Thursday, December 29, 2011

What Are You Doing New Years Eve?

This is a great song that deserves more strum time. Anyone catching what make uke Zooey is playing?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

William H. Macy's Christmas Carol from Shameless

We don't get Showtime, so I missed this, but the sentiment works for our run up to New Year's Eve. Here's William H. Macy and the cast of Shameless singing a Christmas Carol that, yes, even Craig Robertson would like.

Joe Brown Inteview

Nice video interview with Joe Brown by the BBC here at the link. A new ukulele CD is in the works.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kala Ukulele Stand

My favorite Xmas gift from my family this year was one of Kala's Stand Out ukulele stands. I have a violin stand that I've used for several years, and it simply doesn't compare with these.

If you don't have a uke stand, get one. (And if you have a different make that you like, post it in the Comments.) You'll find that you'll play your instrument a lot more when it's within easy reach. Link

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chord Master Update

We first posted about, a site dedicated to Maccaferri and other vintage plastic ukes back in 2010. Just checked out the site again and WOW!...

The site now includes scanned product booklets and ads, a huge gallery of vintage photos (some NSFW), and detailed repair tips. Just go now. It's amazing. Link

Did You Get a Ukulele For Christmas?

Welcome to the club! When we originally started publishing Ukulelia, finding ukulele resources on the Web was a real chore. Nowadays you can trip over all the information out there. Here, therefore, is some sage advice. If you just got a uke, head over to Ukulele Hunt, where Al Wood has put together a free booklet offering sound guidance to the newbie. So You've Just Got Your First Ukulele includes:

  • Five Things to Know.
  • Five Chords to Learn.
  • Five Songs to Play.
  • Five Websites to Visit.
  • Five Things to Get Free.
  • Five Things to Buy.
  • Five Videos to Watch.
  • Five YouTube Channels to Subscribe to.

The only glaring error we've found in Al's book is that Ukulelia is not included in his Five Websites to Visit. But we forgive him. Link

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ukulelia Holiday Songbook

Here for a return engagement is the Ukulelia Holiday Songbook: a compendium of all the tunes you're likely to need for the next couple of weeks. Enjoy! Link

Monday, December 19, 2011

Newt Gingrich is Running for Pres

This just in: Loudon Wainwright III with a seasonal, satirical, political ditty.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ukulele Hero!

My friend Patrick Spargur pointed me to this. Get your game on. Link

West Coast 'Ukulele Retreat

Registration is now open for what appears to be the uke community's answer to TED. The West Coast 'Ukulele Retreat will be held at Asilomar, May 16-20, 2012. Spendy, but I want to go. Link

(Okina courtesy of Ron Hale)

Jingle Bells - Rob Bourassa

Only a smattering of ukulele in this video from Rob Bourassa, but plenty of things to love nonetheless. Rob is playing several instruments made by Gary Zimnicki. My first New Year's resolution is to officially hate Rob. Just kidding. What an amazing instrumentalist. He hails from Wyandotte, Michigan, so I attribute his talent entirely to having been weaned on Muskrat Dinners.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Silent Night

A wonderfully bluesy version of Silent Night performed by Friends of Old Puppy, featuring Steven Strauss on soprano and Billy Wilson on bari.

(Via Humble Baritonics.)

Amanda Palmer Uke

Finally, a Red Mahalo cool enough for Amanda Palmer. Check out this bad gal, painted by Kayla Oberlin. The uke is actually one several that Kayla painted for La Palmer in connection with her Ukulelehead CD release. Kayla is also a musician; here's her Bandcamp page.  Link

(Photo by Tara Malpass)

Danielle Ate the Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Here's Danielle Ate the Sandwich with a lovely version of The Christmas Song. I love her effortless singing. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Monday, December 05, 2011

Bill Tapia's Advice

Lil Rev was kind enough to give us permission to publish his poem and tribute to Bill Tapia.

Bill Tapia’s Advice
© Lil Rev/Patchwork Poems 2011

When out on the road, or flying the friendly skies
A man needs a standard that he can live by

There’s 10,000 Maniacs banging away
Playing louder and faster than Jake ever played

Now speed is a wonderful and curious thing
Likewise, the notes, that one can make ring!

But, then there is taste, some call it soul
Listen to Lyle Ritz, perhaps then you’ll know

It was at the New York Uke Fest, Bill Tapia said to me
Sitting so cool, at 103!

He said “Rev can you tell me, cause I don’t understand
Everything sounds like a scale! What’s going on man?”

He said “first there’s the melody, you gotta play it once or twice
Then play around it, as that’s always nice!”

“Then it’s back to the melody in a few different ways
Then go on and take it to some other place!”

“Now it’s back to the melody so people can hear
No matter where you go, it’s always near!”

I’m not talking about this Steve Vai sort of thing
I’m talking about taste if you’re gonna make it swing

Now the great James Hill is one who would know
Sometimes you gotta say…Go Cat Go!

But after a while even James would agree
Ten million notes, makes you a one trick pony!

With all due respect that’s why I say…
…Thank you Mr. Tapia for showing us the way!

Interview: Ukulele Legend Bill Tapia (1908-2011)

The Fretboard Journal has posted a 2002 interview with Tappy. It originally appeared in The Ukulele Occasional. Link

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Dave Talsma's License Plate Uke

Talk about suffering for your art! Dave Talsma, builder of the legendary Dairy Queen Uke (and dozens of likewise legendary instruments), has sacrificed his ability to drive in order to produce his latest creation, this tenor uke.

Next will no doubt be a petition to the Michigan Senate to change the state nickname to "Great Ukes State", and the motto to Si quaeris ukulele amoenam circumspice. Rock on, Dave! Link

Friday, December 02, 2011

Tappy is Strumming With the Angels

Very sad to announce that Bill Tapia passed away in his sleep last night. One month shy of his 104th birthday. Lucky to have known him, and to have heard him talk story. Mahalo for everything, Tappy! Link

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St Louis Blues by Bob Armstrong on Baritone Uke

Ladies and Gentleman, Robert Armstrong, playing a new bari made by Keith Cary:

"It's made out of wood native to, and harvested in California. Redwood top (recycled from our old farmhouse), CA walnut back, sides and neck (cut and milled locally by a friend's stepfather), mesquite (from a dead stump found in the Mojave by friends) and oak binding from a big tree that fell in Roseville."


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

I knew this

From Yahoo News: Link

In 2004 on my first CD Practical Hypnotism, I did this song;Link

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Besides all the other stuff at the Listening Party...

...there will be the world premier of my new video for "Tarzan's Song" shot and edited by Hugh Mackay.

Craig Robertson to perform at Northridge Music Citrus Heights, California. I don't get out to the Left Coast that often, and this will be the first time I've ever performed anywhere near come on out. Tuesday, December 20th at 7pm. (I'll be the one in the nice fedora)(this is my 'arrogant attitude' photo!)


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hamlet's Soliloquy as a Song

Via Neatorama:

"Courtney Welbon had to memorize the “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet for school and decided that she’d have an easier time at it if she turned it into a song. It’s now a light and cheerful work."

Now: to pick or not to pick. Not. Srsly. No picks, please.* Link

* The only Thou Shall Not in my book. Unless you have arthritis, which compels one fellow I know to use a felt pick. I'm even beginning to (grudgingly) turn the blind eye when professionals who insist on playing Red Mahalos neglect to properly tune up. (Amanda P, are you listening?) But picks? I'd prefer they be banished to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

High Praise from the Master

We are okay in Loudon Wainwright III's book. Link

Uke Sales Hit $42Million

This article from Hawaii Business Magazine includes sales stats from 2009 and 2010. I've always wondered what the uke market looked like. And here it is. Link

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Amanda Palmer at Occupy Wall Street

Great shot by Neil Girling. Link

Under Creative Commons License.

Wolfelele Ukelele Kits

These look like a lot of fun, and might be just the gift you're looking for next month. The Wolfelele Ukelele (sic) Company offers kits for several triangular uke models. Wolfelele claims that the ukes can be built in about 30 minutes. Their site features materials for teachers and festival organizers who'd like to offer ukulele building activities.

Shown here is a soprano model, which sells for $49 Canadian.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Tiki King Fluke Art

Jim D'Ville interviewed Tiki King about his custom painted Fluke and Flea ukes. I didn't realize that His Majesty still paints the tiki Flukes by hand. Link

Monday, October 24, 2011

Home of the Fluke

Ever wonder what the workshop of the Magic Fluke Company (makers of Flukes, Fleas, and Fireflys) looks like? Answer: quite a bit like Santa's workshop. Nice little profile of Phyllis and Dale Webb and their company in the Berkshire Eagle. Link

Honolulu World Record Attempt Falls Short

A valiant effort, but not record. Video and pix at the link. Link

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Martin Tiple Blog

Uncle Emile points us to his new blog devoted to the uke's kissing cousin, the tiple. Link

Felix the Cat Ukes

Are you a Felix the Cat fan? If so, you'll want one of these ukes from Oriolo. There's even a blem available on Amazon right now at a substantial discount. Link

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ukulele Katie

While searching for a uke version of Your Feet's Too Big for my post below, I ran across a series of videos by Ukulele Katie, a stage-4 cancer patient who demonstrates unflappable spirit in the face of her disease. Here's the Waller tune, but also check out Terminal Cancer Blues.

I note that Katie has not posted anything for a while. Does anyone know her status?

The Happiest Way To Be Sad

They say you can't play a sad song on a ukulele. From a quick listen to the track samples of Lil' Rev's new CD, he's split the difference, and found upbeat ways to sing the blues. Think Fats Waller's Your Feet's Too Big. Naturally, it's titled The Happiest Way to Be Sad. Check it out, and buy it here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

World Record Attempt, Honolulu

If you'll be on Oahu on October 22, join Jake Shimabukuro and friends in an attempt to set the new Guinness World Record for the largest ukulele ensemble at the Waikiki Band Shell.

Details are on the event site.

Tiki King's Coffin Uke

His Majesty, the Imperial Potentate of the Ukedom of Felton, Tiki King, has built this sick baby. Behold the Tiki King Coffin Uke: sitka spruce top, birch laminate back and sides, mahogany neck, rosewood fretboard, maple bridge. And, natch, bone nut and saddle. The perfect ukulele for the season, and ideal to rip out this classic.


Saturday, October 08, 2011

News of the Skewered

Shelly Rickey points us to this disturbing little news item.
"A believer has his cheeks pierced with two ukeleles at the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket Thailand. During the festival people pierce themselves with swords, or other objects, and many undergo painful procedures for the sins of the community to take over."

Monday, October 03, 2011


from the Apple App Store:

"ukulele girls" is tuning utility for the ukulele.
Can do the tuning of High-G and Low-G.
The girl is strummed repeating the string when touching."

no comment, no link.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Gerald Ross: Ukulele Swing

The first of several (promised) videos in which Gerald Ross shows you how to swing that uke! From the Ukulele Sessions blog on the Mel Bay site. Link

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Irritation is the mother of invention

One of the songs on my “Perfect Wife” CD came into being because of irksome neighbors. At the place I was living last year, the back yards butted up against the back yards of the houses on the next street over.

Every warm evening, the house diagonally behind ours would have a backyard party which usually consisted of lots of beer, kids and an over-the-top car stereo cranked flat out. The music they most often listened to was generally south of the border ballads with very heavy bass lines.

Very heavy. In my studio on the second floor I could see the windows vibrate from the bass.

I had the windows closed one day and I was trying to write a song for the Perfect Wife CD…but all I could hear, even with headphones on, was the the bom bom-bom ba of the bass from the car stereo in the other yard.

After getting frustrated by trying to ignore the sound…I finally just gave in and wrote a song using that bass line.

Voila: “Reassurance”

The CD "Perfect Wife"

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tippy Canoe & Melody Walker House Concert

Tippy sez:
"Please join Tippy Canoe and friends this coming Saturday, September 17th for a special House Concert in Elk Grove [CA] hosted by the one-and-only Ukelele University.

This is completely Open to the Public and will also feature the incredible Melody Walker & Jacob Groopman (of The Real Nasty)."


Ferris Wheel by Shiny and the Spoon

This is the first full CD by the Cincinnati duo Shiny and the Spoon, Amber Nash and Jordan Neff.

Yahoo! ‘Bout time. The CD contains 13 songs, 11 of them originals. This is a very comfortable CD to listen to. The blend of Amber and Jordan’s voices makes any sugar in my coffee unnecessary.

The sound they achieve on this CD is probably somewhere in the Folk area…but it is by no means limited to just folk. Guitar, ukulele, bass, piano, slide, drums…all make their way into the various arrangements to good effect.

But it’s the vocals that kill on this CD. The vocals. The vocals. And the songwriting.

Here are a few that stuck in my head as I listened:

The fourth song, “Killing the Flowers” has a great lyrical arc and a nice bite

“Black Nag” is a cool story that drags you into itself

“Run” would be my hands-down favorite for a driving-cross-country-song.

“Thirteen Crates” does that down home boogie so well.

“Bread and Butter” Killer, killer harmonies.

How can I dislike a Malvina Reynolds song? “No Hole In My Head” is a lovely rendition of a song from a much overlooked songwriter.

For me, the true measure of a CD is if I hear a song that I would feel comfortable (sometimes even compelled) to cover. On this CD “I Hear Ghosts” is that song. “…their words are like wine I just can’t stop drinking…” Works for me.

Go buy this CD. Put down your mouse and do it now.

Shiny and the Spoon

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Jame Hill’s new CD

I’m going to say right off the bat that I don’t think there is a better ukulele player today than the Canadian James Hill.

Having said that, I won’t have to mention the ukulele again. On his newest CD “Man With A Love Song”, the ukulele is just one of many instruments he plays to make the music he makes.

And he has truly made music on this CD. The 13 songs (with one reprise) are tight and confident. His voice, also is more confident. The sound swings from bluegrass to, well, swing to sultry shuffle. These are all great songs and it isn’t hard to see why he put them together on this CD.

His musical partner, Anne Davison, supplies honeyed harmonies, cello and violin; supporting but never overpowering James.

The first song “Hand Over My Heart” (good pun) starts off with a bang and never looks back. If you’re looking for that breathtaking instrumental work, you get it in spades on this cut.

In the second song we’re introduced to Anne’s killer harmony singing and cello playing.

The best written song, for me, is the eighth cut “What Would You Have Me Do?” that opens with “The lady is too fat for words/ but she sings like her life is on fire”. Damn.

Although all the songs are definitely worth listening to, I’m just mentioning a few that stuck with me. The ninth cut, “Indecision Rag” tosses you in the rollercoaster and takes off, never looking back. Relentless.

Lyrics are always a benchmark for me, and the writing on this CD is topnotch.

But…the song I would cover, the one that grabs me by the throat is the final (two) cuts “Voodoo Forever, Aloha”. I’m a sucker for a song in 6/8s time and a spooky lyric.

Quit reading this and go buy this CD.

“Man With A Love Song” James Hill

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gilligan in Gotham by Gemma

Gemma, from the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra, made this lovely Sonic Uke video of the song from Gilligan's Isle while Irene howled in the background....

da vid

WIUO website

Friday, August 26, 2011

Goodnight, Irene.

Sing it loud, strum it long. I pray it keeps the water from your home. Link

(Note the subject keywords: Celebrities Portraits Spouses Recreation Vice Deception Suicide Distress. No Hurricane. Still, sounds like a Craig Robertson song.)

A Whole Host of Ukuleles at Strathmore

Official count: 944. A new record? Link

Dancing into September

Only 5 more days! My newest CD "Dancing on the Edge of the Knife" will be available on Bandcamp as a 'name your price' download. Starting in September, it will be $15 a download. Here is my song about imprisoned Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo from the album
Liu Xiaobo

(all proceeds from the sale of this CD go directly to Amnesty International)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Great Ukulele Instruction Book....!

Once you get past the silly title (Ukulele for Dummies), you realize that Al Wood (who runs has actually put together a marvelous compendium of ukulele knowledge that takes you from novice to expert. I'm not always a fan of 'teach yourself an instrument' books, but this one of Al's is, really, a ukulele bible. A great reference, with an included audio dvd, and some very witty writing that makes it fun to read.

Go get it. Now.

Ukulele for Dummies

Monday, August 22, 2011

No excuses...

For those of you who do NOT live in Boston. (is there a world outside of Boston? I've heard one exists, but I'm not convinced) You will be able to tune in to a LIVE (well, undead anyway) Noir Cabaret show at Passims in Harvard Square.

Here's the show poster, and this is the link to Passims Concert Window.
The show will start at 8pm, Boston time, and will have some cool performances from New England musicians. Lots of different instruments and a variety of approaches to live music.
Tune In, Turn On, and Drop What You're Doing.
more info

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Jake Shimabukuro: Rolling Stone Live Videos

"Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro stopped by the Rolling Stone studio recently to play a couple of his original compositions along with a gorgeous, delicate rendition of the Queen classic "Bohemian Rhapsody." After the set, Shimabukuro demonstrated how he developed his distinct ukulele style and talked about how thrilled he is that his instrument has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity."


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Strathmore Uke Fest World Record Attempt

If you're in the Strathmore (MD) area on Wednesday, August 24, grab your uke and join Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer and a cast of the usual suspects as they attempt to break the world record for Largest Ukulele Ensemble. Info on the fest and the record attempt here.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Michihiro Matsuda's Experimental Ukulele

Ukulelia's Commander of Expeditionary Lutherie Forces, Michael Simmons, points us to luthier Michihiro Matsuda's experimental ukulele, currently featured on the Fretboard Journal blog.

The top is made of a sandwich of Nomex® and spruce, bent into a bow shape. Nomex is a lightweight, ultra-strong high-tech material used in the manufacture of aircraft.

Read more and see a video of the uke in action here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jon Favreau Plays Ukulele on Jimmy Kimmel Live

You can add Jon Favreau to your Hollywood celebrity uker list!

(Via Uke Hunt)

Please Vote for CJ!

Meet Caroline Joy Alegre. She's been selected by Rolling Stone to compete for a chance to appear at the Rolling Stone Rock Room in Austin, TX. She also happens to be one of my son Garrison's teachers at the amazing Via Center school in Berkeley, CA.

Please vote for Caroline Joy at this link.

CJ is also appearing this weekend in Chico, CA at Bustlino's along with the Fabu Uni and her Ukelele. Link

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A-List Uker Ralph Shaw

Just watched the movie remake of The A-Team tonight. Nice little ukulele cameo by none other than Ralph Shaw. Nice one, sir! (I hope you remembered to get a percentage of the gross rather than the net.) Link

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ukulele Blues

Ukulele Blues, written by May Singhi Breen, Samuel Kors, and Claude Lapham, performed by the International Novelty Orchestra in 1924. Miss Breen on uke. Link

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Utterly Butterly Ukulele Project

The margarine tub uke held unconvincingly by Prince Charles (below) appears to be from the Utterly Butterly Ukulele Project. TUBUP puts on workshops in which kids (and adults) can make their own ukuleles. (Utterly Butterly is a British packaged foods brand. Years ago they had their own wing-walking team.)

A while back I corresponded with Steve Nutter (yes, that's his name) about the project:
"TUBUP is a bonkers project that seems to be taking on a life of it's own since we started it in May last year. It seems that it's not just about kids either...adults seem to have as much fun with the project as well! We're not directly connected with Utterly Butterly, although they provide us with their reject tubs, and let us use the name. Good marketing for them I suppose! They have contributed financially to a few "one off" gigs that we've done, like Children in need Cardiff. The great thing is that the ukes actually work really well and it's fab fun!"
More information, including sounds, video, and instructions for making your own margarine tub uke are at this link.

Speaking of Royalty

Here's Prince Charles playing a margarine tub uke. Link

Her Majesty, Phoebe Davis

Uker, educator, and luthier Geoff Davis's daugher Phoebe was recently crowned Hamilton County (Indiana) 4-H Fair Queen. Proud Papa Geoff sez that Phoebe didn't get to show off her ukulele playing to the judges because they eliminated the talent portion of the contest this year.

Here's a nice profile of Phoebe, which, befittingly, spotlights her uke playing. Link

Congratulations, Your Majesty!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Tonight You Belong to Me"

I'm thrilled that Eddie Vedder covered (with Cat Powers) the old chestnut "Tonight You Belong to Me" on his Ukulele Songs CD. I'm hoping that its inclusion will help the latest generation of uke players discover the goldmine of early 20th Century music, rather than getting stuck on "Hey Soul Sister."

But I'm even more thrilled about this video of Ukulele Sweetheart Zooey Deschanel (and Ben Schwartz). I do believe this is the first video we've posted of Zooey actually playing. Her arrangement sounds much like the one Vedder plays. (Anyone have a copy?).

Also, here's a link to a post on TwentyFourBit with videos of versions by Steve Martin & Bernadette Peters (from The Jerk), and Fiona Apple & Jon Brion. Link

James Hill Makes "The Defamer"

The Defamer today calls James Hill "The World's Greatest Ukulele Player." I'm not sure that we should bother debating who's the best player in the world, but it is refreshing to see someone other than Jake and EV being lauded by the outside world. Link

Sunday, July 10, 2011

National Uke Event Calendar

Play Uke has a great calendar covering US ukulele events. Contributions are encouraged, and they have a submission protocol to vet requests. Worth bookmarking and checking frequently. Link

Left-Handed Uke Chord Chart

Attention Sinistral Strummers: Mel Bay now has a chart of left-handed chords. Link

Tofukulele Lego Uke

I don't know why you'd want one, but if you do, Elderly has two fretless Tofukuleles constructed out of Lego. Link

And while we're on the subject, here's another.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Led Kaapana Receives NEA National Heritage Fellowships

Congratulations to Ledward Kaapana, who was just named a National Heritage Fellow by the NEA.
"Ledward "Led" Kaapana is a master of the two leading string instruments in Hawaii: the Hawaiian ukulele and ki ho'alu, the slack key guitar, a finger-style guitar art form that originated in Hawaii. This talent, combined with his vocal skills in the baritone and leo ki`eki`e (falsetto) range, have made him a legendary performer who has been entertaining audiences in Hawaii and abroad for more than 40 years."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eddie Vedder on David Letterman

You can't cross the street these days without stumbling over some article about Eddie Vedder's new CD Ukulele Songs. So we haven't been too anxious to repost them all here. This, however, is pretty special. EV was on Letterman last night. He's playing a Mya-Moe uke made for him by Aaron Keim. E Street Band fans will notice something else about EV's uke. Sweet. Link

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dhani Harrison Playing Dad's Ukes

George Harrison left his son Dhani some 40 ukuleles. Now Dhani and his band are recording with them. Link

Saturday, June 11, 2011

This IS just a movie...right?

Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts is a hub of bub most evenings. Weekend evenings there is a crowd of colorful club-goers ebbing and flowing all over the street.

I like the night there best right after a warm rain. But then, I would, wouldn't I?

come to the All Asia Cafe in Central Square on Sunday June 26th and see how dark swirls of color can be transformed into music...

Sunday, June 05, 2011

‪BlueDeanCarcione: You've Got a Friend in Me‬‏

I love Randy Newman's music. And I've always wondered if one could do justice to his unique chord structures on the uke. I wonder no more, and marvel at BlueDean Carcione's arrangement of "You've Got a Friend in Me." If anyone can help us out with a tab, you'd earn our undying gratitude. Link‬‏

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Vedder Talks to the Star Advertiser

Eddie Vedder reveals himself to be a humble and insightful man in this interview with the Star Advertiser. There are tons of articles around on the release of his Ukulele Songs. This one is truly worth a read. Link

Have Ukuleles Become Too Popular?

Across the Pond, Steven Sproat sez p'rhaps. Link

Thursday, May 26, 2011

First Listen: Eddie Vedder, 'Ukulele Songs'

NPR has a posted a bevy of info and track links for Eddie Vedder's new Ukulele Songs CD. I've just started listening to it myself, so I'll post my thoughts later, but in the meantime, you can stream the entire CD via this page. A worthwhile interview with Ann Powers is posted on NPR's The Record blog.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Uncle Bill Slideshow

Sweet little slideshow about Bill Tapia on the OC Register. Link

Donald Chan Shoots Kamaka Factory

Photographer Donald Chan has posted shots he took of Fred Kamaka at the Kamaka Ukulele Factory. Link

Even if Schwartz is Getting One

Last night my wife asked me what I'd like for my birthday. My inner Ralphie wanted to blurt out "I want a real vintage mint condition pre-war Style 3 Martin Soprano."

Instead, I said the equivalent of "Heh, I was just kidding, even though Schwartz is getting one. I guess I'd just like some Tinker Toys."

Didn't want to hear her say "You'll shoot your eye out."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Oddball Japanese Ukuleles

Everything from a double-sound-hole smiley face uke to a triple-necked bad boy. Wonder if anyone ever built a triple-necked tiple? Made by Koji Sujiura of Cozzy Guitar Craft. Link

Tatsuya Mitsui Ukuleles

Check out the gorgeous binding on these ukuleles made by Japanese luthier Tatsuya Mitsui. Link

(Photo by Mkawamr)

Are Ukes Hot?

An easy way to tell. Link

anNueNue "U900" Ukes

Fans of U900 will adore these aNueNue sopranos for sale at Elderly. Complete with custom soft case. Shown is the Rabbit version with Bear sound hole. (The Bear version is the other way around, natch.) I think you'd have to have both, wouldn't you? Link

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Kala Presents Secretary of Education With Uke

UPDATED with event photo.

Mike Upton and Rick Carlson from Kala Ukuleles have been invited by NAMM to participate in their Washington DC Fly-In as delegates to advocate music education in schools.

Sez Rick:
"Music education advocates will be meeting with members of Congress and the Senate and have been asked to participate in a drum and uke circle outside the Dept of Education bldg on Tuesday 10:30 am - "Strumming and Drumming for Music Education" -with VA area middle school students and Department of Education personnel. We have shipped 70 ukuleles for the occasion. The Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be in attendance (Update: Assistant Secretary Peter Cunningham attended on his behalf) and we will present him with a red, white and blue Kala ukulele!"
Shown here is Assistant Secretary for Communications and Outreach at the Dept. of Education, Peter Cunningham, joining Marcy Marxer and Cathy Fink in strumming the custom Kala. (Something tells me that if Secretary Duncan want that uke he's going to have to wrest if from Cunningham's hands! And who would blame him?)

Read more about the event and the dignitaries who attended on the NAMM site.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Milwaukee Ukulele Festival 2011

Mark your calendars! The Milwaukee Ukulele Festival will be Saturday, September 24th, 2011. Tickets go on sale June 1. Link

Friday, May 06, 2011

Well, There Goes That Dream

"'I don't think they'll be looking for a guy who plays the ukulele,' Warren Buffett quipped about his eventual successor." Link

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Santa Cruz Rotary Earns Award

The Santa Cruz (CA) Sunrise Rotary club was recognized as the Community Supporter of the Year by the Santa Cruz Education Foundation for its Arts in the Afternoon program. Ukulele construction and playing was a featured part of the program this year. What a great endeavor! Link

Monday, May 02, 2011

The Acoustic Alarm

It doesn't take a Smeck to see how this acoustic alarm clock should really be tuned. Then again, I wonder if waking to a major chord would affect your waking mood differently than say, a suspended fourth...


Friday, April 29, 2011

Unabashed Self Promotion.

...because good music is to be found everywhere, no matter what instrument you play it on.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nellie McKay at Uneven Studio

Nellie McKay recently visited Uneven Studio in Denver and laid down four tracks backed only by her vintage Gibson. Listen and download here.

The Rajão

The Madeiran rajão is one of several ancestral instruments to the ukulele. While the machete gave the ukulele its form and scale, it was the rajão that contributed the re-entrant (or my dog has fleas) tuning. The machete is tuned to Open G while the five-stringed rajão is tuned DGCEA. Lose the fifth (D) string and you've got the C uke tuning.

Here is an article (in Portuguese) on the Cordofones Tradicionais Madeirenses blog. (A Google-translated version of the page is here, but it's dodgy.) Enjoy this video of Vitor Sardinha playing Arrivederci Roma (and be sure to stay for the surprising reveal at the end). Link

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Another Hitachi Day Contest

Hitachi is running a contest in New Zealand to promote its heat pumps. To win, entrants have to upload a YouTube video of themselves performing the Another Hitachi Day jingle on the uke. After March 29th, the video with the most views wins $10,000. A fun idea, isn't it?

There appear to be loads of school groups entered, but at the time of this post, the contest seems to sliding into the "unintended consequences" pit of the internet (natch) with the top videos featuring boobies and naked men. And because Hitachi is also manufacturer of the popular (in select circles) Hitachi Magic Wand, YouTube helpfully serves up some inappropriately off-topic "related" content.

Our vote is for the entry by the Uruti School, a school of only 8 students (video above). Link

Update: the Uruti Kids lost to teh boobies.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Debbie Reynolds

Amy Crehore found this glam shot of a very young Debbie Reynolds with uke. (She looks about 14 in this photo, doesn't she?) And check out her 'do! Not much of a leap between that bob and her daughter's Princess cut. Link

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Office Ukulele

I'm sure this is how my cow-orkers feel. Link

YO Mamas are Knit Pickers

Sacto area knitters group also strums. Anyone else out there part of a hobby group that doubles on ukes? (Or the other way around?) Link

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Essential Craig Robertson

From Uke Hunt:
"When they get round to writing the history of this ukulele revival Craig Robertson‘s name should be up there with Jake and IZ in importance."
Thanks, Al, now there'll no living with him...


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ukes in the NYTimes

Nothing particularly remarkable or newsworthy in this piece in The New York Times. Just the fact that it's there. And, I suppose, it is somewhat more than the usual regurgitation article. Worth a glance. Link

Barry Maz's New Book

Liverpudlian uke blogger Barry Maz has a new book out. It's called What Ukulele Players Really Want to Know and it's written especially for newbies. Sez Barry:
"In thinking back to my initial foray into uke, and the shocking instrument I ended up with (he bought a bottom-of-the-line Mahalo–the Yugo of ukuleles –ed.), I thought I'd start a blog about the uke in general, but with a slant aimed at providing beginners, or those interested in getting a uke a solid set of advice on the pitfalls."
Barry's book is available on Amazon in both ebook and paper editions. He was kind enough to send us a draft of the ebook. While the book is indeed aimed at absolute beginners, it is in fact pretty comprehensive, covering all the issues likely to nip a the heels of someone starting out: everything from how to pick out your first uke to advice on humidifying your instrument and fingernail care. It is not an instructional guide; there are plenty of how-to-play books out there. It's more of a user's guide, filled with the kind of info you'd eventually pick up from hanging out with a bunch of veteran players for several months but which is all a mystery to someone starting out by themselves. (Note: price advice is given in £s)

We could find only one flaw in the book. And that is that Barry somehow forgot to mention Ukulelia in his list of online references. Despite our (feigned) outrage at this slight, we think Barry's book adds nicely to the available literature for newbs. Don't forget to check out Barry's blog, Got a Ukulele, too. Link

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blue Yodel No. 4

Enjoy Jimmie Rodgers's singing Blue Yodel No. 4. Now check out the sheet music with uke chords: Link

Uke Aid for Steven Strauss

As you will recall from our earlier post, Steven Strauss recently had several ukes and other miscellaneous musical equipment stolen from his car.

Sez Steven:

"A bunch of my friends responded to the theft of my ukuleles with expressions of support, for which I'm so grateful. Many said they were interested in attending any musical event whose express purpose would be to get some good working gear together for me, especially ukemaker Michael DaSilva. Mike is hosting a concert for my benefit this Sunday afternoon at four."
An impromptu ukulele concert with Steven Strauss and friends
Time: Sunday, April 17 · 4:00pm - 7:00pm

Place: DaSilva Ukulele Co.
2547 8th Street, #28

City: Berkeley, CA

Update: Mike DaSilva has enabled you to make a PayPal contribution to Steven's uke fund at his site. More details here.
(Thanks, Carol Siegal!)

My Dog Hass Fleas

Paul Celentano makes some wonderfully wacky ukes. This one is an avocado. Link

(Thanks, Paula Wirth! (Who, in turn, thanks Laughing Squid!)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Indiana Wants Uke

Nice little profile about the uke scene in the Hoosier State. Link

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Western Ukion

Mike Bagwell of Chico, California turns the old Harold Teen mantra of "music self-played is happiness self made" into "is happiness well paid."
"First, I got a business card. Next—nothing. That’s all I needed—$56 on the credit card. I started handing the thing out all over town: “Chico Uke-O-Gram, bike-messenger service, 864-1604, Send your friend a song.” Very simple, and a picture of a uke on it. The reactions were mostly the same: There’s a 3.5-second delay as the brain struggles to compute Uke-O-Gram, then the “oh yeah” look of comprehension, then a comment, like “Cool!” or “I love it!”"

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

HOT Martin News

Update: photos, specs and–ulp–prices here.

Received the following communique from Martin's PR agency by way of Michael Simmons:
Tomorrow at the big Musikmesse fair in Frankfurt, Martin Guitar is unveiling six new ukulele models. As Chris Martin IV says, “We are excited to bring these new ukulele models to the music community and to debut them in Frankfurt. We are in the midst of a new renaissance for ukuleles, and are confident our new models will meet this demand while upholding the quality and standards Martin owners have come to expect.”
The new models being unveiled include (per the Martin site):
  • 2 Uke – features a solid mahogany body, solid East Indian rosewood fingerboard and newly-designed bridge, with an applied dovetail neck to body joint, black tusq nut and black compensated tusq saddle, friction peg tuners with white tuner button and a satin lacquer finish.Also includes grained ivory top binding, and beautiful hand inlayed black and white wood fiber rosette.
  • 2 Concert Uke – features characteristics of the 2 Uke, but in concert size, and with black tusq nut and saddle, geared peg tuners and black tuner button.
  • 2 Tenor Uke – features characteristics of the 2 Uke, but in tenor size, and with black tusq nut and saddle and a tie-block bridge.
  • 2K Uke – includes solid flamed Hawaiian Koa top, back and sides in a satin lacquer finish, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, black tusq nut and compensated tusq saddle, friction peg tuners and white tuner button. Similar to the 2 Uke, this model includes grained ivory top binding, hand inlayed black and white wood fiber rosette.
  • 2K Concert Uke – features characteristics of the 2K Uke, but in concert size with black tusq nut and saddle, geared peg tuners and black tuner button.
  • 2K Tenor Uke – features characteristics of the 2K Uke, but in tenor size with black tusq nut and saddle, geared peg tuners, black tuner button and tie-block bridge.

The above ukes are all manufactured in Martin’s Nazareth factory, strung with Martin ukulele strings and feature a unique, pressed stamp at the back of the headstock.

Sounds like Martin's finally putting their game shoes on. It's about time!

For the full press release click here.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Friday, April 01, 2011

Help Steven Strauss Recover Stolen Ukes

From Steven Strauss, Bay Area bassist and ukulele musician. Some fargin bastage stole the following:
"A Martin 1K from the early thirties, a RISA solid electric soprano (low G with plenty of damage to pickup et al), a DaSilva James Hill Tenor (low G), a Harmony Baritone with a purple non-wound low string, a couple of amps"

More info and to report

Electronic Rock Guitar Shirt

I wish they'd make one of these in a ukulele version. Link

Micronesian Origin of 'Ukulele Re-Writes Uke History

Devoted Ukulelia readers will recall that back in October of last year, we reported that luxury retailer Neiman Marcus was selling gourd-backed ukuleles made by luthier Danny Ferrington in its famous Christmas Catalog. In our article, we made a snarky remark about Neiman Marcus's copywriter erroneously claiming that the ukulele was "created in the Hawaiian islands by Micronesian immigrants in the 1870s". Well, this morning, we are eating our words.

In an article submitted to the Hawaiian Journal of History, a very different story about the ukulele's origins is being told. According to the article's author, the ukulele did not originate with the Madeiran Machete, as had been previously thought, but from the Micronesian Ni’hi.

The Micronesian Ni'hi is a rhythmic instrument made from a dried gourd, and was originally strung with crude shark-gut strings. They were discovered in 1877 in a market in Palau by Egbert Marcus, younger brother of retail tycoon Herbert Marcus, while traveling on business, looking for exotic items for his brother’s Dallas store. Marcus was enchanted by the indigenous instrument and purchased several gross, intending to sell them at a significant markup upon his return to Dallas.

On his ill-fated return trip, Marcus stopped in Hawai’i. Little is yet known of his stay, but it seems that he presented King David Kalakaua with one of the Ni’hi, presumably as a token of gratitude. After departing Hawaii in early 1878, his ship, the Fumiste, was lost at sea, and no further word of its passengers and crew is extant.

Now is when the Ravenscrag and its Madeiran passengers enters the story. Students of ukulele history will know that the Ravenscrag arrived in Hawaii in 1879, bringing with it future ukulele builders Joao Fernandes, Augusto Dias, Jose do Espirito Santo and Manuel Nunes. After arriving in Hawaii, Nunes and the others encountered Hawaiians playing Ni'hi, which had by then become wildly popular.

Nunes apparently unimpressed, derided the crude instrument, stating that it appeared to made out of a "big pea". (Linguists are now speculating that he called it a foder ervilha, or f***ing pea, which was reported in the contemporary journals as the more polite "jumping pea". A typesetting error in the Honolulu Star rendered it "jumping flea", and hence ukulele.)

The rest of the ukulele's history continues along its more familiar path from there, with Nunes, et al, reinventing the Ni'hi (now ukulele) along the lines of their traditional Madeiran instruments. As for Egbert Marcus, the story of his travels eventually reached his brother Herbert on a visit to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, which featured Hawaiian musicians playing the ukulele, and regaling visitors with stories of the "Ni'hi Man" Marcus who first brought the diminutive instrument to their shores. Link to full story here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

NoCal Ukulele Festival April 3

After a year hiatus, the Ukulele Festival of Northern California returns, this year at a new venue.

It's primarily a Hawaiian music event, but ukulele players of all stripes will find kindred spirits there. Al Dodge and Robert Armstrong usually make the scene, as do the Sundodgers and assorted camp followers. (That would include yours truly.)
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Chabot College Performing Arts Center
25555 Hesperian Blvd.
Hayward, CA 94545
10am to 5:30pm
Ukulele Festival Site

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gary's Uke Jams Make the News

I've been leading informal ukulele classes at Lamorinda Music for several months now. Local reporter Janice De Jesus has written a nice piece in the Contra Costa Times today. (This is the first time that I've turned up in my own news feed. Woot!)

And in case you're curious, my old Ringling roommate with the uke is Michael Goudeau, and Tuba Heatherton taught me my first song ("I Like Bananas").

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