Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Japanese ukulele advantage

An advantages that Japanese ukulele amateurs may have over players elsewhere is that it is generally easier to find fellow travelers.

Most places around the country have neighborhood community centers. These centers vary in terms of quality, but compared with what one is likely to find in, say, North America, they are on average pretty good. Most of the facilities offer different kinds of rooms, including music rooms, gyms or dance rooms, kitchens, or craft rooms. Groups can hold regularly scheduled cultural or educational activities at very little or no cost.

It seems that these venues play host to quite a few clubs and classes around the country. A quick survey of the Japanese Yahoogroups for ukuleles has just revealed that many of the Yahoogroups are centered around a group of people that practices at these centers. Almost all the larger Yahoogroups appear connected to groups that use these kinds of facilities.

The city here may well be an indication of what the rest of Japan is like also. I know of one teacher at a local music school that teaches ukulele, but there are at least three groups connected with the community centers. More or less the same can be said of the town next to us.

Ukulele players might be more gregarious than some other musicians. But, with these community centers, it is certainly a lot easier to spread the faith.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Latest Rolling Coconuts II

Continuing this week with an overview of issue #32 of Rolling Coconuts, we will touch on four articles.

The first of these contains two interviews--one with Katz.seiji and the other with Matsui Tomotaka. They are the repective compilers of "Toei Ukulele Festival" and "Ukulele Mozart". Both of these books of score come complete with tabs and CDs. The Toei book contains theme songs particularly of animations and character theme songs. Toei, as some readers know, is a film and TV production outfit. Matsui, the compiler of the Mozart books admits that the arrangements are definely not for beginners and that he would balk at playing some of the pieces in public due to their demanding difficulties.

The next article is the third installment of the "Ukulele on the Hill" series. This series focuses on the work of Canadian James Hill. This issue examines his latest tour around Japan, stopping into 10 places. On this tour, he offers workshops making use of "Sakura, sakura", probably the best know Japanese traditional song arranged in three parts.

The third is the 17th installment of "Ukulele Iwao Style". This article discusses some of his experiences while doing a series of series of events at record stores and a concert in Tokyo following the release of his "Hawaiian Morning" album. Perhaps the most interesting comment was one about his meeting a young boy. The boy apparently was quite good at playing the ukulele as the mother was eager to show him off. The comment noted that as a young kid starting out on an ukulele, he will have lots of potential. As more young children become interested in playing the ukulele, the intrument will gain more acceptance as a good, solid instrument in its own right.

The next article is another interview. This time with Owa Yoshio, who released his "Legend of Hawiian Guitar--Best Selection" album "featuring ukulele and resonator guitar". According to a description I found elsewhere, the songs in the album are:
01: Lag Rag
02: Kaupo Store
03: Lazy River
04: Uwehe Ami & Slide
05: Opihi Moe Moe
06: Ten Tiny Toes〜S-H-I-N-E
07: Ka Makani Ka'ili Aloha
08: I'm Livin' On Easy
09: Guava Jam
10: Maui Chimes
11: Harvest Of Rainbow
12: Ka'a ahi Kahului
13: On A Little Bamboo Bridge
14: 12th Street Rag
15: Lover Come Back To Me
16: Ukulele Blues
17: Yellow Roses
18: Come Stay With Me
The article mentions that he has recently been focusing on Hawaiian Blues.

After this, there are the two introductions of ukulele craftsment and an article about Miyaji-TIKI--a Japanese ukulele player that has been active in Germany for several years and a participant in Risa Ukulele's U'COOL'LELE festival there. I will skip those two for the time being.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Latest Rolling Coconuts I

After almost three weeks of turmoil, I am finally able to get back to this blog. Sorry for the absence.

Two months after it came out, the most recent Rolling Coconuts has landed on my desk. The #32 issue came out 28 August. If my math serves, the next issue should be coming out later this month. I hope I can snag one faster than this one.

This issue is essentially a compliation of interviews

The cover story is an interview with Tsuji Ayano. Her music has been featured in commercials, television programs, and in an Ghibli animation film. She as just but out her double-disc "Tsuji Best" ablum.

The second article is another interview. This one is with Toda Shinji of Toda Guitars. He has put out an ukulele commemorating the release of the Ukulele Ultraman album. They are available through Kiwaya.

The third atricle also relates to the Ukulele Ultraman album. Kiyoshi Kobayashi's interview discusses his involvement with the publishing of the score and tab of the album. It is put out by Doremi, but I have been unable to find it on their website.

Anyone interested in hearing some of the tunes on the ablum might try the web page of the music publishing company, Geneon.

More to come about this issue soon.