6 things I learned about the ukulele in Hawaii

I was taken off to recover after surgery, to the land of ukuleles.  Yes, Hawaii.  It’s a surprising place, consisting of several islands, of which there are 6 main islands.  I could go on about it for ages, but I’ll keep it to 6 short lessons.  Well 5, as you probably already know about Jake Shimabukuro playing ukulele in Hawaii.

1.  OK. This is not strictly about the ukulele, but about Hawaii itself… It’s much bigger than you think, so spend longer visiting, so you can get around. Each Island is very different, and well worth a visit.

Looking on a map, Hawaii looks tiny.  The islands look close together and easy to navigate.  You’d think you could island hop the whole of it in a few weeks.  You’d be wrong.  The roads are not all surfaced, and some places are difficult to get to, so take longer in each place.  You certainly can’t do an island in a week as we had hoped to.

2.  Again, more about Hawaii… Some places in Hawaii could be likened to an American version of the Spanish Costa Del Sol in the 80’s, as in, there are loads of tourists and tourist spots, but some other places remain untouched and breathtakingly beautiful.

It takes all sorts.  You could easily suck up the Tiki Culture and hang out eating burgers and drinking Mai Tai’s all day long, if that floats your boat.  By the same token, you can avoid all of that like the plague, stay in hostels, swim with turtles, surf, snorkel, climb volcanic mountains, or come back to tourism and ride in a helicopter to see where they filmed Jurassic Park.  Frankly, it’s up to you!

3.  One of the three ukulele virtuosos that I’m aware of lives on Hawaii, and his brother owns a shop at Waikiki beach, on Oahu.

Jake Shimabukuro is from Hawaii, and his brother owns a shop, called the Uke Box, on Waikiki Beach.  If you go, you might bump into Bruce Shimabukuro or (more likely) the very lovely guy who works there more regularly, Aki.

4.  There aren’t many ukulele jams, so social strumming has to be arranged well in advance.

Hawaiian culture has ukulele, and slack key guitar embedded within it.  If you want to strum along with others, you should go at a time when there’s a ukulele festival, or jam already set up.  Don’t expect to drop in like you can with Ukulele Wednesdays.  We tried to go and strum along with the guys at Ukulele Underground, but there’s not an open club, sadly.

5.  This is how a ukulele is made, at one of the top ukulele factories in the world.

This is an old video, but nevertheless, if you want to walk through a ukulele making factory, Kanile’a, then here’s your chance.  If you do end up going to Hawaii, you should also play a Kamaka.

6.  If you go to Maui, go and say hello to Jason at Lahaina Music

Jason at Lahaina Music on Maui

Jason at Lahaina Music on Maui

We ended up hanging out with Jason for a fair few hours.  He allowed us to use his wi-fi and also accommodated a few local musicians who just came in to jam with him.  He’s an affable and helpful chap and he reckons we should all visit the slack key guitar and ukulele festival in June.  If only we could all muster up the funds!

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