Transcription of Makana’s “We Are the Many”

Makana’s performance of “We Are the Many” is one of the great moments of courage in the history of music.  Last November, the 33-year old Hawaiian singer and slack-key guitar virtuoso was invited to play dinner music at the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit in Honolulu.

With President Obama and other heads of state feeding their faces, Makana and his band started with traditional Hawaiian love songs, then segued into a bitter song of protest over the annexation of Hawaii, sung in the Hawaiian language.

Makana then opened his shirt to reveal a T-shirt handlettered “Occupy with Aloha” and performed “We Are the Many,” the unofficial anthem of the Occupy movement.  He also managed to capture the event on video via his cellphone despite the Secret Service’s ban on cellphones; he got the phone in because, he argued, he needed the tuner app for his guitar.

Makana’s performance of “We Are the Many” on YouTube has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, but to date, as far as I know, there is not a transcription of the anthem on sheet music.  Occupella‘s Hali Hammer contacted  Makana directly via email to ask for sheet music, and Makana answered, saying he does not use sheet music.  He did, however, send a version of the lyrics with the guitar chords.  That’s posted here, below.

In desperation, I downloaded a trial version of Transcribe!, a highly rated software tool for reducing audio tracks to notes on paper.  Any illusions I had that you could just feed the audio track in one end and get pretty sheet music out the other quickly evaporated.  Music transcription by software turns out to be sophisticated guesswork at best.  But I persevered and transferred my result to the lovely (and free) online music notation program Noteflight, which allows you both to see and hear the notes.  Hali helped me find the proper key and smoothed out some of the rough spots.

Makana was kind enough to take a look at my Noteflight printout, and commented that it seemed mostly OK but not entirely.  He doesn’t do sheet music so the tweaks were up to me.

Unfortunately, with this draft transcription I’ve  trespassed beyond the outer limits of my musical competence, so all further progress depends on you, dear reader. I hereby offer this project up to the musical public and ask for the kind assistance of your ears and eyes to tweak this draft into a competent piece of sheet music faithful to the original performance.

When that’s done, my dream is that a fairy godperson will appear who will arrange the piece for Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass, with instrumental accompaniment.  It’s an anthem, isn’t it?  Choruses all over the world could be and would be performing it, given the paperwork.

Here (and in the box above) is Makana’s YouTube video.

Here is a PDF of my draft transcription.

Here is the online score on Noteflight, where you can both see and hear the draft transcription.

Here is a nicely done press story about Makana’s performance.

Here is Makana’s sheet of guitar chords for the song.

Thank you for any help.


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