• REVIEW: HOW TO PLAY UKULELE BY DAN “COOL HAND UKE” SCANLAN

    I first met Dan “Cool Hand Uke” Scanlan in 2003 when I travelled from Australia to America for the Ukulele Hall Of Fame Museum Expo in Rhode Island. We became friends instantly and I’m so glad he’s decided to share his vast uke knowledge with the world in his new book How To Play Ukulele: A Complete Guide For Beginners.

    Now, firstly, if you’ve been playing for a few years, please don’t be deterred by the title – Dan’s packed a lot into this extremely helpful guide and I’m confident most people will get something out of it.

    The book is broken up into the three basic elements of music: rhythm, harmony and melody, and its clean, uncluttered design – complete with clear diagrams – makes it very easy to follow. While most beginners’ books include the basic anatomy of the uke, Dan goes one step further and touches on often neglected but vitally important aspects, such as string height.

    There’s a good variety of strums on offer, as well as an excellent section on understanding chords. While the information can get quite technical, Dan has an uncanny knack of explaining it simply and concisely. My favourite chapter is fittingly entitled “Doo-Dads” and contains useful techniques such as muffling, hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides – the stuff that will set you apart from other casual players. 

    I also love that the book is dotted with interesting facts and breakouts on ‘Ukulele Heroes’ and also includes a solid history of the instrument, which is foolishly missing in many other titles.

    From choosing your first uke to the business of learning a song and embellishing it, How To Play Ukulele is a one-stop shop for the aspiring musician. Thanks, Dan!

    Order your copy here: simonandschuster.com/books/How-to-Play-Ukulele

    By Cameron Murray

  • REVIEW: THE GREATEST DAY BY JAKE SHIMABUKURO

    The maestro returns with the follow-up to his 2016 album Nashville Sessions. Featuring the same producer and rhythm section, The Greatest Day feels like something of an evolution for the 41-year-old Hawaiian megastar.

    Joining bassist Nolan Verner and drummer Evan Hutchings this time around is guitarist Dave Preston, who adds another layer of complexity to proceedings.

    “On the last record, it was pretty much the sound of a live trio, which sounded fresh, raw and organic,” says Shimabukuro. “Now we’ve expanded to a quartet, which has added more colours and variety to the overall production. Once we recorded the live takes, we experimented with overdubs and added horns, strings and keys and other funky sounds. There are even some vocals on a few cuts.”

    Yep, vocals! Certainly something new to a Jake album.

    Comprising six originals and six covers, the record, which was recorded at the famous Ronnie’s Place studio in Nashville, is quite diverse. The first cover, The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, features world-renowned dobro player Jerry Douglas and works well as an instrumental. Other enjoyable covers include New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle, which is rather soft and gentle but still retains an immediacy and electro feel, and Bill Withers’ Use Me, which stars Preston on guitar and vocals and funks things up a treat.

    As for the originals, Straight A’s, inspired by the A string of the ukulele, is fun and playful and the addition of vibes is a nice touch. Meanwhile, Mahalo John Wayne is suitably cinematic and a fitting tribute to The Duke.

    The digital edition of the album includes a live version of the Sunday Manoa classic Kawika, which sees Jake returning to his island roots, and Blue Roses Falling, which features Jake duetting with cellist Meena Cho and reminds us of the magic that can be created with the two instruments.

    The Greatest Day is Shimabukuro’s riskiest record to date, but it’s also his most exciting because he’s taking those risks and finding new ways to make interesting music for his fans.

     

    TRACKLIST:

    1.Time of the Season

    2. The Greatest Day  

    3. Eleanor Rigby  

    4. Pangram  

    5. Bizarre Love Triangle  

    6. Straight A’s  

    7. If 6 Was 9  

    8. Shape of You  

    9. Go for Broke  

    10. Little Echoes  

    11. Mahalo John Wayne  

    12. Hallelujah

     

    CD/VINYL BONUS TRACKS:

    13. Use Me (feat. Dave Preston) (’18 Live)

    14. Dragon (‘18 Live)

    15. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (’18 Live)

    DIGITAL BONUS TRACKS:

    13. Kawika (’18 Live)

    14. Blue Roses Falling (feat. Meena Cho) (’18 Live)

    15. Use Me (feat. Dave Preston) (’18 Live)

    16. Dragon (‘18 Live)

    17. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (’18 Live)

     

    Buy your copy of The Greatest Day here: jakeshimabukuro.com

  • REVIEW: THE BLACK ORCHID STRING BAND

    MOST Australian uke fans would know the name Rose Turtle Ertler.

    I first met Rose when I was a part of her first Ukulele Land concert in Sydney in 2004 and we often catch up at uke festivals and events around the country. I’ve always been amazed by her incredible creative energy, so it came as no surprise to me that she was involved with musicians and activists from the West Papuan community in Melbourne. She became a member of the Black Orchid String Band and they recently released a self-titled album.

    The first thing that struck me about the record was the beautiful presentation. I don’t know about you, but I still enjoy receiving a physical CD package in the mail. The enclosed booklet includes the wonderful stories behind the songs, many of which speak of the West Papuans’ struggle for independence from Indonesia.

    Politics aside, it’s simply a lovely album. The 10-piece band features traditional bass, ukulele, tifa (a type of drum) and three-part vocal harmonies.

    Fittingly, the lilting West Papuan Anthem gets things underway, then it’s on to Mystery Of Life, with its relaxed vibe and powerful lyrics about freedom. Next up, Melanesian (Brata na Sista) includes some nice steel-guitar work and a catchy chorus you’ll find yourself humming in the shower. The ukes get a good airing on Puke Elano (possibly my favourite) and Rose takes a starring role on Stars – a multilayered track that even features some beatboxing. The album finishes with a bang with Yako Pamane, a strum-happy tune that I think really sums up the friendly, generous nature of the West Papuan people.

    The music of Melanesia shares more than a little DNA with that of Polynesia, so lovers of Hawaiian music will certainly enjoy the Black Orchid String Band. In fact, I can’t think of a reason why anyone would dislike them. Their musical skill mixed with passion for their cause and an innate exuberance for life is an irresistible combination.

    Cameron

  • CINEMATIC STRUMMING: SOME LIKE IT HOT

    SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)

    Director: Billy Wilder

    Stars: Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, George Raft

    WHEN Some Like It Hot was released in 1959, the ukulele was riding a second wave of popularity in America, largely due to influential television personality Arthur Godfrey’s on-air championing of the instrument.

    The classic comedy stars Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as struggling musicians who have to get out of Chicago in a hurry after they witness what is obviously supposed to be the 1929 St Valentine’s Day Massacre.

    Without a dime to their names and ruthless mobsters led by ‘Spats’ Colombo (Raft) on their trail, the hapless pair don wigs and nylons and manage to con their way into an all-girl band that’s headed for Miami. However, things get even more complicated when both men fall for the group’s soprano uke player, a vivacious blonde named Sugar Kane (Monroe).

     

    Despite the production being plagued by Marilyn’s hostile and unpredictable behaviour (Curtis allegedly described his love scenes with the icon as “like kissing Hitler”), the movie was a huge hit and Monroe won a Golden Globe award for her performance. In 2000, the American Film Institute listed Some Like It Hot as the greatest American comedy film of all time.

    Call us biased, but we reckon the uke played its part in the movie’s success. We can’t imagine the adorably kooky Sugar playing anything else!

    This article first appeared in Issue 1 of KAMUKE, which is available in the Store