Makena - Makena

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - May 25, 2007

The homemade recordings of Makena’s album By Request caught the ear of Grammy-winning producer Daniel Ho - he worked his magic and the polished self-titled product Makena is releasing next week.

The acoustic duo, Toast Tajiri and Siena Lee, began their artistic journey together about five years ago. Born and raised in Hawaii, the girls moved to the Mainland to pursue musical opportunities that they say weren’t open to them here.

“Moving to the Mainland was a way for me to start over and start a new identity,“says Lee, a Sacred Hearts graduate,“to feel like I could be different.And what I found is that it’s much easier to do it for a living here versus doing it in Hawaii and trying to do it for a living.”

The homemade version was really a labor of love project for the women, as they did everything themselves, from burning each individual CD on their computer, to making the labels, to putting it in the case - all in the confinement of their home. And they managed to sell more than 600 albums.

“I’m so proud of us because we didn’t have the resources and a lot when we made our CD,” says Tajiri, a Waiakea High School graduate. “It was like, what can we do with what we do have? So that’s what By Request was. And so I’m really proud of it, in that sense. Working with Daniel was a big step for us, and it feels so good to have support and a record label that’s helping you.”

For the very first time, the talented duo is performing live in Hawaii to celebrate the release of their CD. The performance is scheduled for Saturday, June 2, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Embassy Suites-Waikiki Beach Walk

“We’re excited because we’ve been working hard to create a name for ourselves out here - and now with the support of Daniel we are able to come back to perform,” says Tajiri.

To learn more about Toast and Siena, visit

Q’n A

What do you do to stay healthy? Toast: I do yoga every morning, and I start my day with freshly squeezed organic orange juice.

Siena: I do yoga also. So L.A., yeah? But we’re not. And I also start the morning off with organic coffee, and I use almond milk because you don’t get all the mucus stuff from dairy. And also journal to get everything out. Oh, and we’re both vegetarians.

What sport would you consider yourself the best at?

Siena: (laughs) We are not good at sports. But you know what we’re good at? Both of us are really good at loading the car with our whole sound system because, man, it’s so heavy. We can do it super-fast now. And that’s the whole system.

What is the most challenging aspect of the music business?

Toast: Faith and believing in yourself. The endurance, and the idea that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. Siena: Something that has been really challenging is to keep your integrity and to find the balance in taking a gig because it’s paid, and keeping who you are in the process.

When you are back on Oahu, where’s your favorite place to eat?

Toast: Waiola Shave Ice.

Siena: Zippy’s. The vegetarian chili. They sell it out here frozen, but it’s not the same.

What has been your biggest musical accomplishment thus far?

Toast: Lately I’ve been really proud that I somehow have achieved a degree of peace of mind in all areas. Siena: I guess in an outward success way I’m so proud that we have a song on MTV‘s new network. We have one of our songs, Good Enough, that they taped at a live concert in Hollywood. And they’ve been airing that.

What is the most irritating song on the radio right now?

Toast: I have not been listening to the radio recently, but I’m going to just go out and say that a while ago there

was one song that I think Gwen Stefani did, which was something about bananas. I don’t even know what it’s called. I can’t even say it’s irritating, it’s just kind of like, what?

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Most Recent Comment(s):

Aloha from Los Angeles! Mahalo to Melissa for this article & for interviewing MAKENA! Although I’ve been fortunate to see them perform several times here in Cali, I wish I could’ve been there at the Embassy in Waikiki to see them perform in Hawaii! For anyone else who missed them in Wakiki, check out their music @ to hear some sound-clips of their albums!

Very nice article, indeed! 

Each time I listen to the early Living Room Sessions CD, I am moved by the purity of the voices, genuine and tender. I’ve recently purchased the Embassy Suites compilation CD and am eagerly awaiting its arrival.  As I live on the East Coast, I can only look forward to more air play, maybe one day on XMRadio, and to feature articles such as this one.


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