Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Thoughts on the Coolest Ukulele Player

James Hill, Jake Shimabukuro, Taimane Gardner, Aldrine Guerrero... (was all I wrote)

Funny how I know people may read what I write but I am really writing in a selfish way, that is, to have a place to keep track of what I find interesting. Hopefully some of what I write will be entertaining to you too. I should have saved this as a draft because I have already had two responses before I completed my thoughts. (I'll post comments later)

My friend, and verbal sparring partner Dougie, often send strange comments to each other. The jist of his comment was that the ukulele community doesn't have an immensely popular heartthrob associated with it, and whom would propel the ukulele into the stratosphere of popular thinking of the ukulele as a REAL instrument.

Dougie is often my muse. He sends me seeds that grow into blogging topic trees. I am of the contrary opinion. I want to see the ukulele remain the people's instrument, accessible, friendly. I think that the some of the coolest ukulele players are those songwriters that experiment, with the instrument and language and create vivid pictures. They have me dreaming of opening up and creating too.

Ron Hale wrote a comment, which I'll post, about Craig Robertson being the "coolest". Most of you probably know about the Ukulele Noir group in Boston. Craig has a strong voice, a mastery of language that creat those macabe images of a darker world, and is a sharp dressed retro fashion statement. He has been a favorite of mine since seeing his performance of "Money" with Karen Langlie on Ukulele Disco.

But what is cool? The cool I feel now is from a more aged perspective. Cool is sharing. Cool is talent. Cool is creating. Cool is risking it. The internet and the ukulele have come together and there is just so much out there. Sharing, talent, creating, risking failure.

I have noticed a big surge of local Ukulele Undergrounders at the Northern California Ukulele Festival and at the Berkeley Ukulele Club. Aldrine Guerrero and many others have commited themselves to promote the almighty Manny the Rooster into infamousy. No really, Aldrine is a heckofa cool guy that is willing to share his most embarassing moments. Aldrine is a ukulele superhero to many!


(Also thanks to my most enthusiastic Danish friend, Kim -- I appreciate the encouragement!)


  1. I don't see HumbleUker's thoughts on
    the topic, so I'll assume this is open mic
    as it were, & add a few of mine.

    First off, I've absolutely no interest in attaching the word "cool" to the flying-finger
    brigade listed above. I won't go so far as
    to say they're primarily a side-show in the uke world
    because I know many people think such dazzling digits are the bee's knees & the best way to present
    the ukulele to the non-uke world, but a very rare, occasional dip into these waters is more than enough for me.

    Any of those listed above (or anyone else, for that matter) can get a lesson in cool from watching the video of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole sitting on the
    beach gently fingerpicking & singing the song, White Sandy Beach. Such true virtuosity puts
    fast fingers to shame.

    My own thoughts on the coolest ukulele player/the coolest person playing the ukulele,
    tend towards someone like Craig Robertson, with his songwriting being a huge consideration for me. The understated accompaniments along with the been-there, done-that, lived-in voice suit his original songs (& the covers he does) perfectly. Not fancy-schmancy, not how-can-he/she-possibly-play-that, just cool. And the hats are nice, too...

  2. My thoughts:

    Kate Micucci, Rod Thomas, Mareva Galanter.