Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sixth Annual Ukulele Drop

Tonight's the night. The Sixth Annual Ukulele Drop hosted by Sonic Uke in Brooklyn, NY. Link

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Xmas From Jake

Jake Shimabukuro has posted an Christmas greeting on his site. He mentions that a songbook and instructional DVD are in the works for 2010. (And I wonder: if he does a Christmas album, would it be called Jake and the Fat Man?) Link

Merry Christmas!


'Tongan King of Ukulele', Sione Aleki

This sad news from Gemma of the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra: "I thought you might be interested to know the sad news that the 'Tongan King of Ukulele', Sione Aleki, just passed away this week - collapsed and died whilst performing on stage in Tonga.

Here he is performing all his tricks!

He was an incredible man, not very widely known in international uke circles simply because he lived in Tonga and not Hawaii or a more populated place... Only a fortnight ago, I was interviewing him on a sunny Auckland day about his life of ukulele playing (for a documentary to be screened here next year). He could play every style from every Pacific island and while he had a delicate touch, what really got the kids excited at the annual NZ Ukulele Festival was the way he'd roll over and over on the floor playing his uke behind his head, or with his foot, or his teeth, or pretty much any part of his body he could think of, with a permanent smile on his face, and all whilst being mostly blind.

Here he is performing all his tricks!
I thought you might be interested to know the sad news that the 'Tongan King of Ukulele', Sione Aleki, just passed away this week - collapsed and died whilst performing on stage in Tonga.
Here he is!

He was an incredible man, not very widely known in international uke circles simply because he lived in Tonga and not Hawaii or a more populated place... Only a fortnight ago, I was interviewing him on a sunny Auckland day about his life of ukulele playing (for a documentary to be screened here next year). He could play every style from every Pacific island and while he had a delicate touch, what really got the kids excited at the annual NZ Ukulele Festival was the way he'd roll over and over on the floor playing his uke behind his head, or with his foot, or his teeth, or pretty much any part of his body he could think of, with a permanent smile on his face, and all whilst being mostly blind.

And when that wasn't enough, he'd play the saw:
more more more

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tappy Recoving from Broken Hip

Just learned that Uncle Bill Tapia fell and broke his hip a few days ago. A quick operation, everything pinned back together, and he's mending in a rehab center.

Let's all send early birthday wishes for a speedy recovery to Bill, who will be a mere 102 on New Year's Day. Link


Okay, so much for the conceit that only nice people play the ukulele. Here's a story about Shinichi Tekehara, mayor of Akune (Japan) who is blaming modern medicine for failing to "prune" the weak from society. Charming fellow. Link

Monday, December 21, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bette Midler with Jake Shimabukuro - In My Life

Here 'tis: Jake and the Divine Miss M at the Royal Variety Performance. I like that the stage seems to be a giant conceptual ukulele. Link

Monday, December 14, 2009

Van Gogh Ukulele

Jon Pak has a gorgeous new ukulele hand-painted by Moogly Moo in England. It's a "Van Gogh" ukulele, and to christen it, he has a gorgeous new song/video "Starry Night" (a Don McLean cover)

Even More Playing the Ukulele While Juggling

Yes, even more. David Cain sings, plays, and juggles while creating a tune.

Playing Ukulele While Juggling

Zaza gave us a tip to search for these guys. One-upping the Maestrosities (see below), these guys plunk out a tune while juggling 6 ukes. (For you more serious-minded uke aficionados, cf Samuel Johnson's quip about a dog's walking on its hinder legs: "It is not done well; but you are surprized to find it done at all.")

A Rare Fitting

Q: What is the second most frequently asked question* in the English language?

A: What is the ukulele player going to wear when s/he performs for the Queen of England?

Jake Shimabukuro ponders the question here. And don't miss the video of him giving the new jacket a test run in the fitting room here.

* As everyone know, the most frequently asked question in the English language is "Is that the banjo player's Porsche?"

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ukulele Lad is Internet Hit

I have tried to avoid blogging this video, but I now compelled to say that if this ends up getting more hits than Jake's Central Park While My Guitar Gently Weeps video, I'm just gonna give up.

Truth be told. This keiki's version of Jason Mraz's I'm Yours doesn't really showcase his talent. Watch him get his full Shimabukuro on this video of Gently Weeps.

If more ukes end up under the Christmas tree this year, I think we can all thank this little guy.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Shelley Rickey

Been a while since we checked in with Shelley Rickey. Go check out her blog now! Lots of new ukulele art, desktops, even a uke-themed Sweet'n Low package she found. Link

Maestrosities Juggle Ukes

Check out this video of The Coolest Band Ever, The Maestrosities. See if your heart stops about 1:50 mark when they juggle and pass 6 ukuleles. Mine did. Then I realized they're prolly not vintage Martins.

The Maestrosities also have some upcoming NY shows. More info here.

UPDATE: Jason from Sonic Uke sez "it's only two but we play them too." At least they didn't drop the towel.

Ukulelia Holiday Songbook - 2009 Edition

Here it is at last. The Motherlode. The Big One. Enough Christmas Carols, Hanukkah Songs, and miscellaneous holiday ukulele music to choke a reindeer. Chords, lyrics, chord arrangements, solo fingerpicking, you name it. We hope you enjoy playing and sharing your uke with friends and family this holiday season.

A big addition this year is Dominator's two-video tutorial on how to play Aldine Guerrero's arrangement of The Christmas Song. An easier (but still plenty challenging) arrangement of this old Chestnut is Narciso Lobo's (download it here).

And please, if you know of any sites or charts that we've overlooked (or discover a broken link), leave a comment via the link below and we'll add them to the list.

The Ukulelia Holiday Songbook

Lights! Camera! Phredd!

Yeah, Yeah, I know...not normally the kind of music I come across in Ukuleletown. But this guy has an infectious style that gets across to kids. Yeah, there are a few kids in Ukuleletown. Free-range kids that like what they like and listen to what they listen to.

Listen to Phredd.

Phredd Central

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Jake Meets the Queen

Jake Shimabukuro and Bette Midler meet the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance yesterday. The performance will be broadcast on December 16th, so I'm expecting someone from across the pond to post a clip of Jake and Bette's performance (please!).

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Belt Loop

Sweet Soubrette is one of 50 artists/bands in the first week of Microsoft’s new Playlist Seven music promo program. If my track "Tears That I've Cried" (from the Siren Song album) is one of this week's top 7 free downloads, Sweet Soubrette will win promotion and a cash prize (toward the new record!). The free track is available through Dec 7 here:

Caveat: to download/vote for the track, you need to "friend" Microsoft, at least temporarily.

Fun fact about "Tears That I've Cried": the percussion loop is actually producer Tim Cohan's belt buckle. We call it the belt loop.

Sweet Soubrette Website

Behold, the Ukeyola!

I read in an article today about Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer's instrument collection; specifically, that they own a Bob McCluskie Ukeyola. (One of only two in the world!)

It's a viola scale and bodied ukulele made by renowned violin maker Robert McCluskie, senior luthier at the Potter Violin Company. It reminds me of the fretless ukulele that my friend Tuba made out of violin back in our Ringling days.

Check out Cathy and Marcy's other instruments, too, including a sweet Talsma ukulele modeled after the Martin MC3H Marcy Marxer Signature Model Guitar.


Ticket to Pluck

Don't forget Roger and Dave's Beatles on ukulele marathon benefit for Yoko Ono (whew!) this Sunday, December 6, 2009 at the Brooklyn (NY) Bowl. Nice profile yesterday on A.V. Club.

Pohaku Ukuleles

Peter Hurney is the luthier behind Pohaku Ukulele in Berkeley, California. I have three of his instruments and they have a sound that is as unique as they are. His workshop is a separate building behind his house and it’s there he produces some of the most unusual and musical ukuleles on the scene today.

What I like first about Peter’s work is that it is superior craftsmanship. His woodworking skills are amazing…and they have been honed through many other projects other that just instrument production. On his website under “Other Stuff” you can see some of the beautiful and fanciful creations he has built.

So, what do Peter’s ukuleles sound like, and why would you want one? The sound of a Pohaku, to my ears, is very clear and precise. I have one in koa and one in mahogany, and, although they both have their own unique sound, they have an identifiable quality that they share: they aren’t muddy and have a good snap. For recording, especially, this is a marvelous quality.

Beyond the sound is the appearance of a Pohaku ukulele. Noted ukulele players like Bliss Blood, Ami Worthen, Tippy Canoe, Uni and her Ukulele, Kitten on the Keys, etc…all use Pohakus on stage. They look great and survive the rigors of performance. Peter has an entire section on his website of “art ukuleles”; ukuleles that are “themed” or have some special artistic merit.

Pohaku prices are very reasonable for a good performance instrument; i.e. an instrument that stays in tune, intonates properly and sounds great night after night. Peter Hurney, himself, is very easy to work with and has a great sense of humor.

Pohaku Ukulele Website

Here’s a video of me playing a custom koa Pohaku concert ukulele.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Victoria Vox on Leno Tonight!

Ukulele diva Victoria Vox will be on Jay Leno's show tonight (Wednesday, December 2, 2009, 10pm ET). Oddly enough, not to play the ukulele, but to play her Mouth Trumpet. Truly. Let's hope Victoria gets asked to come back and bring her uke. Go, girl! Link

Ukulele: The New Definition

The harbinger of Post-Consumerism? Yeah, baby. Link

Bob Dylan and Tiny Tim

Your daily dose of Ukulele Zen: Bob Dylan and Tiny Tim, hanging out, sharing french fries. Seriously. Read the article at the Link

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Dateline: Orangeville

Nice little profile today on Heather Katz and Michael Griffin, ukesters and owner of Broadway Music in Orangeville, Ontario. Link

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fundraiser for Tangi

As we reported earlier, ukulele luthier Tangi Tully was savagely beaten. On December 6 from 5-10 pm at The Shack in Waikiki there will be a fundraiser to help Tangi with his medical costs. He's uninsured. If you're on Oahu on the 6th, drop by. Link

Thursday, November 26, 2009

"Pass the Donuts"

Can't wait for Gerald Ross to deconstruct this one.


UPDATE: Don't miss Gerald's Cold War history lesson in the comments!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Zac Efron Ukes in "Me and Orson Welles"

Six years ago (!) we wrote about Robert Kaplow's then-new novel about a young actor who performed in Orson Welles's legendary 1937 production of Julius Caesar. (The ukulele connnection? The kid played a ukulele that was tricked out to look like a lute.)

Now the film adaptation of "Me and Orson Welles" is hitting the theatres with Zac Ephron starring as the young uke-player (aged for the film to provide a heartthrob marketing angle, we suspect). Now all we need is a High School Musical ukulele to make this a trifecta. And, wonders of wonders, there is one.

My favorite angle to the story? Author Robert Kaplow is perhaps better known to NPR listeners (of a certain vintage) as Moe Moskowitz. Link

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Jake and Two Queens

Congratulations to Jake Shimabukuro on being invited team up with Bette Midler in a performance before Queen Elizabeth on December 7th.
"I was shocked to hear that Bette Midler knew my music. I've been a huge fan of hers for many years," said Jake. "She's like a queen of entertainment. And to be performing with her for the Queen of England... it's a bit too much for me. I'm just so honored."
Quite a line-up for the event. (But...wonder what HRH will make of Lady Gaga...) Link

Monday, November 23, 2009

Craig Robertson: Interview | Ukulele Hunt

Great. As if Craig needs his ego stoked any more. My only consolation is that he'll now have to go out and buy a half dozen new fedoras, 1/4" larger. Just for this, I'm going to post the Ukulelia Holiday Songbook again this year. Link

(Kidding, Craig.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cigar Box Ukulele Kit

Ukulelia founder and Boing Boing editor Mark Frauenfelder blogs about a cigar box ukulele kit he received from Papa's Boxes. Sez he plans to work on it over Thanksgiving. Link

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Arthur Godfrey: Uke Tuning Advocate

Another historical tidbit from Billboard today. Arthur Godfrey off on a rant about non-standardized uke tunings in sheet music. Warns that the Second Wave will be just another fad unless everyone picks a tuning and just sticks with it. Also vilifies makers of junk ukuleles flooding the market. Don't cross Uncle Arthur. Link

Kaye Offers Uke Plan to MPPA; Pubbers Cool

Read about bandleader Sammy Kaye's 1950 plan to create a non-profit co-operative publishing venture devoted to developing tunes especially suited to the ukulele. It was an interesting idea aimed at ultimately generating business for sheet music publishers as apparently fewer people were playing the piano. The "Pubbers" were "cool" to the idea (in the pre-hipster meaning of "cool"). Link

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Formby?

Here's an odd George Formby album cover from the 1970's that makes George look alive, well, and about 40 years younger than he would have been at the time. (He died in 1961.)

What is this? Some creepy cut and paste job, or a colorized photo of George in garb that coincidentally returned to style in the '70s? Or is Georgie now a babe in a cradle with his little ukulele in his hands a la Benjamin Button. Creepy. Link

More girls, more glasses, more ukuleles...

Ingrid Michaelson performs "Maybe" Live at WTMD

Monday, November 16, 2009

King/Tranquada Journal Article

A highly recommended download: a pdf of John King and Jim Tranquada's "New History of the Origins and Development of the 'Ukulele, 1838-1915" from vol. 37 of The Hawaiian Journal of History (2003). Link

Tangi Ukulele Owner Savagely Beaten

I will let the news article and accompanying video speak to the atrocity of all this. Blackford "Tangi" Tully, maker of Tangi ukuleles, was savagely beaten during an attempted robbery. He's in the hospital, and, also a victim of the economy. The downturn left him without enough money to pay his insurance. Some folks over on the Flea Market Music BB have posted information if you'd like to send aloha and a few dollars his way. (Go directly to the you to the BB post for the latest, just in case details change.) Link

Astro Boy Uke

If you're a fan of Mighty Atom, aka Astro Boy (and read Japanese), you'll love this themed uke made by Greco. (They have other manga themed ukes, too. The only other one I recognize is Kimba the White Lion.) Just in time, too. Link

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pink Elephant...

The Old Blind Mole Orkestra from France is led by an amazing ukulele player and songwriter named Steve...this is their new video. dig it.

Whahoo WIUO!

Cool. As a lone wolf, I’m not often attracted to groups of ukulele players all bashing along on the same song.

But…the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra from New Zealand is a marvelous example of how it should be done. Their enthusiasm for the music and excellent cover choices dovetail perfectly with their vocal arrangements. And they ARE arrangements. Different singers are singing harmonies and counterpoint and whatnot.

Check out their joyous, spot-on cover of Prince’s “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”.

Their Website

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


If you live in Toronto and are completely unaware of the massive goings-on centered around the Corktown Ukulele Jam, you must be living in the same black hole I'm currently in. Check out this amazing community with all haste, eh? Link

Friday, November 06, 2009

George Formby Handbills

This chap has posted several vintage handbills advertising George Formby appearances. Link

Peghed Tuners Now Available on Flukes

This is pretty neat. Peghed brand geared tuners are now available as an upgrade option on Flea and Fluke ukuleles. They look like old-school friction pegs, but have 4:1 planetary gears cleverly hidden inside. Order 'em via the Flea Market Music site.

New Takamine Guitars Jake Shimabukuro Designed Ukulele

If you've followed Jake Shimabukuro for a while, you know that he devotes a good deal of time in support of Music is Good Medicine (MIGM), a non-profit community support organization. Well, the Mother Teresa of the Ukulele has teamed up with Takimine Guitars to produce a new uke aimed at the mass market. (Update: MIGM informs us that the uke is not a "signature" model, a designation that applies only to Jake's Kamaka model. It's officially being referred to as the "MIGM Ukulele.")

As one would expect, Shimabukuro wanted the new uke to be a real player, but affordable to as many people as possible (especially kids). A quick glance at the press shot of the uke shows some unexpected details in an entry-level instrument, notably the long neck (14 frets to the body) and extended fretboard (19 frets altogether!).

The MIGM uke will play a key role in supporting “Four Strings for Kids,” a program dedicated to making the ukulele available to children all over the world. A portion of the online only sales of the uke will go to support MIGM's outreach programs.

It's scheduled to go on sale early 2010. Link

Kepasa Ukuleles

This is the first installment in what I hope will become a monthly feature on Ukulelia. Each month I will discuss a maker of custom ukuleles; how they look, how they sound, why you should get one. This is more or less subjective on my part, although I have bought and sold string instruments all my life (Is this self-serving? Probably, but it's the way I'm going to approach it.). I won’t discuss any instrument in this series that I haven’t actually played.

Before I get into a specific builder, I guess there is the question of “why?”. Why buy a custom ukulele when there are so many good production ones out there now?

For me, the answer to that is easy. I like to think that the music I make is unique and personal. I think all musicians consider their sound unique and personal. One step in achieving that is having an instrument that was designed specifically for you. To produce a sound that is specific to you.

The other reason is to have a dependable instrument to play that, no matter how much you play it, you never discover all the sounds it can make. Sometimes when I look at a ukulele I just want to play it so I can hear it make “that sound”.

To start off, I’m going to take a look at Kepasa Ukulele in Burlington, Vermont. The luthier is Kevin Crossett.

Kevin’s building philosophy is outlined on his website:

Build light, build loud, build often! Kepasa Ukuleles are designed to have a full and warm tone. I prefer this sound for fingerstyle ukulele and chord/melody style ukulele.

I enjoy studying the art of tap-tuning the top and back. Part of this is done by paying attention to wood thicknesses and strengths for each wood type, and shaping the braces to get the sound that is the most optimal from each particular ukulele. I start with a certain plan for each ukulele and I adjust accordingly along the way by communicating with the ukulele in progress. Sometimes the wood whispers to me...”

(above: left; a mahogany Josephine and right; a Koa model)

The two Kepasas I own are based on the Stewart “LeDomino” from the Twenties. They have a 14” scale, which is between a soprano and a concert, and are strung with concert gauge strings. This gives them a punchy, loud sound with a lot of depth. Although the top of a ukulele is important to the production of sound, the “body sound” what defines and broadens the sound. Kevin’s ukuleles have a warm sound. The mahogany ones are darker with more sustain and the koa ones have a surprising amount of bottom end.

The necks are fast and smooth and the ones with a 14” scale give just a bit more room. The saddle is compensated. I’m not one who ‘scopes the intonation, but I can hear if it’s off. I still feel conflicted about “strings through the body” method of anchoring the strings; it makes them harder to change, but I never worry about the bridge flying off. (I have had that happen occasionally with older ukuleles). Kevin makes a number of "standard" styles, these are just one of them.

This is a video of me playing a Kepasa “Josephine” in mahogany; (I'm not a great believer in "audio samples". The recording process always adds something to the sound; so this is how it sounds when I record it. Your results may vary...)

Right now Kevin’s prices are extremely reasonable, but the demand for his instruments is going up. Kevin, himself, is a great, easygoing guy and a joy to work with. Cheerful and self-effacing, he will give you a due date and stick to it. (This is a good thing in the world of luthiers). He has a music store in Burlington (Guitar Sams) and has a great ear for the sound of a good instrument.

Rather than make these articles too long and unreadable, I have opted for hitting the high points. If you want more info, contact Kevin; he's an easy guy to talk to.

Kepasa Ukulele Website

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

BNZ Ukulele Festival

Might New Zealand take the prize for the World's Largest Ukulele Orchestra? Head to the BNZ Ukulele Festival on November 21st and find out! Link

Thursday, October 29, 2009

John Hodgman: "If the Guitar is a Novel...

...the ukulele is the book of fake trivia." And here I thought it was the thinking man's violin. Link

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More Uke Toting Actors

Add Billy Connolly, Jack Black, and Emily Blunt to your list of actors who strum. Link

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Liverpool Ukulele Ceilidh 2009

Just can't get away from the Beatles references this morning. But this Liverpool is across the pond from the Fab 4's home town. Nova Scotia, to be precise. It's the 3rd Annual International Ukulele Ceilidh, October 22-25, 2009. Link

every Beatles song to be performed on ukulele in Brooklyn - BrooklynVegan

Roger and Dave are at it again. This time around their Beatles Complete on Ukulele Festival will be for the benefit of Yoko Ono. The festival promises 16 hours, 185 songs, 60 singers, 40 musicians, and 16 Yokos. (If Mrs. Lennon appears herself, what kind of uke would she play? A Maccaferri, natch.)

December 5th and 6th, 2009. Be there, or be Sutcliffe.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Zombie Boogie!

Check out the new EP of Halloween themed uke-abilly music from Mad Tea Party! (And check out Ami's new uke-playing skeleton tattoo...) Link

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Uke Player Cookbook

Rose Turtle Ertler has compiled a book of recipes submitted by uke players around the world. Looks primarily vegetarian, with vegan alternatives. I'm certain it's meaty, nonetheless. Link

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Elvis Presley for Ukulele

When you're All Shook Up and find yourself Crying in the Chapel next door to Heartbreak Hotel because some Hound Dog stepped on your Blue Suede Shoes and Suspicious Minds are Too Much, turn to this new Elvis Presley songbook from Jumpin' Jim. We're sure you Can't Help Falling in Love with it. Link

Original Warren Buffett Autographed DQ Ukulele Up for Auction

If you missed your chance to buy the Dairy Queen Ukulele the first time around, get out your checkbook.

The first and original Warren Buffett DQ Uke designed by me and lovingly crafted by luthier extraordinaire Dave Talsma is up for auction.

As you may recall, the Dairy Queen Ukulele was auctioned off to benefit the Children's Miracle Network, and was purchased by the online casino for over $11,000.

(About a month after the auction, I got a call from Mr. B's assistant. He liked the uke so much he asked if we'd make him one to keep. That second--and last--version is now in his personal collection.)

Don't be fooled by the kitschy appearance. This is fine instrument and an outstanding player in the true Talsma fashion. I'm tempted to bid on it myself.

(In case you're curious, the autograph reads "Warren Five Fingers Buffett".)

Absentee bidding in open now. Live auction on November 7, 2009. Link

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vote for Janet Klein...and Ian Whitcomb

Janet Klein sez vote for her to return to Maxwell DeMille's Cicada Club in 2010. Ian Whitcomb is on the ballot, too, so click for 'em both!

As they say in Chicago: vote early, and vote often! Link

Mary J. Martin Accompanies "The Lost World"

Stop-motion classic accompanies by electric ukulele? Who has more info on this? Leave a comment! Link

Monday, October 05, 2009

...and she can whistle too!

Alison Losik from Eugene Oregon. Nice jazzy style, nice jazzy tunes. Gotta appreciate a girl who can whistle this good.

her site

Friday, October 02, 2009

The French Connection

Lionel Hubert, the organizer for the Paris Uke Fest, and Antoine Ladoue, percussionist extraordinaire, comprise the duo U.K.E. Their mini-tour of the east coast of the United States starts October 8th in Brooklyn, NY:
"The annual Paris Uke Fest has showcased an international array of ukulele superstars—including some of Brooklyn’s most talented players of this 4-stringed little instrument. On October 8, the Paris Uke Fest in Brooklyn will feature performances by local and international ukulele stars (coming from as close as Park Slope and as far as Australia!), Paris Uke Fest alums, French-themed music, and a special appearance by Paris Uke Fest founder Lionel Hubert with his experimental duo U.K.E. Hosted by the incomparable Sweet Soubrette at the charmingest venue in Brooklyn, Red Hook’s Jalopy Theatre. Comme c’est magnifique!"

On October 13th the lucky duo will travel to Boston to be part of a very special Ukulele Noir: (link)

and then off to Cape Cod, Orleans to be precise:
"On Thursday Oct 15th (just after your Noir!), Lionel and Antoine will perform on the Cape at the Hot Chocolate Sparrow in Orleans at 7:00. Tim Sweeney will open for them."

oops! forgot one:

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mighty Uke Premiere and Concert

This might very well be the uke event of the year. On October 2, 2009, Tony Coleman's ukumentary Mighty Uke will receive its premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival. And to celebrate, there will be a Mighty Uke Concert, featuring John Braman and Jim & Liz Beloff. The concert is a benefit for the Killian Mansfield Foundation. Do not miss it! Link

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hale Kula Update

It's nice to see that the community is rallying behind the kids at Hale Kula Elementary. As we reported earlier, some creeps walked off with 25 Kamaka ukuleles over Labor Day. Still can't believe they haven't caught the crooks yet. Let's hope they're dumb enough to try and pawn one of the ukes. Link

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Ukuleers

Click here to view these pictures larger

Catching up on uke news, I ran across an article about Adam Mentzer, a player from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and tucked into the comments was this gem from former Ukuleer, Tana Reiff:

"I was a member of the folk group, the Ukuleers, in York County [PA] back in the '60s. We landed in time between Arthur Godfrey and Tiny Tim. This article hit in the same week Mary Travers died. She was my idol and the Ukuleers were Peter, Paul & Mary wannabes. You want to see geeky and hip? Here's a picture of us circa 1965.

"I never posted an image to a board, so I hope you can see this because it's a good chuckle. That's me at age 14 holding the tenor uke, with the bow in my hair. I was the youngest. On the left is Rick Bowen, now a music professor in Indiana. Joan Kling became a nightclub singer. Denny Updegraff, the bongo dude, and Dave Myers, on the right, did not pursue musical careers as far as I know. We eventually graduated to one guitar, three baritone ukes, and bongoes. In perfect 4-part harmony, we covered Dylan and PP&M, of course, as well as spirituals, Pete Seeger, and even "Ragdoll" by the Four Seasons. We lasted three years. A big payday was $5 apiece, but it kept us in instruments, felt picks, and outfits. It was the most fun ever and, ask anyone, we were really good. Glad to know ukuleles are back!"
Ukuleles are back. Now let's hope the Ukuleers are, too!

Happy Autumn, Uke Lovers

Art by MiKiMoNo


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Uke Are Marshall

Marshall University's new TV commercial features studen Juston Donadieu and his uke. I'm glad that's not a vintage Martin he's playing when he gets doused in Gatorade. Link

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Rope's the Dope

Peter Hurney, from Pohaku Ukuleles, has a this interesting ukulele on his's how it came to be:

"A customer provided me wood from a very old apple tree taken down on his family property. Along with the wood came a story of how a rope that was used in taking down the tree got tangled up and came dangerously close to strangling the customer and turning him into the unfortunate woodsman.
Fortunately he survived to have a section of the tree turned into this soprano ukulele. After considering his story I chose to whimsically tie the rope theme into the artistic composition of the ukulele.
Fruit woods have been traditionally used in instrument construction over the years however rarely commercially. I measured the dimensional stability of the wood before commencing construction and found it to be an amazingly stable choice of wood. The body and neck are made out of the Apple and I mated it with a Sitka Spruce soundboard which has a bear-claw figure to it."

more photos of the ukulele

Who was that customer, you may ask?

Robert Wheeler, of course...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Paper Moon Paper Toy

"Say it's only a (ukulele playing monkey sitting in a) paper moon..."

Or say it's a new paper toy designed by Matt Hawkins.
"3 color screen print on chipboard. Debuting tomorrow night at the Proper Assortment show at the Emerald Space in KC west bottoms. I'll put em' up in my Big Cartel sometime next week. 200 limited edition printed by the fantastic Vahalla Studios. Inspired by the song It's Only a Paper Moon."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Hawaiian Job

Over the weekend, crooks stole 25 Kamaka ukuleles from Hale Kula Elementary on Oahu. The twist? Hale Kula is located within Schofield Barracks, and in order to get in you have to show identification, vehicle registration and proof of insurance at the military checkpoint. Let's hope that checkpoint records plus the fact that all the Kamakas have "Hale Kula" written on the headstock and stamped on the sound hole sticker will mean that the culprits are completely lolo and trip themselves up quickly.

Video at the link. Link

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Meanwhile, back in Chicago later this month...

...and perhaps you will even hear them do a song together. This is a great venue, right on the river. If you're anywhere near Chicago, you should come on out.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Next Stop...Madrid, Spain.

Where Pia Tedesco has been tearing them up with her monthly presentation of "Cabaret Freaks"!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

April Shower "Sha la la la la"

Great vocals+ukulele+claps. How come this song sounds so much better with a French accent????

April Shower

Wine Country 'Ukulele Festival

Registration is now open for the Wine Country (Napa Valley) 'Ukulele Festival, October 9-11, 2009. There's an amazing line-up of performers, workshops and events. Link

Monday, August 31, 2009

DaSilva Newsletter

Luthier and Ukepressario Mike DaSilva has tons of stuff going on these days. If you live in or near the San Francisco Bay Area, you'll want to subscribe to Mike's newsletter. He'll keep you up to date on all the concerts, workshops, and other events happening at his Berkeley studio. Link

UkuFingers iPhone/iTouch App

Now you can let your UkuFingers do the walking. Swell new app for iPhone and iTouch.
"Uku Fingers is more than an ukulele chord chart that shows you one way to play each chord. It shows you ALL the ways to play each chord – anywhere on the fretboard. Chord forms are color coded to quickly and easily find which inversion or fretboard placement makes the most sense. You can look at multiple chords together so you can see how they relate to each other (like the chord progression of a song), or how you can play chords at a different part of the neck to help with arrangements. You can also show scales along with the chords to find melodies or embellishments. Once a chord progression is loaded in, transposition is as easy as pressing a button. It even will show you relative pitch or the note names. Uku Fingers helps you to be a better player."

Susie Asado

Meet Susie Asado, aka Josepha Conrad, a songwriter, poet, lover of sweet tea, and ukulele player from Berlin. She has some US shows coming up, notably September 7, at Cake Shop in NYC.

Be sure to check out this amazing video of her song "Hello Antenna," a cut-paper animation by Veronika Samartseva and Anna Samoylovich. Link

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Uke Time in Vermont

Vermont brought us Ben & Jerry. Now Jennifer & Jim. Link

Hiram Bell Rings Widely

Bay Area ukulele master Hiram Bell will perform tonight (Saturday, August 29, 2009) at Biscuit & Blues in San Francisco. Check out this article for links to his upcoming workshops and classes, too. Link

Happy 100th, Lannie Ruth!

Further evidence that ukulele playing leads to a long and happy life. Link

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ukulele Quote of 2009

UOGB Music Director George Hinchcliffe is hereby awarded the Golden Cliffie for the Ukulele Quote of the Year:

Hinchcliffe on the broad demographic appeal of the ukulele:
“I noticed many groovy, fit young people in the queue for tickets for our Proms concert, the kind of person I used to be,” he said yesterday."


Wellington Ukulele Orchestra National Tour

It's a good day when you can feature the word "chuffed" in your blog post:
"The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra are chuffed to announce their national tour in support of a brand new record, The Dreaming EP, which will include towns that have not yet hosted the wildly popular strummers."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shelley O’Brien | Ukulele Hunt

Woodshed has a nice interview with Shelley O'Brien today. Link

Aloha, Killian

We were indeed saddened to hear of the passing of young uker Killian Mansfield. As you may have read earlier on Ukulelia, he recently released a CD, proceeds from which will support the foundation named in his honor. Please buy one.
"Killian Mansfield, 16, of West Shokan, NY, artist, musician, humanitarian. He waged a valiant battle against a rare form of cancer armed with an infectious sense of humor and a life force to be reckoned with.

"He took up violin at age 3 and continued his dedication to music, winning an award for his elementary school music program (PS 24 in The Bronx, NY), and participating in what he called “an outstanding string program,” at Onteora High School. As a participant of the Fiddle & Dance camp run by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason at the Ashokan Center, he picked up the ukulele — an instrument that enabled him to continue playing music despite the limitations cancer imposed on his body, and made such an impact that a Pavilion is named in his honor.

"He loved the ukulele for its simplicity and ability to encourage egalitarian musicianship in young and old, professional and beginner. His philanthropic devotion was similar in its focus on empowerment. He wished, “more kids with cancer knew that choosing to eat well and doing acupuncture, reflexology, aromatherapy and the like can make them feel better.” He started the Killian Mansfield Foundation to help children with cancer and other serious illnesses through health care that treats the whole child- mind, body and spirit.

"In the last few months of his life with the assistance of world class musicians like Dr. John, Kate Pierson, John Sebastian, Todd Rundren, Levon Helm and many others, he summoned up all his fading strength and recorded Somewhere Else to benefit his foundation, and to send another message of empowerment for seriously ill children and teens."

Friday, August 21, 2009

All Tied Up...

For those of you who, like me, really like rope binding on a ukulele; this custom ukulele from luthier Peter Hurney of Pohaku Ukuleles is the bee's knees.

Ukulele Sales Soar

Sales of ukuleles in Glaswegian Music Shops are up 500%. Suddenly, the uke is suddenly suddenly cool, again. (I always wanted an excuse to say "Glaswegian." Link

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Shelley O'Brien: Uke Goddess of the North

Meet Shelley O'Brien, a Toronto-based, B.C.-raised ukulele player.
"She recently released an enchanting album of quirky pop music, You, Me and the Birds , and is currently in Europe carrying her custom-made 'uke' toward the Second Helsinki International Ukulele Festival (Aug. 21-23), where she'll be the lone Canadian representative."
I guess James Hill is otherwise engaged. And the second Helsinki festival. Cool! Link

Ukers Invade Moose Lodge

Okay, all you Oddfellows, Shriners, Rotarians, Elks, Lions, Knights of Columbus and Knights of Pythias out there. Get with the program! Link

More Proms News

"Afterwards, in one of the slower numbers, the audience replaced lighters aloft with ukuleles aloft which was a strangely poignant sight.

"I bet U2 don't have that"

With video: Link

A classical critic's take:
"More than 1,000 people, including Proms director Roger Wright, had brought their own ukes along for a communal performance of the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth. It sounded curiously Venetian, a bit like a serenade. As a non-uke person, I ended up rather wishing I played one. Tremendous."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Drop Baby Drop

I've been enjoying the hell out of Lil' Rev's latest CD, Drop Baby Drop. It's loaded with rare blues, rooted originals, novelty, old time country and rusty old tin pan alley classics performed on concert, baritone, banjo- and resonator ukuleles.

Rev sez the CD is available for $17 postpaid:
Lil' Rev
P.O. Box 71362
Milwaukee, WI 53217
Highly recommended! Link

Back to School, Uke Style

Now this would make heading back to class a little sweeter. Link

A Night of 1,000 Ukuleles at the Proms

I read the news today, oh boy. Now we know how many ukes it takes to fill the Albert Hall. Link

(Sorry, Mr. Bradbury)

And an interview with the Beeb. Link

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Killian Mansfield: Somewhere Else

A couple of nice folks dropped us a note to let us know that Killian Mansfield's CD Somewhere Else is out and moving up the charts. From the press release:
"SOMEWHERE ELSE is the dream project of Killian Mansfield, a 16-year-old ukulele wiz from Woodstock, NY who has an advanced and rare form of cancer. Recorded In a window of time between a long hospitalization last winter and entering hospice care this spring, SOMEWHERE ELSE is an eclectic and uplifting labor of love. The album includes original songs and eclectic covers performed by Killian on 'uke' with critically acclaimed singers and musicians including Dr. John, Kate Pierson, John Sebastian, Todd Rundgren and Levon Helm. SOMEWHERE ELSE is a benefit recording for the Killian Mansfield Foundation, which supports integrative therapies like acupuncture, aromatherapy, reflexology and nutritional advice for children with cancer."
Paul Overton has more information over on his blog. And here's Killian's parents' blog, with a recap of their appearance yesterday on (fellow cancer battler) Don Imus's show. (Killian was not feeling well enough to go on-air.)

Go buy Killian's CD now! There's a movement afoot to keep it in the top 100 albums on Amazon, and it seems to be successful! (It's also available on iTunes.) Proceeds benefit the Killian Mansfield Foundation and the Hope & Heroes Children's Cancer Fund.

(Thanks Paul and Barbara!)

Langley Ukulele Ensemble Tours Hawaii

It's been a while since we checked in with the Langley Ukulele Ensemble. They've been a busy bunch, releasing three CDs this year and now just returning from a grand tour of the Islands.

Who would have thought that a bunch of haole kids would make such a splash on the local scene? Here's a great article about their trip. And I defy you to watch the slideshow video and not get chicken skin. Link

Financial Times on the Uke

Continuing the trend of ukulele stories popping up in the mainstream business press (of all places) is this piece on the UK uke scene from the Financial Times. Includes some scandalous errors for such a highly regarded rag (Blackpool Rock, not Brighton, fer George's sake), but they are square on the Masonic reference. (You'll just have to take my word on that one.)

Now if we can just make the cover of The Economist, we will have arrived. Link

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Amanda Palmer - Creep, live at Wanderlust

Hey, look. Amanda Palmer does play something other than a Red Mahalo. And without a pick. It's a new day. Link

(Btw, Creep is the title of the song she's playing, not an expression of our opinion about Amanda --ed. )

George Harrison Tribute Concert

Another installment in the Ray Bernard/George Harrison story. Link

Eat, Love, Pray...Uke

Maybe this'll finally get my daughters interested in the uke. Looks like James Franco will be seen serenading Julia Roberts in their upcoming flick, Eat, Pray, Love. What's he playing? My best guess is an older Bushman Tenor.


Update: Woodshed points out that James is indeed playing a Bushman Tenor. Morover, it's Jen Kwok's Bushman Tenor. More on Jen here. (Thanks, Al!)
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