offices of you
’Til you do
The bidding of the many, not the few

You can’t divide us into sides
And from our gaze, you cannot hide
Denial serves to amplify
And our allegiance you can’t buy
Our government is not for sale
The banks do not deserve a bail
We will not reward those who fail
We will not move till we prevail
We’ll occupy the streets
We’ll occupy the courts
We’ll occupy the offices of you
’Til you do
The bidding of the many, not the few.

AMY GOODMAN: Makana, singing "We are the Many."

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