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.
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