Friday, April 27, 2007

Hawaii in Odaiba

Another Golden Week event will be at Venus Fort in Odaiba in Tokyo Thursday, May 3. Konishiki will be joining the week-long schedule of Hawaiian events there. Vaihi follow a couple of days later, sandwiching Laula. This coming Sunday will see Manoa DNA.

Check the Venus Fort site for times.

Last year Jake Shimabukuro also appeared at this Hawaiian event in Odaiba.

Kiyoshi Kobayashi at Hawaiians

If you are in Japan and have some free time during the upcoming Golden Week*, you might want to head over to Hawaiians in Iwaki, Fukushima. Kiyoshi Kobayashi and the Ukulele Ultraman routine will be giving two shows (11:30 AM and 3:30 PM) May 3-6. Being not all that far away, I am tempted to give it a try myself. Tickets are going for 2,940 yen tax included.

Ukulele Ultraman, an ablum of songs from the old Japanese super-hero show, was released April last year. It received quite a bit of coverage in the February, 2006 Rolling Cocounts.

*Golden Week is several days of national holidays all bunched up at the end of April and beginning of May. Many people take a week or more off of work. It is one of the really big holidays here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

James Hill locally

Earlier this week I was really lucky to catch a show in James Hill's tour of Japan.

It was an entertaining evening given to an almost sold-out crowd. The songs featured were mainly those that owners of his CDs would be familiar with. It seemed like the selection was almost designed to be as international and diverse as possible. He highlighted this diversity by commenting that the ukulele is indeed a versatile instrument.

One song that I hadn't heard before was an original composition he dedicated to the folks looking after him in town. It was a happy, bluegrass-inpired piece. Apparently, one of the minders is a fan of bluegrass.

Being four rows back from the stage, it was great to be able to see some of his right-hand techniques--at least when this hand was moving slowly enough to see. His upward rolling-stroke was particularly interesting.

I had seen James Hill last year at the Ukulele Super Jam in Tokyo. His performance this week was more enjoyable and had a nice at-home feel to it.

Seeing that he will be in Quebec the weekend of this year’s Ukulele Super Jam, attendees will not be able to enjoy his magic there.

This year’s Ukulele Super Jam will be at the same Yakult Hall as last year, but the date has been moved to 12 May. The date change knocks me off the attendance list, unfortunately.

Vietnamese (?) Tangi

An anonymous commenter wrote a couple of days ago stating that Tangis are made in Honolulu, not Vietnam. I mentioned that they are made in Vietnam a day or two prior.

My comment was based on what I was told by a sales clerk at Ukulele House in Honolulu last August. Considering the price and the quantity of Tangis available in Honolulu, I had little reason to doubt the sales clerk.

I have checked the Tangi website and have found no information on where they do make their ukuleles. Since they offer custom products, it might be safe to guess those may be manufactured in Hawaii. However, I wrote to them directly and asked where their factory was. They wrote back and gave me their "location" but there was no mention of where the factory is--particularly for the non-custom products.

There are manufacturers that have their main office in one place but the bulk of their product is actually put together elsewhere.

Given conflicting information, it seems safe for me to say that I don't really know where they are made.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Back from North America

Back in the saddle. I needed to take a trip to North America over the past few weeks and was unable to write at all during that time.

A difference between the ukulele scene in North America and Japan became very evident to me while poking around music shops during my recent trip. There really is an awful lot more available in Japan in terms of published material on playing the instrument and music adapted for it.

First, most of the music stores that had anything are stocking the same "Jumpin' Jim" strum-and-sing books. There is nothing wrong with that unless you sing like a badger in a blender--like me. There are a few introductory books here and there, but you can pretty much find everything on Amazon or at Elderly Music. Perhaps that explains why the shops seem so desolate. Of course, if it is available at Amazon or Elderly, it is available here in Japan, too. This lack of published material goes some way to explaining why so many individuals and groups are putting songs up on the web in the English-speaking world.

Second, generally speaking, Japan really does seem to have quite a bigger variety of published material for the ukulele player. Not only is all of the English-language material available, but there are quite a few people publishing with reasonable frequency a variety of how-to-books and arrangement books. Some of these I have touched on earlier in other writings. I don't know if these books would be available outside of Japan due to copyright regulations, but I will start focusing a little more on those in this blog. The difference even in the local shop up the street and those I looked at on my trip is quite striking.

The same hold true for instruments also. All the shops on the mainland seem to pretty much stock Lanikais as their main ware. That is an interesting contrast with Honolulu, where you see quite a few more Vietnamese-made Tangis than most anything--at least the last time I was there. In Japan, brands under the Kiwaya umbrella are big, but looking around shops, it would be difficult to just assume they have the same sort of market share as Lanikai probably does.