Thursday, 17 September 2015

Jake Shimabukuru Live in Liverpool - (2)

I posted yesterday about my latest Ukafrolic - preparing to go to Jake's first concert of his first UK tour in Liverpool on Tuesday. Before that I posted the interview that I was so privileged to be given by Jake for this blog. So there I was at St George's Hall, as excited as any teenager about to see their favourite pop star!

I was lined up to assist with selling merchandise for Jake's team... Jake's new CD "Travels" and Jake teeshirts. As such, I was also privileged to have Green Room access. Mary (Mary Agnes Krell, tour organiser for Grand Northern Events) and I went up there to check that everything was ready for Jake and his team to arrive, and very soon afterwards in they came.

I was so conscious that here were people about to put on a first full concert in a strange venue in a foreign country... tension? Nerves? Certainly not from the performers! So relaxed, so warm and friendly! And so solicitous... would I like some orange juice, asked Jake... what, me? You're considering ME? But yes, he was! I was very touched - what a nice young man - and I just didn't want to be in the way!

Jake signed the little blue uke for the Cavern Club Hall of Fame. Then Mary and I set up the table to sell CD's and tee-shirts and I waited there, poised, for folks to arrive. Business was brisk... I was delighted to see Peter Moss and Andy Eastwood, brilliant uke players themselves, both in the highest echelons of British ukery, and both of whom I've featured on here several times... Tim Smithies of Dead Man's Uke appeared at my shoulder, and of course, In Liverpool, the Mersey Belles! I think the most excited of all the musicians there was Michael Adcock, who has to be one of Jake's most fervent fans.

I was honoured to have a couple of quiet minutes with Jake in the Green Room before the show... how wonderful - he signed my Little White Uke on the headstock and I could not believe how laid back he is, less than 15 minutes before playing - his genuine warmth was an absolute joy to be around.

The concert was in the Concert Room. What a fabulous room for Jake's first performance here... it is staggeringly beautiful. Charles Dickens gave many readings on that stage as he considered it the perfect venue! Do follow the link for a full description!

Jake came on stage to tumultuous applause, accompanied by his bass player Nolan, and the two of them gave us a full ninety minutes of wonderful music! If anyone entered that room unsure of whether they would like Jake's performance, any doubts were soon dispelled. He held that audience totally mesmerised. Every piece was different in mood, and different in the array of picking and strumming skills - how often I heard gasps at the sounds Jake so expertly teased out of that beautiful custom Kamaka... and Jake and Nolan were the perfect stage partnership - Nolan accompanied Jake's playing with consummate skill and sensitivity - it was clear that they love playing together. What a joy!

I can understand why Jake is often called the "Jimi Hendrix of the ukelele"... they used to say that Hendrix and his guitar were "as one" when he played... his musicality was such that he was on a different plane when he played... and this was how Jake came across to me as I watched and listened. He oozes musicality. I said to him after the show, "Jake, you don't play music - you ARE music..."

There were two standing ovations! Lordy, Lordy....

Directly after the concert I rushed down to man the stall again and it was manic... everyone wanted a CD, everyone wanted a teeshirt... not surprising. Then Jake came out to do a meet and greet... and everyone went home totally bowled over by this young man. I shall never forget Michael Adcock's face... still transported, half an hour after the show ended! What a shame my camera was still in the Green Room! Thank you. Mary and Rob, for bringing this to fruition.

Jake in England.

Then next morning, Jake was on the BBC, national TV. I watched the interview from my hotel room and smiled broadly. What a Ukafrolic I had had - a day never to be forgotten!

As I write, Jake is appearing in London, a sell-out.... but you can still catch him in Leeds or Bath!

photos courtesy of Rob Collins,

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Jake Shimabukuru live in Liverpool - first concert in the UK! I wuz there.... (1)

Ukafrolic - my fun, made-up word to describe fun times around ukuleles... to be sure I have been fortunate this year alone to have had very many memorable ukafrolics - some of which I have not found the time to tell you about yet, unfortunately - but surely last night's was rather - nay, exceedingly special! And I'm wasting no time in telling you about this one!

Perhaps you read the interview that Hawaiian ukulele super-star Jake Shimabukuru so graciously gave me in my last post. I had initially thought that I wouldn't be able to go to any of the four concerts that Jake is giving in England this week... family commitments and then the GFS convention in Blackpool at the weekend... but when a player as highly regarded as Jake is coming to the country for a first tour - how can you pass up the opportunity to see them? So I juggled things around a little, resolved to squash more things into less time, and bought my tickets for the first concert, Liverpool St George's Hall. Concert ticket, train ticket. Long-Suffering-Husband had his own commitments so with his blessing I would go alone. Could not wait.

The tour is being organised by Mary Agnes Krell of Grand Northern Events - organisers of the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival. Now there's a woman in a million. She has vision, belief and firm principles. The vision and belief to want to bring Jake here, to know that the ticket-buying ukulele community would want to see him and that the tour should be successful, and the principle that it should be a not-for-profit undertaking. Anyone can see the inherent risks...

I so wanted this tour to be a success - for Jake, and for Mary, so ably supported by her man, luthier Rob Collins ( I asked if there was anything I could do to help... next day, Mary asked me if I would help Jake's tour manager on the merchandise stall as he was totally unfamiliar with our currency. Yes, of course I would.

Jake is a huge Beatles fan... the team arrived on Monday, predictably jet-lagged and very tired by the long-haul flights - but off they went to do the Beatles tour of Liverpool... the Beatles Museum, the houses where the Famous Four grew up, the song-spots, (Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane) and the Cavern. Jake was delighted to play on the Cavern stage... after all, it was the George Harrison number "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" that rocketed him to public recognition in the famous Youtube video that went viral.

I got a last minute request as I prepared to leave home yesterday morning to catch the train ... would I find a few minutes that day to pop into a music shop and buy an inexpensive uke for Jake to sign, as the Cavern Hall of Fame would gladly display it? No problem. A few hours later I was with Mary, walking through Liverpool to the venue, St George's Hall, armed with a little blue uke for the Cavern, and my own little white uke to ask Jake to sign. I knew I was in for a fantastic evening - and I was not disappointed!

It's getting late... I'll dying to tell you all about it... but will have to finish off tomorrow! Now don't go away... promise? So much to tell!

photo courtesy of Rob Collins,

If you missed Liverpool you can catch Jake at Leeds or in Bath... maybe even in London as a few seats have been released... tour details here... If you're not sure that Jake is your thing... believe me, he will be! If you're in the UK, GET THERE!

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Up-to-the-minute Interview with Jake Shimabukuro

I told you I had something special, dear readers... an interview for Life's A Ukafrolic blog with the fabulously talented Jake Shimabukuro, sometimes dubbed the "Hendrix of the Ukulele"... well, here it is. just ahead of his very first tour here in England!

I feel quite honoured to do this! What a pleasure...

"Aloha Jake! Thanks for doing this interview for my blog readers! I'm so looking forward to seeing you live in concert in Liverpool next Tuesday! So here we go! Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin!

I know you began playing at the age of four - how old were you when you realised that the ukulele wasreally important in your life?"

Jake - I realized how important music was to me after my parents' divorce. Playing the ukulele helped me through that part of my life.

"Music is certainly a great friend and comfort when life gets tough. Who were your most influential teachers?"

Jake - The most influential were people very close to me - like my parents, brother, grandmother and grandfather. However, I was also very inspired by famous stars like Bruce Lee, Michael Jordan and The Beatles.

"It's great that your first concert will be in Liverpool, home of the Famous Four! Who or what do you think has been the greatest influence on your own current playing style?"

Jake - Bruce Lee was probably my biggest influence. I he taught me that art is just a form of human expression. The better you can understand yourself and accept who you are, the better you can honestly express who you are. He was a gifted martial artist, but his philosophy could be applied to anything.

"Roy Smeck said that he always practised his instruments for five hours a day – how much time would you say that you put in to uke playing on a day-to-day basis?"

Jake - It varied from day to day. It was sort of like watching television for me. Sometimes I'd get into it and play for 5-6 hours straight. Other times, I'd play for an hour or two, put it down for a bit, then later pick it up again for another hour or two. It was never practice, I just loved to play.

"Do you think your style is still evolving? If so, in what direction?"

Jake - I hope that my style will continue to evolve. As I experience new things throughout my life, I hope to grow and mature emotionally which will directly affect the way I approach creating music.

"Which piece in your musical repertoire are you most proud of?"

Jake - I am most proud of my traditional Hawaiian repertoire because it represents my place of birth and my love for Hawaii. Hawaiian culture is absolutely beautiful and I hope to raise my children to have a great appreciation for Hawaiian music.

"I hope we'll hear some of your Hawaiian repertoire on the tour! What do you play when you just want to play for your own pleasure?"

Jake - I love to make up silly songs about nothing. I once wrote a song about being a kung fu movie star who would have to fight to keep all the crazy female fans away. I was 6 when I wrote that.

"That's funny! Interesting that you started writing so young! As a player and composer, how important do you think it is to know some music theory?"

Jake - I don't think it is necessary at all. It's like cooking. You don't have to go to culinary school to cook. But if you want to work at a five star French restaurant, you need proper extensive training. Music is the same way. Just depends on how far you personally want to understand every aspect of your art.

"Some players here in England (myself included!) play the banjo-uke as well as wooden uke – George Formby was a very popular entertainer on wooden uke and especially banjo-uke from the 1930’s onwards and there is a thriving society that keeps his name and music alive – have you heard any of his music, and if so, what do you think of it?"

Jake - I think he was a great ambassador of the instrument. I'm a big fan of his artistry and personality. He was a gifted entertainer that touched millions of people around the world.

"If you hadn’t become a full-time musician, what career would you have taken up?"

Jake - Maybe I would've been a fisherman.

"Well, that would have been very different, for sure!

Thanks a lot, Jake for doing this interview for me, for Life’s A Ukafrolic Blog! As for me – what a pleasure! I just know you'll have a really successful tour, and I hope you enjoy your stay in our country! My husband and I visited Hawaii in May, and were made extremely welcome - I'm sure you'll find the same here!"


I hope you enjoyed that! Whooo, what a Ukafrolic! Don't go too far away, now - lots to report...

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

At last - Jake Shimabukuro tour in England - 5 days to go!

I keep whining that I don't get time to blog much. Then I feel guilty about whining because actually I'm often busy doing fantastic stuff, like hanging out with friends, playing ukulele somewhere, or listening to fantastically talented people playing their ukuleles... and right now I'm getting very excited because in just five days, on Tuesday 15th September, I'm going to Liverpool to see the virtuoso player that blows everybody's minds, Jake Shimabukuro, in the St George's Hall, Liverpool.

Jake is the young Hawaiian who came to the public notice for this stunning ukulele performance of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Fourteen million views of this impromptu performance over the last nine years have helped to propel Jake to the highest echelons of "ukery" and have deservedly earned him the adoration of uke fans everywhere.

It seemed too much to ask for, that he should come here to do a tour in his own right, but coming here he most certainly is, arranged by Grand Northern Events. The London show is sold out. But you can still get to see Jake in Liverpool, Leeds or Bath!

LIVERPOOL – St George’s Hall – 15th September

LONDON – Kings Place – 17th September (SOLD OUT)

LEEDS – Town Hall – 18th September

BATH – The Forum – 19th September

I have it on good authority that Jake does a really memorable live show... well, I'm ticking the days off to Tuesday, I just can't wait. Got my train tickets, got my interview questions.... yes, dear readers, I am honoured to be interviewing Jake for Life's A Ukafrolic blog! So... you won't go too far away, will you....?

Thanks for dropping in... I have plenty more Ukafrolics to tell you about!

PS... Pssssst.... shhh but a little bird just told me that Jake will be on BBC breakfast TV on Wednesday 16th September.... don't tell anyone I told you though.... ;)

Monday, 31 August 2015

Johnny Key at the June GFS Convention 2015 - George Formby Medleys

Here are two great Formby Medleys from Johnny Key at the June GFS Convention 2015.

Johnny is a Londoner but is a firm favourite at the Blackpool conventions; he has great stage presence and a lovely way with a song - he's a real uke enthusiast, whether Formby on the banjolele or any other genre of music you fancy on wooden uke - and he's there with help and advice if you want it! A lovely chap. I thought I'd posted this ages ago, but I find I hadn't - so here it is. Better late than never!

The next convention is only a few weeks away! 19th September! It's going to be 40's themed... time to get those vintage clothes out!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Other Duties As Assigned - Rachel Manke talks about her first album!

I've been a fan of Rachel Manke ever since I first dropped across a Youtube video that she had done - I posted it here, at the end of March. It's clear that Rachel had quite a following, and at last she has a CD, "Other Duties As Assigned", out just a few days ago. It's wonderful. It's full of the sort of 20's and 30's music I like, as well as a taste of something different to give a bit of extra spice, but - she has made these songs very much her own...

I asked Rachel to tell me her uke story - and this is what she said.

"I've been playing uke since 1999. Always thought it'd be fun to try. The personal joke was that Y2K would make us all nomads and a portable instrument might be a good thing to have post apocalypse.

I bought a $25 Hilo at the local store. Plastic fretboard, Hawaii decal, etc. Along with it I picked up one of Jumpin' Jim's early books and a Roy Smeck method book. Not long after I met up with a group not far away (this is in Rhode Island at the time) who gathered every month or so for beer, pretzels and ukes. This was at the home of Dave Wasser and Sue Abbotson who were among the founders of the Ukulele Hall of Fame Museum, which ran Uke Expos in the late 90's early 00's. It was a much smaller uke world then.

Through all that I met Joel Eckhaus (student of Roy Smeck) at one of these expos and I discovered the sort of uke playing that I wanted to do. At the time I was living about 4 hours south of where Joel was. He'd offered to have me come up for a lesson and I wasn't sure about driving 4 hours for a lesson. Thing is, the weekend of this festival was Sept 2001...days before Sept 11th. That fateful Tuesday I found myself going over the tunes from Joel's workshops over and over again. So, I phoned him up for a seemed like a good idea now.

Itturned out that Joel and I are on a similar wavelength, I picked up the Roy Smeck style through an Eckhaus filter very well. We had about 3 lessons all said and done. Joel is the father of my right hand!

Other than that my learning has been a whole lot of watching and listening to other people. Not just uke players. Eventually just about everything I see ends up in some little note here and there. I can't say enough of how important it is to just expose yourself to other players and different styles (even if it's not your thing).

Now, all that happened and then I stopped paying attention for a few years. I worked for a number of years after college and then went off to grad school. That's when this current uke boom just exploded. Now, I'm reconnecting with all my old friends and making lots of new ones.

These days I've found my own voice and a bit of my own style. And I am having a blast finding new (to me) songs and different ways to make music and entertain. I'm playing festivals again and just this June I had the great honor of playing on a national radio show, A Prairie Home Companion. Can't get more fun than that!"

Of the CD, she said this....

I had a wonderful Kickstarter campaign that let lots of people be involved in the project. My friend Steven Strauss played a wonderful upright bass on it, from afar! I got to play some standards, some lost treasures, some parodies that I wrote and even one song written by a dear friend. My little cousin did the artwork for the album ( It's been so much fun putting it all together, all the little details and now sharing it!

For Rachel's take on old standards like I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Sweet Sue, Some of These Days, a bit of doo-wop, and parodies like "Has Anybody Seen My Mom" get a taste of her CD on the link above, or from Amazon, here....

Thanks for dropping in! So much to tell you, and life has been so busy.... but I just had to jump on here and tell you about Rachel's CD... get it! Go on... get it!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Jake Shimabukuro to visit the UK!

Yes it's true, dear readers, it's true... Jake Shimabukuro is coming here... to play Liverpool, London, Leeds and Bath in September.... organised by the team at Grand Northern Events, (the team behind the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival and the Grand Southern Ukulele Festival), this will be Jake's very first visit here!

Read all about it here... tickets on sale now for three of the four venues... but better be quick, I'm thinking!

Now isn't that a great way to start the weekend!

Here's Jake playing "Over the Rainbow"

Thanks for dropping in... don't go too far away, now!