Watch LIVE

Occupy With Aloha': Obama & World Leaders Hear Surprise 45-Minute 'Protest Ballad' at Honolulu Gala


"My goal was not to disturb...but rather to subliminally fill their ears."

"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."

If you guessed those were Occupy Wall Street-inspired song lyrics, you'd be right. But can you guess where they were sung -- or more importantly -- who they were sung in front of?

That would be President Barack Obama and a whole host of world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit gala in Honolulu, Hawaii Saturday night.

Hawaiian guitarist Makana was expected to play instrumental background music during the gala. But, as he said Sunday, when he stepped on stage he unbuttoned his jacket to reveal a T-shirt that bore the handwritten words, "Occupy with Aloha." Instead of the planned background music, he spent 45 minutes playing his Occupy-inspired protest ballad, "We are the Many."

He uploaded a video to YouTube in which he spoke about his performance and which also included footage of him playing the gala -- tricky to record, he said, because Secret Service protocol made it difficult for his crew to sneak a camera in.

"It was an incredible experience to sing the words, those words, to that group of people," said Makana, who goes by one name. "My goal was not to disturb the guests in an offensive fashion but rather to subliminally fill their ears and the entire dinner atmosphere with a message that might be more effectively received in a subconscious manner."

Describing the room's reaction, which reportedly included Hu Jintao of China, Stephen Harper of Canada and more than a dozen other heads of state, Makana said no one objected to his lyrics -- even the ones that repeated, "the bidding of the many, not the few."

"The event protocol was such that everyone there kept their expressions quite muffled," he said. "Now and then I would get strange, befuddled stares from heads of state. It was a very quiet room with no waiters; only myself, the sound techs, and the leaders of almost half the world's population."

Saturday was not the 33-year-old musician's first audience with the president. Makana -- born Matthew Swalinkavich -- performed at the White House in 2009 during a holiday reception.

Of Saturday's guerrilla performance, he told news agency AFP, "I was pretty nervous. In fact I was terrified. I kept thinking 'what are the consequences going to be?'"

"It was incredibly comical. I was terrified but also enjoying it," he said.

Despite the surprised glances he got from some of the audience members, he told AFP the Obamas seemed too absorbed with their guests to realize what was going on.

The White House has not responded to the incident.


h/t ThinkProgress

Most recent
All Articles