This piece originally appeared in “Job Talk,” our blog about a diversity of occupations and how work impacts our lives. The blog connects our community of narrators and readers of the book, MY JOB: Real People at Work Around the World, a collection of vivid, first-person narratives from real people in jobs from banking to technology, farming to the arts. Learn more about the book, a social-mission project with 100% of author proceeds going directly to job-creation programs to end poverty, here; and sign up for “Job Talk,” here.
Meet the MY JOB Narrators: Makana, Slack-Rock Musician, Honolulu, Hawaii
“When I’m playing slack key, the guitar and I are one . . . You don’t need a ‘job.’ You need to find your dharma . . . You do it for the circulation in your own veins, that feeling of blood pumping through your heart. It feels so good. It makes you alive.
‘The wind is my voice; the sea is my heart; this lush, abundant land is my whole body.'”
— Chapter 1: Makana, indie slack-rock musician, Honolulu, Hawaii
Makana is an independent slack-rock guitar musician born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. I met Makana through my philanthropist friend Kim-Coco Iwamoto, a beautiful trans-woman model and political activist who works in education advocacy and food justice in Hawaii. Makana and Kim-Coco collaborate through their local social-activism circles. Makana quickly took my call and graciously agreed to our interview.
Listening to Makana’s music, and absorbing his story of the business and art of slack-key guitar, I quickly became a fan of both the musician and the man. Makana brings intense authenticity to his work, carrying on an indigenous Hawaiian style of music while also transforming slack-key into modern “slack-rock.” He mentors local youth, volunteers in food and social justice efforts, and fiercely promotes the independent-artist model that he’s followed since his first performance as a kid strumming in a bar. His musings on art, music, creativity, and work as dharma (life-purpose) were so profound, that we placed his chapter first (Chapter 1) to lead off the MY JOB book.
Excerpt from Chapter 1, in Makana’s Own Voice
How To Discern What To Do with Your Career: Find Your Dharma
The whole idea of “Oh, what do you want to be when you grow up? What field do you want to go into?” It’s abstract, right? . . .
And you’re influenced by fear and pressure and your parents and your peers and media and social media and blah, blah, blah, and it’s like that determines your future. I mean, let me tell you, it happens to billions of people like this.
So that, to me, is a bad idea. It’s a bad idea. It’s not the right way to approach it . . . [T]his whole process has to be symbiotic in order for it to be fulfilling and pono, as Hawaiians call it—real and healthy and enriching and nurturing. It goes for every field, whether it’s your job or your life partner or whatever it is. It needs to happen naturally. It needs to happen organically.
I’ve always been a rebel. I never said, “What am I going to do?” I was doing it already. I was helping my parents pay rent when I was still in school. Music was my passion. It was like I never said, “Why do I want to go sacrifice eight hours a day of my life doing so I can be happy?”
I never asked myself that horrible question. That’s slavery. I don’t believe in that. That is a failure of upbringing. That is a failure of society. It’s a failure of schooling. It’s a failure of everything . . .
We only think about the end results in this society.
“Hey, what’s your degree in?”
“How much money do you make?”
“Where do you live?”
All these status-quo markers that turn us into programmed beings with a relative judgment on the next person and our relative value to them. None of that is love. Your work needs to be love. That’s what Khalil Gibran said, “Work is love made visible.”
My work has always been my first love. If your work is not your love, you’re killing yourself.
Makana Plays Slack-Key for You
Sit back and relax–and maybe even let your imagination transport you to Hawaii–as Makana plays a classic slack-key piece for you:
Check out Makana’s chapter in MY JOB: Real People at Work Around the World, as an e-book on Kindle or as a paper book. And, stay tuned to meet the next narrators, a husband-and-wife business-owner duo from Chapter 2 . . .
Photographs and video courtesy of makanamusic.com.