Simple Life: Q&A with Maka Gallinger
Moments into listening to a Maka Gallinger song, you can hear the depth and richness of her voice, and the deliberateness of the music underneath. She has a seasoned energy and presentation, confirmed by a calendar full of regular performances. From her lyrics - to her work - to her family, community and faith-centered way of life, it is apparent that Maka is walking (and singing) her talk.
Maka lives off the grid with her family on the Big Island of Hawaii. In addition to being a full-time homeschooling mother of four, she is an accomplished singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. She works in promotion, marketing and as a studio musician for Sage Sounds Musicians Lounge (a center for recording, performance and music lessons). Maka also launched and runs the He Makana Aloha Music Program, which offers free summer music education to children on various islands in Hawaii.
What inspired you to pursue a career in music?
Music has always been around me. At home my mom taught me my first chords on the ukulele, she was always singing and strumming her uke. She would have us sit in a circle and play along with her as she sang a mix of oldies and old church hymns. I wrote my first song, “Guided My Way” at the age of 12 as a gift to my mom on Mother’s Day. She was a huge inspiration to me.
Growing up in South Kona, Hawaii, I attended a small school where kids would bring their ukuleles and have jam sessions during recess. It was so much fun watching them make up their own lyrics to the island reggae songs they heard on the local radio.
Music and songwriting has become such a huge part of who I am that pursuing music full-time is but a natural response.
What is your go-to ukulele and why?
Most of my life I’ve played tenor ukuleles, but about 3 years ago I switched to baritone and it completely opened up so much for me musically - I absolutely just love the tone. 95% of the music I play now is on my Kala KA-SSEBY-B-CE Baritone Uke with Fishman [EQ].
What element of music is your favorite - writing, recording or performing, and why?
Lately I’ve been enjoying recording and the production process; some songs new and others that have been in my head for years! I record weekly at Sage Sounds on the Big Island and have been releasing an original song each month with a music video. You can join my mailing list at makagallinger.com for updates on new music and videos.
What advice do you have for those just getting started with ukulele/music?
My advice would be to find a group or club to play with. Here in the islands we call it ‘kanikapila,” or jam session. In this setting, you can learn not just how to play with others, but you can pick up different techniques from many people in the group. Of course encouragement and accountability are a huge part of progressing and you’ll get that in this type of setting as well.
What is the biggest highlight so far in your musical journey?
There have been many highlights along the way, but the biggest highlight so far is having my first song ever on the radio! That happened this January with my song “Simple Life.”
Tell us about the children's camps you work with.
I started He Makana Aloha Music Program to bring music education and instruments to kids that have limited access and exposure otherwise. We host several music camps a year, traveling to different areas within the Hawaiian Islands. We’ve hosted two camps in South Kona this year and are preparing for our next camp on the island of Moloka’i this July.
We plan on hosting at least one other camp this fall in Hana, Maui. Kala Brand Music has been such a wonderful support of these camps by providing ukes to the children that attend. Another part of the program that I absolutely love are the school concerts. I travel to various communities where I get to share my story and music, and hopefully inspire the next generation.
What is on the horizon for you this year?
I’m so excited to keep releasing original music monthly with a full album coming out at the end of the year. I’m also working on a music documentary that I’m filming in Molokai this July!