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Hawaiian Musician with ‘Occupy with Aloha’ T-shirt Plays 45-Minute Protest Song for Obama at Summit

by Simon Tomlinson

A popular Hawaiian singer used his performance at a dinner of world leaders hosted by President Barack Obama to voice his support for the 'Occupy' movement.

Makana was enlisted to play a luau, or Hawaiian feast, for members of the Pacific Rim who had gathered in Obama's birthplace Honolulu for an annual summit formulating plans for a Pacific free-trade pact.

During the meal on the resort strip Waikiki Beach, he proudly pulled open his jacket to reveal a T-shirt which read 'Occupy with Aloha' - using the Hawaiian word whose include love and peace.

He went on to sing a 45-minute version of his new song We Are The Many, which 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.'

Makana, who was born Matthew Swalinkavich said the song prompted awkward stares from a few in the audience, but the Obamas appeared too engrossed with their guests to even notice what was happening.

The attendees may also not have noticed the 'challenging' nature of Makana’s lyrics because the music was so mellow, it was mooted on CNN.

Reports that, halfway through the performance, President Obama yelled 'Play Freebird!' have not been confirmed.

After the performance, Makana, 33, said: 'I was pretty nervous. In fact I was terrified. I kept thinking 'what are the consequences going to be?'

The performance occurred at a dinner on Saturday night for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation 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 behest of fans, he said.

Inspired by the anti-capitalist movement that began with the 'Occupy Wall Street' demonstrations in New York and spread to the London Stock exchange, it denounces Washington politicians, corporate greed and what he sees as an unfair American economic system.

He sang it 'over and over' for 40 minutes, varying his tempo and delivery to avoid triggering an overt reaction.

He said: 'I found that I was afraid to do it at first. I found that disturbing. That is kind of why I did it. I didn't like the idea of being afraid to sing a song that I created.

'If that's what we've come to in this world, where you're afraid to say certain things in the company of certain people, I think that's a dangerous place to be. So for me to move out of that space I had to sing the song and that's what I did.'

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