In woodshedding the ukulele, I do what most do when marshaling the bloodhounds and hunting down the faint smells of related interests: I start scouring YouTube.
Now, it IS possible for those outside the world of ukulele, to still be able to say, “I’m familiar with Iz’s version of Somewhere over the Rainbow, or acknowledge, “I’ve seen a video of that Jake Shimaku—-whatever you say his name. . . ”
Start naming guys like James Hill, however, and it becomes a matter of:
- Knowing him by name because of Uke-related knowledge
- Knowing him by sight because of this take on Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean.
I of course, start trying to skim ideas off the top. Hill’s percussive take on the Jackson song inspired me to try to find a percussive way to play the main riff from Stevie Wonder’s Superstition.
In the short run, I failed. Actually, I didn’t fail, but I defaulted to a different repeating riff in 4/4 time. The next thing you know I had written an original song that sounds nothing like what it was I thought I was pursuing.
And now, my inspirational catalysts have multiplied yet again. Joey Calfa, and his band, Ukulelien, prove to me that there are people like ME out there. They’re putting it out there for all to see. Most of their videos are wide-angle static shots, but now, after watching many, I am now expecting a fairly consistent rundown: Joey on the Uke, holding down the instrumental genesis for the band’s name and existence: Terry Brennan, who contributes vocals and percussion, underscored by mild contortions of a mellowed-with-time Axl Rose.
Corey J. Feldman plays the U-bass and sings. Tara Lawton, also adding to the percussive side, but also making me take the melodica seriously–which is a fine feat in the harsh light of a musical culture from which “when you throw an accordion in the dumpster without hitting the sides” was the answer to the question, “What’s the definition of perfect pitch? She also contributes vocals.
Nate Searing brings up the drum section. Calfa has amassed a fine group. His occasional tutorials will convince: You can learn the ukulele, and you can make cool music on it, for sure.
Most of their video are them playing straight. They hit splashdown in my consciousness with this AMAZING TAKE on the Super Mario Bros. theme. But my favorite group video happens to be this one, where a devil-may-care approach to the presentation, deliberate lack of aesthetic rhyme or ornamental reason make me appreciate it for what it is–professional tomfoolery at its finest. Not to mention, Calfa’s implied superhero guitar face and syncopated grooving made me literally laugh out loud:
Wait. It just occurred to me. I’ll be they filmed this in October. Nix what I said about “rhyme or reason.”
Check out the rest of their stuff here.