Friday, September 28, 2007

What Makes The Playlist

I've been giving some thought as to where to expand my ukulele repertoire. The current playlist has mushroomed from two main sources. The songs may have been distributed in a class or a uke group. Or I may have picked them because most people are comfortable with them in a sing-a-long situation. However, these songs are not particularly representative of the music I listen to on a regular basis. My iPod has a pretty eclectic selection of music, but what is sorely missing from my uke repertoire is a good representation of rock and roll, pop etc.

As you can see from my September 14 post re Todd Rundgren, I definitely rock out. The other day I heard The Hooters on my local radio station, prompting me to pull out their old LP from the mid-'80s. At certain times I can still be a "be-bop baby on a hard day's night," (from their big hit, "And She Danced"). BTW, contrary to what you might think, the band's name comes from an instrument called the melodica...think of a piano keyboard attached to a harmonica. Had one growing up and I might take it up again.

So I vow to stay true to my musical tastes and not let the tail wag the dog as they say. Tin Pan Alley and Hawaiian genres are great, and I'll continue to enjoy them, but they are clearly not all that is out there. And it can be done on a little 4 stringed instrument and taken half-way seriously. If you don't believe me, check out The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain doing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or Wellington Ukulele Orchestra's rendition of "Hey Ya." They can easily be found on YouTube and are quite lively and musical.

OK, then. I guess this means I better stop here and work out that "Smoke on the Water" riff!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Some Video Footage

Finally getting down to trying to memorize and polish some songs. Here are some first efforts. Maybe not too smooth, but I thought I'd give it a go. I'd like to have a few songs that I can just whip out if someone happens to have a ukulele sitting around begging for some attention!

The first one is "Maui Girl," a nice little tune and pretty known in uke circles. It is a great "hapa haole" song. For the uninitiated, this term indicates a mixed Hawaiian/English lyric.

And here we have "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," recorded by the Mills Brothers back in the 1930's. I like the chord progressions and the general sound. It makes me think of my dad, as a number of these old Tin Pan Alley tunes do. Ukulele players seem to seem to have an affection for these type of tunes.

Gotta run now but I'll be coming back soon with more songs of other musical genres. 'Til later...

Friday, September 14, 2007

"The Man" (and a Uke Connection)

Confession: I skipped out on the Berkeley Ukulele Club Wednesday night. Why?? Getting too old to be out two nights in a row, and being a Todd-head Thursday night took priority. "Todd-head" you say?? Well, for those who are in-the-know, I'm speaking about Todd Rundgren...ya know, from "Todd is Godd" fame. The diehard AARP-in-training audience (fans from the last 30+ years) had to endure true rock concert conditions: SRO with His Toddness not appearing until 9:50 p.m.. Crazy, yes? But worth it?? If you have to ask...

If you are unfamiliar with Todd, he is an incredible singer, song writer and record producer, having long been on the cutting edge of music and video technologies. Besides having a prolific solo career, he headed up the power rock group, Utopia, in the '70s and '80s. More recently he has been touring with The New Cars, taking the place of Ric Ocasek. (Saw them over a year ago with Blondie; what a show! Felt like I was really hearing the old Cars. What a hoot!)

Anyway, for the ukulele connection...Todd has been living in Kauai for the last several years. Cleverly, he has repenned one of his big hits, "Bang the Drum All Day" as "Bang on the Ukulele Daily," a loose take-off on the "Hawaiian War Chant." Very cool, so check it out on iTunes. Unfortunately, he didn't do this one on Thursday night; it was much more an amped up R&R show. But Todd was in top form, and for one evening I got to relive a little of my past. Sigh....

Monday, September 10, 2007

Singing for the Seniors

Here I am with Rachel at a luau at my mother's assisted living facility. It was great fun and gave us an opportunity to sing and strum for Grandma Anna. She especially liked the songs that reminded her of my dad. I have a friend who does this sort of thing on a regular basis and am thinking of trying it out at my mother's place. Mom will be proud and, let's face it, they probably won't be able to hear if I sing a little out of tune! Now if I could only convince Rachel to come and do the hula at the same time...

Not sure where I want to take the ukulele's really easy for me to fall into the comfortable place of playing chords in their first positions and singing along. However, I DO know that my voice is none-too-great! This could be one reason that many guitarists/ukists (?!) end up learning to play chord melodies, etc. I am working on the latter as well and would like to be able to jam a little. The big problem: so many ideas and so little time. So I gotta figure out what to target and conquer first. Hate to be a jack-of-all trades and master of none!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Long-Awaited Concert

OK, folks. Here's a post-performance photo of me with my back-up band. Can you believe the huge crowd that turned out for us??!!

Ha! BIG joke!! That is actually a picture of Rachel and me with the very famous Jake Shimabukuro. My husband, Dave, and I saw him in the late spring and he was just unbelievable. Dave is generally merely tolerant of the types of music you might associate with the uke: acoustic, folk, oldies, even Hawaiian. Let's just say that he's still living in his punk phase! However, he loved Jake so much that he wanted to go again and take Rachel as well. We saw him on September 7 at Herbst Theater in SF.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jake, read on...putting it mildly, this is not your grandfather's ukulele playing! A native Hawaiian playing since he was four, Jake cites George Harrison and Jimmy Page amongst his influences. And it really shows! One can hear aspects of blues and flamenco in his style as well. Jake writes many of his own compositions and brings out never-heard-before effects on the uke. If you don't believe me, just check out his rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on YouTube. I won't say that it rivals the original BUT...During the first couple of songs on the concert, Rachel's jaw was literally hanging open from his electrifying stage presence.

OK, so afterward I just had to get our photo with Jake. He was SO nice to everyone, despite chaotic crowds. We almost missed our chance because right about when it was our turn, he was being called away to the other side of the theater. I begged him for the photo, saying that Rachel needed to get to bed already. After posing for this great shot, he told Rachel to "get some sleep!"

BTW, upon leaving I told Rachel that this must be her first photo with a famous person. Coyly, she turned to me and said that it wasn't so: her first was a month ago with Nick Swisher of the Oakland A's. I totally forgot: Dave got to scoop root beer floats with Nick S. and Marco Scutaro for Root Beer Float Day! What a lucky girl and husband! Dave is quite the baseball player, having gone to a number of fantasy camps and playing with a fantasy league team, all A's, of course! His number one position is pitcher and is fondly known as "Gamer" by his teammates. I'm really proud of him!!