Saturday, 27 October 2012

Three Mermaids - original instrumental by Ganga Karmokar

For me, visually, there are two kinds of beautiful ukulele. One kind is where the beauty all comes from the wood and the way it has been worked and crafted, and the other is where the luthier has used artistry to decorate the instrument with beautiful inlays of patterns or other images. In this second category, Chuck Moore's ukuleles are a joy to behold. Chuck Moore operates as Moore Bettah Ukuleles of Big Island, Hawaii, and if you want so spend some time drooling over "uke porn" get over to his site and take a look. A good, long look. In the ukulele world, the artistry of Chuck Moore is legendary.

On his For Sale page, you'll find The Three Mermaids tenor ukulele. Here are just two of the pictures of it.

This is what Chuck writes about it.

"This all koa ukulele was challenging yet immensely satisfying to build. Living so close to nature in this beautiful Hawaiian environment was naturally very influential in my choice of whimsical designs depicting two mermaids frolicking in the sea and one dreamingly relaxing in a banana moon. I use AAA Big Island curly koa for the body and ebony elsewhere including the fretboard and headstock veneer. Paua abalone is used unashamedly throughout, adorning the entire front and back of the instrument. The seahorse on the end graft was an afterthought that occurred to me only after I sprayed the first couple of coats of lacquer. The mermaids are made up of composite stone and 10,000 year old fossil mammoth ivory. After the ukulele was finish sanded, I scrimshawed the details in the bodies, remembering the art form I was involved in years ago. Other inlay materials include gold mother of pearl, abalone shell and fossil walrus ivory."

It's not really any surprise that this particular ukulele proved inspirational for one player, Ganga Karmokar. I was knocked out by her instrumental - watch her video to hear what she had to say about it. For me, her music conjured up the mermaid and the sea, just the way it was meant to - and put me in mind of the music of the French composer, Claude Debussy. Writing in the early 20th century, his work was inspired by the painters of the impressionist movement, and his music, full of light and air, was full of a similar imagery. Think of "Clair de Lune" (Moonlight) for example. In fact, the first piece in his first collection of "Images" was "Reflets dans L'Eau" (reflections in the water.) In my college days I lapped this stuff up.

Ganga's composition not only conjures up the sea, but has an eerie, mystical feeling to it that brings those mermaids to life. Please watch, listen and enjoy!

And if you liked that, just wait awhile, and I will post her other version of this, the version that is a song with words. It changes the mood again, and Ganga's voice is that of a siren, luring with her ethereal and bell-like voice the sailors of old to their fate on the rocks....

NEWS 6th November - Ganga is thrilled to have taken delivery today of a new (to her) Moore Bettah tenor uke - and has done a new video of The Three Mermaids....

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Improved Aquila Red Series strings, low G

The Aquila Red Series of strings, for example a low G for ukulele, has raised a lot of interest but as followers of Ukulele Underground Forum will know, some players have experienced problems with them, e.g. strings snapping.

Aquila responded to the feedback very quickly and worked on improving the Red Series, and there have already been favourable responses from folk on the Forum.

I haven't tried the new improved strings yet, but Andrew Kitakis of Hawaii Music Supply has just written a detailed review of the new improved strings and you can read it in full on his blog here.

Andrew also talks about fluorocarbon low Gs, and here's a reminder that Living Water Strings, a brand of excellent quality fluorocarbon strings sold by Ken Middleton, now include sets of strings with low G.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

"Every Now And Again" it's Eugene Ukulele

Please enjoy this lovely original song, written and performed here by "Eugene Ukukele" (eugeneukulele on the UU Forum)...

Some people have just got it - and he's just got it, no doubt....

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Success with Cherry Blossoms instrumental in the Season of Mists...

These autumn mornings, I can't look out of bedroom window without recalling the first few lines of Keats' Ode to Autumn, so painstakingly learned at school all those years ago...

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;"

They are surely fitting lines for this day, this Sunday... we live at the top of a hill - not a big hill, but a hill nonetheless, and on these autumn days the cloud can be so low as to hang just above the ground and obscure the usual view across the roofs and trees. Quite a pleasant view normally, although there are no thatch-eaves to be seen! AT 11.20 this morning the sun was trying hard to burn that mist off - and now, half an hour later it has partially succeeded, revealing the tall trees behind the houses that back onto ours - but beyond that all remains obscured by the mist. And I notice that overnight, the leaves on our flowering cherry tree have finally begun to turn gold.

They are actually very late this year, some trees in neighbouring gardens are glowing red already, but I put the steadfast October greenness of ours down to the heavy rain we have had all summer - the wettest summer in the UK since records began in the 1700s.

The descent into autumn and winter always has the effect of making me feel quite melancholy - a bright, sunny day can be depended upon to lift my mood dramatically, but I adore the spring and look forward to seeing the cherry blossom tree swathed in white once more.

And talking of Cherry Blossom, I spent an evening last week working hard to finish learning Mike Lynch's Cherry Blossoms fingerstyle instrumental solo - and I finally nailed it. One of my short-term targets that I set a while back. Late, but I nailed it. My other targets, sadly, are not going so well, as I remain a butterfly, flitting about from piece to piece, skill to skill, making slow progress across too-wide a path. Ah me. BUT - You know what? I'm still having so much FUN!

(Psst - I'll let you see how I got on with it - on the "Summerhouse Practice List" page there's a link - don't tell anyone I told you though......!)

Thursday, 18 October 2012

AUTUMN LEAVES for the ukulele: tutorial by ukulelemike - Mike Lynch

This lovely French song (Les Feuilles Mortes) was written in 1945; music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by the poet Jacques Prevert. It was given lyrics in English by Johnny Mercer in 1947, and has been recorded countless times, becoming a jazz standard.

The autumn is now really setting in here in the UK, and so I feel compelled to add this beautiful song to my current practice list. It's funny, but I only feel like attempting it in the autumn! So I reckon I've got about five weeks to nail it. Hmmm. Unfortunately I won't be practising it in the summerhouse - too chilly now by far, even though the days when the sun shines brightly and the skies are blue, it can look tempting.....

Find lots more information about the song here, including information about the structure and the chord progression.

Thanks to ukulelemike, Mike Lynch for another great tutorial.....

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Butterflies by Zoë Bestel - The Star Folk Club, Glasgow

"Be yourself and live your dreams!" This excellent advice is the mantra of a young up-and-coming singer/songwriter called Zoë Bestel, from the north of England. I watched this video of her live performance of her song "Butterflies" in Glasgow, and knew I just had to share it with you. It's hard to believe that Zoë is still only fourteen! With her beautiful voice and her gift for songwriting, she should go far - read more about her and see more videos on her own blog here.

She's impressive..... isn't she!

Good luck Zoë!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

A Ukafrolic with a difference - the London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra .... and Debbie!

I just knew it was going to be amazing - I'd seen the Youtube videos of these fellas - and I was not disappointed. Seriously great musicians - and a seriously funny act.
Joanna Stevenson, the leader of the uke group that I go to (Go Ukulele Crazy) had organised this concert for the group and their friends, and I had snaffled virtually the last tickets, hearing about it late... the London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra - with audience participation by the ukers. A Ukafrolic with a difference, and a village hall sell-out.

They - the LPSO - were simply fantastic. Wherever you are, if you get a chance to go and see them, DO... they are crazy, very funny, and great musicians, all... and they even played a uke, oh yes... as well as some of the craziest instruments I've ever seen. After all, you don't see someone play a saw with a violin bow that often - or a sousaphone, or a knee-trumpet - or a watering can! The list is endless, as is the list of mad costumes they throw on and off during the course of their act - I found myself in awe of the stage management they must do before a show to ensure all their crazy props and costumes are to hand - the sheer pace of the act takes your breath away. And they had worked in some uke participation - I swear there were a hundred ukes in that room - a ukafrolic never to be forgotten!

I have to say - LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) - was really made to suffer on this occasion - for better or worse, our party of four had secured seats right at the front - and LSH made the mistake of making eye contact with one of the band. He was hauled up to "help out" ... and dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, a grass skirt, a silly hat and given a banana to shake..... oh dear. At least they didn't give him two coconuts to wear on his chest... idea for the next "victim", chaps? And he took it all in good part, cheerfully playing the role of rabbit caught in the headlights.

Another uker mate, Debbie, was sitting at the next table - and this is what happened to her!

Great sense of rhythm, Deb! Thanks do Debbie's partner for the video! Now LSH knows how to play his washboard! Two spoons, that's all you need! (Nah - thimbles - you just got to have thimbles!

Verdict on the evening - my friend Carol declared that it was the best night out she'd had in years.

'Nuff said. How are you going to top that one, Joanna? Thanks for organising a Ukafrolic that could be untoppable!

The Aquila String Harvest

If you like Aquila strings, or even if you don't like Aquila strings - A bit of fun to cheer you if you have that Sunday Night feeling because it's Monday tomorrow! An Italian autumnal idyll...

Reblogged from Uke Hunt... great blog, that....

Saturday, 13 October 2012

From the GFS September Meeting it's Peter Pollard

Still on the banjo-uke theme... "Hitting the High Spots Now" and "Our Sergeant Major"

This was... no, I'll use Peter's words..

"It's late Sunday evening, the band has gone home so its just backing tracks, but there is nothing like getting on the stage at the GFS convention and doing a couple of numbers. What an experience - you should join us and try it!"

Happy memories - I was at that meeting in September, accompanied by LSH (Long-Suffering-Husband) and this video just encapsulates the great atmosphere that's always there at the GFS Conventions in Blackpool; all are made welcome, and it's just wall-to-wall song and smiles.

Songs - "Hitting the High Spots Now" from the film "Trouble Brewing", 1939 and
"Our Sergeant Major" from "It's In the Air" 1938

Next one - 17th and 18th November. We'll be there....

Thanks to Peter for letting me share his videos to this blog - and more to come!

Coming up.... the young folk who are making a name for themselves there with their banjo-uke talents! Worth waiting for, believe me!

Thanks for dropping in!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

So.... the Dallas D... that's mine, all mine!

My lovely little Slingerland banjo-uke now has a brother... and he is very handsome. There is a certain art deco beauty about this banjolele; the shiny black binding around the edges of the resonator, the bird's eye maple wood, the arrow-shaped holes in the shiny chromework around the quote from Dennis Taylor's web pages,

"A special concert model, it has a birds eye maple neck, body and resonator with inlaid edges and a highly polished finish. The fingerboard is ebony and has sixteen drawn wire frets and pearl position dots. It has an eight inch flush rim, an extra heavy bezel with twelve sunk pull down rods tensioned by removing the resonator to gain access to the tensioning nuts. It is fitted with a metal tone ring and tone plate and has an extension tailpiece and sleeve guard. All the metal parts are chromium plated....."

I stroke it and drool over it like a miser over his stash of gold... I had coveted this banjolele ever since I first laid eyes on it in my local music shop. having identified it correctly as a Dallas D, I knew I wanted it - but it needed some minor work to the fingerboard and frets. The days went by, then weeks and still it wasn't done. I plagued the shop with phone calls... "No, we haven't had it back yet...we'll tell you when it's in..."

And then - it was back. My car tyres left rubber on the road as I scorched off to see it again... such a lovely looking thing, all bird's eye maple and chrome, with the original maple bridge, and the case... AND the tone ring and all the fixings intact under the resonator...

And then - it was mine! LSH was resigned... after all, better to buy a uke that was seen and heard, than an ebay purchase that could turn out to be disastrous... and yes, when I got it home - he agreed, it was lovely. British-built craftsmanship... you just can't argue with that...

And it sounds - great!

More on the Dallas banjo-ukes here on the late great Dennis Taylor's web-pages.

JOHNNY FOODSTAMP - With My Little Ukulele in my Hand - George Formby

Johnny Foodstamp of Nashville certainly knows how to put a different spin on a George Formby number.... and.... (shhhhhh......) STOP PRESS.....I do believe..... he's going to be there at GFS Convention in Blackpool next June! I don't think Blackpool will quite know what's hit it.... and as for myself, well, I can't wait!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

John Bianchi, "It Had To Be You" - Alternate Side of the Street Video

A truly wonderful version by John Bianchi of the 1924 song by Isham Jones (music) and Gus Kahn (lyrics). I just adore what John does with these old songs.... here he has done a really great chord melody on his Ohana Vita-Uke; it's a musical education just watching how he picks that melody out of those jazzy chords.....and once again, his voice is just perfect for these old songs.

Look here for the low-down on the lyrics to this song - they are all about being in love with a less-than-perfect and domineering partner... quite a change from the idea of the beloved as a faultless angel.

Also by Isham Jones and Gus Kahn - I'll See You in My Dreams.

(Published for educational purposes, all rights reserved.)