• CINEMATIC STRUMMING: BLUE HAWAII

    BLUE HAWAII (1961)

    Director: Norman Taurog

    Stars: Elvis Presley, Joan Blackman, Angela Lansbury, Nancy Walters

    NOTHING illustrates the popularity of Hawaiiana in the early 1960s better than Blue Hawaii. The first of three Elvis movies to be filmed in the islands, it was one of his most successful, and the soundtrack spent 20 weeks at number one on the Billboard chart.

    Presley plays Chadwick Gates, the heir to a pineapple fortune who returns to Honolulu after a stint in the US Army. While he’s happy surfing, singing and playing uke with his beach-boy buddies, Chad’s snooty parents don’t like it one bit and pressure him to join the family business. He refuses and instead becomes a tour guide, which leads to him working with a visiting high school teacher (Walters) and her four female students. Chad’s girlfriend Maile (Blackman) gets jealous of his relationship with the pretty teacher and some fairly predictable miscommunications form the basis of the comedy.

    While it’s not high art by any means, Blue Hawaii is undeniably entertaining and the scenery is stunning. Much of the film was shot on location at the Coco Palms Resort on the east coast of the island of Kauai. Sadly, the resort, which was once a playground for the rich and famous, has been abandoned since it was hit by Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

    The Coco Palms Resort in 2007

    The soundtrack was recorded at Radio Recorders in Hollywood before filming began, with Fred Tavares and Bernie Lewis playing the ukuleles. Elvis later gave a Martin uke used in the flick as a gift to famous session guitarist Hank ‘Sugarfoot’ Garland. Aside from the title track, notable songs include Rock-A-Hula Baby, Ku-u-ipo (Hawaiian Sweetheart) and Aloha ’Oe.

    Surely a movie that features the King of Rock ’n’ Roll strumming four strings instead of six deserves a spot in any uke fan’s collection.

  • 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

  • IPHONE CASE GIVEAWAY!

    Thanks to our mates at Ukulele Lab in Hawaii, we have TWO beautiful koa iPhone cases to give away! All you need to do to be in the running to win one of these handcrafted beauties is send us a photo of yourself with a copy of KAMUKE Ukulele Magazine. The two most creative entries will win. Remember to send us your full name and mailing address, as well as your preference for an iPhone X or iPhone 7/8 case. The competition is now open worldwide and will end on Sunday, September 30 at midnight, Australian Eastern Standard Time. Send your entry to editor@kamuke.com NOW!

     

  • TALK STORY: DANIELLE ATE THE SANDWICH

    Danielle Ate The Sandwich (aka Danielle Anderson) is a fantastic singer-songwriter from Colorado, USA. Her often hilarious, always poignant YouTube videos have garnered tens of thousands of fans (aka Fanwiches) all around the world. This is her ukulele story…

    What was your first contact with the uke?

    I rarely thought of the ukulele until I was at the home of my friend Brandon. I noodled around with his uke and loved it so much, I asked if I could take it home for a few days. I kept it for too long and he bought me one so he could have his back. After that, it’s a runaway love story! I never expected the ukulele to take over my songwriting or shape my career in the way it has. It’s been an amazing tool and an amazing way to meet new people and get out in the world and enjoy music!

    How do you approach songwriting?

    I don’t have a rigid or formal approach. I try to be open to however a song might come to me. I usually start with an idea or subject, or something that’s been on my mind. Then I noodle around on the ukulele, trying to find a good set of chords, then I play them over and over until words and melodies start to fall out of me. In my process, starting a song is more of an exercise in letting go. Trying anything, singing whatever comes to mind, some of it sensible, most of it gibberish, until there’s some form or outline. Finishing a song, then, is taking those loose ideas and whittling them down to make more sense, be more poetic, fit better in the line and stand nicely as the expression I intended.

    Making good YouTube videos is a lot harder than it looks. What’s your top tip for anyone who’s just starting out?

    I strive to make videos that are engaging and sincere, so I believe strongly in delivering a passionate performance. If you’re able to lose yourself in what you’re doing, as if you were on stage in front of actual people, you’ll give off a level of comfort, ease and intimacy that the audience will hopefully be drawn to. It’s just you and a camera in a room, but it’s good to give it all you’ve got!

    And technically speaking?

    Technically, I think it’s important to record a little audio and video, then listen back to make sure you’re a good distance from the camera or microphone to avoid clipping or distorted audio. It’s also good to make sure your camera is focused and centred and is set on something steady, with a light source of some kind pointed at your face. It’s easy to get caught up in the fancy lights and cameras, but truthfully, some of the most charming videos I’ve seen are very low-fi! At the end of the day, it comes down to whatever moment is captured and how people respond to it.

    You play Mya-Moe ukuleles. What do you like about their instruments?

    I think their ukuleles are gorgeous. They sound amazing acoustic and plugged in to a sound system, which is important for me since I’m performing a lot. They hold their tuning, they’re expressive, they’re well built. And aside from the instruments, I really like the team at Mya-Moe. Gordon [Mayer], Char [Mayer] and Aaron [Keim] are good people. I trust them and I enjoy their company – they’ve cooked me dinner! It’s nice to feel close to the instruments and the people who are building them.

    What did you do before you became a uke star?

    I was a seamstress at an alteration shop. I went to school for apparel design and production and wanted to own a store where I sold the things I made. The alteration shop job was the first ‘real job’ I got after graduating and was the one I decided to quit to pursue music.

    You tour a lot. What’s the most important item you’ve forgotten to pack?

    I’ve packed my car so many times, I know the way it needs to fit together. One time, something just wasn’t right, but I couldn’t figure out why. About six hours down the road, I realised I forgot to pack my sound system! Inevitably, I freaked out and assumed the tour was ruined, but it all worked out okay. I’ve tried to stop worrying. Most anything I need can be bought or borrowed. Pyjamas, deodorant and my phone charger are the things I always make a point to remember. I always have a hard time packing, even though I do it so often. I should be really good at it!

    Have you got a message for your Aussie Fanwiches?

    HELLO! And thank you for being my fans from so far away! I’ve always had some really strong YouTube friends in Australia, so there’s a very soft spot in my heart for you. I would love to come and play in Australia some day, but until then I’m so honoured to be in KAMUKE!

    Finally, why did you choose the stage name ‘Danielle Ate The Sandwich’? We need to know!

    I chose the name because I thought it sounded fun and interesting. I didn’t want to be another singer-songwriter with a boring first and last name. I like my first name and I like sandwiches – how they look and taste and come in different shapes and sizes – so I thought it made perfect sense. I’ve got so used to it, sometimes I forget how strange it is! I pulled it right out of my head!

    FIVE FAVOURITES

    Colour: Blue

    Animal: Giraffe

    Food: Spaghetti

    City: New York (but I also like my city, Fort Collins, Colorado!)

    Word: Cigarette

    Hungry for more? Add danielleatethesandwich.com to your bookmarks bar today!

    Photo: Kaela Speicher

    This article first appeared in Issue 9 of KAMUKE, which is available in the Store

  • 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

  • Ukulele Therapy: How The Ukulele Can Help You Through Difficult Times

    I was recently contacted by a reader named David Markham, who sent me this lovely story about how the uke has helped him. If you have a similar tale to share, please feel free to email me at editor@kamuke.com

    Placing yourself in a positive frame of mind is a very important thing, and playing your ukulele can help you do this – I know!

    Playing my ukulele is helping me get through the chemotherapy I’ve been undergoing to get over a low grade of leukaemia (chronic lymphatic leukaemia).

    I started getting sick in 2016, but it was not apparent something was really wrong until the beginning of 2017. It was a really stressful and depressing time, to say the least. Having tests done and then waiting for the results… I thank God I had my ukulele to keep my spirits up!

    Sometimes I would wake in the middle of the night, full of apprehension and dread about what was going on, and I would say, over and over, “I am healthy, I am healthy, I am healthy!” This was to prevent me from succumbing to despair and becoming totally despondent.

    When I would finally get up in the morning, the first thing I would do (and still do) is play my ukulele. 

    It’s like a machine that can put you in a better mood fast! And in this better frame of mind, it’s easier and more effective to think positive thoughts that will help you to get better.

    I like to strum and sing for a while before I check phone messages, building myself up before having to deal with a dreadful message from the doctor or, even worse, the insurance people!

    Sometimes I take it to chemo and play it in the parking lot before I go in. It’s not about being a virtuoso, it’s about you creating joy within yourself, building up your spirit, and you know that’s good for you!

    Occasionally I would be so tired, I couldn’t do much strumming or singing – watching ukulele videos on YouTube helped me. The Jive Aces, Taimane Gardner and Howlin’ Hobbit are personal favourites.

    As of December 14, 2017, I am in remission. The doctor said the latest blood tests were completely normal, “as if nothing ever happened”! Yay! And I know the ukulele was instrumental (pun intended) in getting me through this ugly ordeal.

    So, my friends, grab your ukulele and play the heck out of it and you will make your life better – and it will spread throughout the world!

    David Markham

  • Aloha, KoAloha!

    I FIRST visited the KoAloha Ukulele factory in Honolulu with my brother in 2001. We were welcomed like old friends and just happened to be there when incredible uke player Gordon Mark showed up and gave us an impromptu concert! It was absolutely fantastic and I’ve been mates with the wonderful Okami family ever since.

    In February, I returned to Hawaii for the first time in eight years and made sure to visit the NEW KoAloha factory. Check it out!

    Cameron

    I even got to play a couple of numbers for the guests on the official factory tour!

     

  • CONSTRUCTION ZONE: KAMAKA UKULELE

    ESTABLISHED in 1916 in what was then the Territory of Hawaii, Kamaka is the oldest manufacturer of ukuleles in the world and the name is still synonymous with quality. KAMUKE chats to production manager and third-generation luthier Chris Kamaka.

    What makes a Kamaka ukulele so special?

    Here at Kamaka, we really take pride in our work. We are fast approaching 100 years and I feel special just to be a part of it. Experience helps with anything and we all learn from our mistakes along the road of life. Through the years, there have been ups and downs, but it’s how you handle your journey that makes the difference.

    As a Kamaka, was being involved in the family business your only career option?

    No, I almost joined the US Air Force with aspirations to be a pilot. Now my two younger brothers are captains with Hawaiian Airlines and my son Dustin is a pilot flying with Trans Air, a cargo outfit here. I majored in business and art design with the intention to join the family business.

    What does your role as production manager entail?

    I oversee the production models, primarily to manage the orders and make sure everything is flowing properly. I also look over and check each instrument before we send them out. 

    There are more and more uke builders arriving on the scene all the time. How has Kamaka responded to that challenge?

    The ukulele has grown and the popularity is tremendous. Many builders today look to us to set the standard because we have expectations and we hold our craftsmanship at a high level. We try to continue to set the bar high and maintain a level of excellence which others look up to. I am glad there are more builders and welcome them. I don’t see others as a challenge to what we do.

    Why do you think we’re seeing such a worldwide resurgence of the ukulele now?

    The ukulele has always been a fun instrument. Technology (especially things like YouTube) has helped introduce the ukulele worldwide. There have been many promoters of the ukulele through the years, most recently Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and Jake Shimabukuro.

    How did the famous and often copied Pineapple Ukulele come into being?

    My grandfather Samuel Kamaka Sr invented the pineapple and actually had it copyrighted until a few years ago. He started building pineapple ukuleles in his garage in Kaimuki, experimenting with the sound.

    What’s your bestselling model?

    It’s pretty close, but I would say the HF-3, our four-string tenor model.

    Tell us about Kamaka’s proud history of employing disabled people.

    My dad hired many hearing-impaired workers and they turned out to be some of our best workers. My mom was an occupational therapist and introduced many of these workers back in the day. Their sense of touch was so sensitive that when my dad trained them, they could tell just by tapping on the top of the instrument whether it was correct or not.

    What can a visitor expect from the Kamaka factory tour?

    If you have uncle Fred as your tour guide, you will have one thorough tour, and I’m sure you will enjoy it tremendously.

    Check out the full Kamaka range and find your nearest stockist at kamakahawaii.com

     

    This article first appeared in Issue 7 of KAMUKE, which is available in the Store

  • READER’S POEM: TO A UKULELE

    This submission comes from David Waxman, who says: “I’m a ukulele player, a KAMUKE subscriber and a poet – and I’ve written a poem that involves a ukulele.  I think your readers might like it…”

    To A Ukulele

    Which I lift from its case, strum,
    sitting on our living room couch.

    Sarah, on high back chair, concocts
    cello counterpoint – Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.

    A breeze moves lace curtains
    through windows open onto our patio.
    Sparrows skip among brown leaves.
    Beechwoods rise grey in our backyard.

    Beechwoods stood
    in my boyhood backyard,
    sentinels in Sherwood Forest.
    I blink twice. Sarah

    strikes a discord and I startle,
    look up from my uke –
    amber koa carries
    South Seas music.

    Sarah smiles, cocks her head in a question.