Raul Malo at The Rib Room

Raul Malo, who’s quickly becoming the unofficial spokesman for the Kala uBass (at least around this blog), will take the stage Sunday at Neumeier’s Rib Room & Beer Garden in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He’s bringing his uBass.

According to an article in the Times Record Online:

The size of a standard ukulele, the bass ukulele emits low sounds similar to those heard from a standup bass, Malo said. He thinks the sight and sound of the instrument will be one of several “fun” things for those attending the concert.

Malo, formerly the leader of The Mavericks, is a multi-instrumentalist, playing piano, bass, uBass, guitar and others.

I had the pleasure of spending the day with Malo this past July in my photo studio in New York. He was in to do a shoot with one of my colleagues for the cover of his forthcoming album, Saints & Sinners. He didn’t bring his uBass, but he did get to play my acoustic Alvarez bass and some piano. Unfortunately, the record company decided not to use any of the photos taken that day for the cover.

Still, it was a pleasant day, with Malo regaling us with some of his stories about life on the road as a solo artist.

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150 Year Old Hawaiian Tree Turned into Ukes

A rare tree near a Honolulu elementary school, planted nearly 150 years ago, fell victim to old age and part of it collapsed. So it had to be cut down.

But this was no ordinary tree. It was a rare Hawaiian Mahogany tree. And rather than grind it up for sawdust, the tree was milled for furniture and Ukuleles.

According to a story on KITV.com:

Master carpenter James Ferla was making fine furniture pieces from the tree. And local ukulele makers used the fine mahogany to produce instruments like a beautiful I’Iwi ukulele, crafted by Charlie Fukuba.

And if that weren’t enough, scientists are cloning the tree. Cuttings have been planted all over Oahu.

Check out this video about the tree from KITV.com.

The History of the Ukulele is not all Sunny and Bright

Consider the plight of Cliff Edwards–better known as Ukulele Ike on TV, Radio, Vaudeville and Movies. He was a major star in the 1920s and 1930s, but fell on hard times towards the end of his life.

Not only that, but he was the singing voice of Disney’s Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio and Jim Crow in Dumbo.

Here’s a short news clip that lays out his life and career in a pretty concise way.

After watching the clip, Google him for some more information on his life and career.

Finding the Right Chord

If you use a Macintosh computer, there’s a nice little desktop “widget” that shows you all the chords for the uke. It’s called the Ukulele Chords Dashboard Widget (who wudda thunk.) It even shows you all the alternate versions of the chords.

And the best part is, it’s free!

So if you’re just starting out and need to learn a few chords, check out the widget.

Even if you’re not on a Mac, you can access the same chord finder from a web site.

Check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Kala Ukes – Small But Serious

In October 2009, Music Trades magazine–a trade publication for music retailers and buyers, published a nice little article about Mike Upton and Kala Brand Music Co.

The article, entitled “Take My Ukulele Seriously!” profiles Mike and his business.

Some juicy tidbits from the article:

  • Kala is the world’s largest manufacturer exclusively dedicated to ukuleles
  • Guitarists can learn to play the Ukulele almost instantly
  • Children can learn to play the ukulele then transfer their knowledge of chords, strumming and melody to the guitar
  • From the beginning, Kala began offering ukuleles in non-traditional shapes and a variety of tonewoods

Download the article in PDF format here (Music Trades-1009-4) to read the whole thing.

King of the Road

Here’s a nice little video of Raul Malo rocking a uBass. 

He starts off by playing he Roger Miller classic “King of the Road,” then throws in a little Motown.

Well, not exactly rocking–more like easy listening–a uBass.

Still, it’s a pretty cool video.

But check out the audience’s reaction when he tells them the little uBass is a bass.

Priceless.