Celebs Who Rock The Ukulele

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Celebs who play the ukulele? These videos include celebs playing the uke from around the world who are contributing to the popularity surge that’s happening in the ukulele world. We did some research to bring you the top 10 celeb uke players of all time. So without further ado here are our top 10:

  • Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – Ukulele – What A Wonderful World

  • Adam Sandler – Grow Old With You (Ukulele Cover)

  • William H. Macy singing and playing uke on Oprah

  • Marilyn Monroe – Runnin’ Wild

  • Jack Johnson on Ukulele “Never Fade”

  • Liam Stone plays Elvis Presley Medley at Austin Ukulele Society

  • Blue Hawaii – Elvis Presley – Can’t Help Falling In Love

  • Blue Red and Grey – Pete Townshend

  • Taylor Swift – Fearless on the Ukulele

  • Ryan Gosling- Blue Valentine Ukulele Dance Scene

Ukulele Video of the Week – Grace VanderWaal

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Grace VanderWaal returned yesterday to America’s Got Talent‘s stage to give a breathtaking performance with her new single “Moonlight“, released in June 2017.

VanderWaal won the 11th season of AGT with her original song “You Don’t Know My Name”, taking home a $1 million dollar prize.  From the initial audition stage, she captivated the audience’s hearts with her amazing voice, and her natural ukulele talent.

VanderWall and AGT both tweeted about the event, which went viral during the screening of the show.

VanderWaal will be going on tour this October.

Ukulele Music Info Interview with Brittni Paiva

brittni paiva

Brittni Paiva is one of the most talented Ukulele players in the US today. Paiva is a multi award winning ukulele instrumentalist from Hilo, Hawaii. She began her journey with piano lessons at the age of four and later fell in love with the Ukulele. From pop, alternative, to dance music, Paiva is constantly reinventing herself through the Ukulele. I had the honor to interview Paiva via email.

Please introduce yourself to our ukulele community
My name is Brittni, I am born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, and I’ve been playing the ukulele for 18 years. I have five solo albums in release and am currently working on my sixth.

What is your musical background?
When I was 4 years old, I began taking classical piano lessons. I was trained under the Suzuki method, which focuses a lot on ear training. I continued piano lessons until I was 11 years old, when I picked up the ukulele.

Can you tell us about the title you selected for your album, Tell U What?
When my producer and I were writing the first track on the album, we realized that the song had a sort of spunk to it, like a little bit of attitude. As we were playing around with words, “Tell U What” came up and it just kind of stuck. I was really happy with how the song came out so I decided to name the whole album after it, haha.

What do you love most about playing the ukulele?
One of the things I love most about playing the ukulele is that no matter where you are in the world, as soon as you bring it out and begin playing it, it makes everyone smile.

What are your plans for the future, do you have any new albums or tours in the works?
Yes! I’m currently taking a short break from touring to work on my 6th solo album. I’m venturing off into new musical territory with this project so I’m very excited to release it!

What tips or advice can you give beginner ukulele players?
Never give up! There may be some songs or techniques that seem impossible to learn, but the key is to take it slow, section by section at a time, and you’ll get it down no problem!

Brittni Paiva – official website 

Jim D’Ville’s Basic Ukulele Lessons

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Jim D’Ville is a music educator and facilitator who is on a mission to get ukulele players off the paper and playing music by ear. For nearly a decade Jim has taught his Play Ukulele By Ear workshops to thousands of players in the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. He has taught and performed at major ukulele events including the Scotland Ukulele Festival, Ashokan Ukulele Festival, Melbourne Ukulele Festival, the West Coast Ukulele Retreat and many others.

Jim is the author of the Play Ukulele By Ear DVD series and hosts the popular Play Ukulele By Ear website. Jim is a Contributing Editor to Ukulele Magazine and is sponsored by Kala Brand Music and the Deering Banjo Company.

You can listen to one of D’Ville’s 26 Basic Ukulele Lessons series here:

Meet Jake Shimabukuro – The Famed Ukulele Virtuoso

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Jake Shimabukuro
Credit: Jake Shimabukuro official website

The Early Days

One of the household names among ukulele wielders and enthusiasts hails from Honolulu, Hawaii, Jake Shimabukuro is well-known for his rapid and complex finger work on the ukulele, combining elements of different music styles including rock, jazz, bluegrass, and folk. With the help of the power of the internet, Shimabukuro gained worldwide recognition in 2006 when a video of him performing The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was uploaded on YouTube without his knowledge went viral.

The ukulele landed on Shimabukuro’s hands for the first time when he was four years old. His mother played the instrument and taught him how to strum strings and play a few chords. His fascination never went away and only grew as he got older. While learning other instruments, Shimabukuro confessed that none of them spoke to him like the ukulele did and it was the instrument that made him realize he wanted to be a musician.

I was always very passionate about it. But when I was a kid there was no such thing as a touring solo ukulele player, so I always understood that it would be more of a hobby. I never even dreamed of doing what I’m doing today. Luckily it evolved into that. I feel very fortunate that I get to travel, perform and just play my ukulele everywhere. Yeah, since the time I was a kid, it’s always been my passion, but I never imagined that I’d be able to just do it all the time. This is really a dream come true.

Because the ukulele was Hawaii’s signature instrument, being able to play it wasn’t special, but young Jake’s passion for the instrument pushed him to do greater things with the ukulele. While listening to other styles of music like jazz and rock, Shimabukuro incorporated those styles on the humble four strings and two octaves of the ukulele.

When I was in high school, I would pull electric guitar riffs and quote classical pieces and things like that. And I remember people just kind of looking at me and saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t think you could do that with the ukulele.’ That’s kind of when the light bulb went off… My freshman year in high school is when I really started to get experimental. And that’s when I kind of took a little different direction and strayed away a little bit from the traditional Hawaiian music. I mean, that will always be my first love, but I really wanted to see what else was possible out there. I wanted to extend the boundaries of what ukulele music was.

Pure Heart & Colon Bands

Shimabukuro first garnered attention in his Hawaiian hometown in 1998 as a member of Pure Heart, a musical trio with him on the ukulele, Lopaka Colon on percussion, and Jon Yamasato on guitars and vocals. Pure Heart later released their first eponymous album and bagged four Na Hoku Hanohano Awards (Hoku Awards), a premier music award in Hawaii which is the state’s equivalent of the Grammy’s. The same album also appeared in Honolulu Magazine’s Top 50 Hawaiian Albums of all time.

One year passed and Pure Heart was able to gain another Hoku Award for their second album, but the year also saw the departure of Jon Yamasato. Shimabukuro and Lopaka formed a new band and enlisted the help of bassist Andrew McLellan and guitarist/vocalist Guy Cruz. The new band Colon is named in memoriam of Lopaka’s father Augie Colon who was a famous percussionist. The band released one album in 2000 titled “The Groove Machine” which won a Hoku Award the following year.

Solo Career

In 2002, the band Colon met its end and Shimabukuro decided to pursue a solo career. With his popularity reaching the shores of Japan, Shimabukuro became the first Hawaiian artist to sign a recording contract with Epic Records International which is a subsidiary of Sony Music Japan International. Later he began to tour Japan nationwide, which he still does to this day, and released numerous albums locally, including songs which received extensive airplay on local radio stations. Shimabukuro became a beloved musician in Japan and eventually got a 120-page biographical photo-book in his honor.

Jake Shimabukuro
Credit: Jake Shimabukuro official website

Because of the limited local reach of his music, Shimabukuro created Hitchhike Records in order for his music to reach Hawaii and other parts of the world. He began to promote his music in the United States. His 2005 album “Dragon” landed in the fifth spot in Billboard’s Top World Music Albums of that year.

Worldwide recognition

Shimabukuro’s viral rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” led him to receive various love letters from established artists requesting to collaborate with him. Artists like Jimmy Buffet, Ziggy Marley, Bette Midler, and Cyndi Lauper caught his attention. Shimabukuro eventually toured with Jimmy Buffet in 2005, 2006, and 2007, and became a featured artist in Jimmy Buffet’s albums and videos. In 2009, he accompanied fellow Hawaii-born multi-award winning artist Bette Midler in a three-song set including their own rendition of The Beatles’ “In My Life.” The two then had a chance to meet Queen Elizabeth and shake her hand.

In 2012, a one-hour biographical documentary on Shimabukuro titled “Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings” was released and won an award in Ashland Independent Film Festival and Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The biopic was later on aired repeatedly on PBS. Shimabukuro was also able to perform in various television talk shows including Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Today Show, and BBC Breakfast.

Which Ukulele does Shimabukuro use?

Shimabukuro’s trusty instrument is a custom made tenor Kamaka. The body is made of curly koa, the fingerboard and bridge are made out of ebony, the binding is from rosewood, and the inlays are from mother of pearl and abalone. Shimabukuro uses d’Addario J71 for his strings.

Shimabukuro on Tour

A husband and a father of two, Jake Shimabukuro is currently busy with his 2017 Japan and United States tour. He is also a very active community servant speaking in conventions like TEDx and traveling to different schools to talk to students about the importance of chasing after one’s passion and living a positive life. He usually begins his talks by saying, “I truly believe that the ukulele is the instrument of peace because I truly believe that if everyone played the ukulele, this world would be a better place.”

To be updated with Jake Shimabukuro’s tour dates and to learn more about him, you can check his official website and his official YouTube channel.

2017 New Jersey Uke Fest: The Folk Project

The Folk Project is continuing the fun, education and the showcase of talents in this year’s 5th New Jersey Uke Fest to be held at the Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey in Whippany, NJ on Friday, August 25, and Saturday, August 26, with an outdoor Jam on the Green in Morristown on Sunday, August 27.

The schedule for the 3-day ukulele fest:

August 25 (Friday) – Concert at 8 pm featuring Danielle Ate the Sandwich and The Lords of Liechtenstein
August 26 (Saturday) – Workshops during the day, Concert at 7:30 pm featuring Kimo Hussey, Rachel Manke, and The Curt Sheller Jazz Trio
August 27 (Sunday) – Outdoor Jam

The $90 early bird tickets are still available until June 21. By June 22 until August 24, tickets will cost as follows:

Day/s and Activity/ies Ticket Price
Full Fest (Friday Concert and Saturday Workshops and Concert) $100
Saturday  (Saturday Workshops and Concert) $85
Friday (Concert Only) $20
Saturday (Concert Only) $20
Saturday (Workshops Only) $70

And by August 25 and 26, if tickets haven’t sold out yet, ticket prices will be:

Day/s and Activity/ies Ticket Price
Full Fest (Friday Concert and Saturday Workshops and Concert) $115
Saturday  (Saturday Workshops and Concert) $95
Friday (Concert Only) $20
Saturday (Concert Only) $20
Saturday (Workshops Only) $80

Ukulele Artists’ Lineup

The concert lineup for this year is a roster of amazing ukulele artists. Kimo Hussey, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Rachel Manke, The Curt Sheller Jazz Trio, and The Lords of Liechtenstein will be rocking the 2017 NJ Uke Fest stage with their individual artistries and a right amount of aloha spirit.

Kimo Hussey is one of the best Hawaiian ukulelists and one of the most respected jazz ukulele players in the world. As an artist, he is recognized for his distinctive ukulele solos he masterfully fuses with melody, rhythm and dynamic overtones. As a ukulele teacher, his love for the uke emanates from his enthusiasm to impart knowledge relevant to technique and style and his encouragement to his students that they have fun playing the uke.  

Danielle Ate the Sandwich swears not to throw cupcakes at you as she did “the socially adept kids” in her The Terrible Dinner Guest music video. But she swears on giving her audience a good show during the 2017 NJ Uke Fest. The 31-year old ukulelist-singer-songwriter has over 47,000 YouTube followers. The music video for her song The Terrible Dinner Guest has more than 90,000 views and still counting. Her strong vocals in The Terrible Dinner Guest and the ebb and flow of the song’s lyrics reminds me of Sara Bareilles’ She Used to be Mine. “Dinner Guest” has a jollier sound brought by the ukulele track albeit the meaning of the song is quite sad.

Rachel Manke is one of the most talented emerging ukulele artists today. Having been appearing on various stages that range from the Ashokan Uke Fest and Funky Frets Uke Fest, to Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, she’s been called one of the brightest stars in the ukulele realm. Her album Other Duties as Assigned is available online and as what she sings in one of her songs, she can’t give you anything but love. And of course a worthwhile show during the 2017 NJ Ukulele Fest. 

How do you think a classic song will sound when played on a ukulele? That is the very question The Curt Sheller Jazz Trio answers in their reworks of timeless classics on How About More Uke? replacing the standard guitar backing of these songs with the higher-pitched sound of a ukulele. The trio consists of Curt Sheller himself, who plays the ukulele; Ed Rick, who plays the drums; and Eric Schreiber, who plays the electric bass. Get ready for eargasmic jazz improvisations, this trio will take you to places!

The Lords of Liechtenstein are often compared to The Everly Brothers for their exquisite harmonic taste and to The Smothers Brothers for their impish acts on stage. Well, that was before. From a two-brother duo act consisting Dan and Noah Rauchwerk, they have transitioned into a full five-piece band adding guitarist Ned Steves, bassist Matt Fernicola, and drummer Arjun Dube. They have opened for various talented musicians such as Brett Dennen, Elephant Revival, and Buckwheat Zydeco, and have been featured on NPR’s syndicated Mountain Stage program. Their newest record Downhill Ride to Joyland, which The Lords describe as a “raucous fifteen-song romp through the ups and downs of human existence” is available for purchase online. 

The Workshops, Vendors, Open Mics, and Spontaneous Jams

For the second day of the festival, over a dozen of ukulele workshops will be conducted by the performing artists together with the following additional instructors; Christine DeLeon, Mark Dutton, and Makalina. There will be classes for all: from beginners to experienced uke players.

To improve the workshop experience of this year’s participants, The Folk Project has improved their system of giving out handouts. All the materials for the workshops are ready for download and you can get them printed for a fee of $10.

As in the previous NJ Uke Fests, there will be vendors selling different ukuleles, tuners, song books, accessories, artworks, and food.

During the festival, a lunch open mic contest will be held. Attendees will be able to put their names in the hat upon registrations. By the end of the first workshop, a list containing 12 randomly chosen names will be posted by the registration desk. The twelve chosen attendees will each play one song during the lunch break, competing for a chance to perform a song at Saturday night’s concert.

Attendees of the NJ Uke Fest 2017 will also have plenty of chances for spontaneous jam sessions because let’s face it, it’s a festival full of ukulele players!

See you there!

It’s amazing how the love for an instrument as small as a ukulele can instigate a gathering of people for good music, celebration, and sheer fun. From ukulele virtuosos to people who just love to hear the mood-elevating sound of a uke to people who simply happen to be curious spectators, this festival will leave people with smiles on their faces once it’s done.

Maybe it’s in its magnitude, maybe it’s in its distinctive sound or maybe it’s just magic; we can’t tell for sure, but the ukulele has something special in it that draws people in. If you want to feel that inexplicable magic, the 2017 New Jersey Ukulele Festival is one event you need be a part of.

Ukulele music for kids


The fourth album by essence was produced in a grassroots way, her first album funded solely on the support of her fans on Kickstarter. ?A Dog Named Moo? is a collection of heartfelt songs as a gift of love for her son Rhys, who has been enjoying these lighthearted, humorous tunes his mom?s been singing to him since he was born.

?I never set out to make a kid?s record,? essence explains. ?It was the furthest thing from my mind but when I had my son Rhys ? I needed to find creative ways to engage him in everyday events like taking baths, getting dressed, or wearing a seat belt. For awhile I was making up little ditties and then one day it dawned on me that these were real songs that other kids would enjoy too. At first I was horrified because I wanted to make rock ?n? roll music, but what I realized is that I am a songwriter who writes about life and becoming a mom has been the most profound experience ? it has changed me forever. I find great satisfaction in capturing the joy I was experiencing with my son in songs. Then everything became a song!?

essence proved that making a popular album does not require a record label or a huge outlay of her own money. Through Kickstarter she reached out to her community asking if they would help fund her project. With the support of her friends and fans she was able to raise twenty thousand dollars allowing this project to be realized. Most songs were co-written by Jeffrey Pease with illustrations by Alex Conn. The banjo, ukulele, guitars, upright bass and drums were played by instrumental extraordinaire and producer, Daniel Berkman. essence credits her management consultant Dick Wingate (Bruce Springsteen, Aimee Mann, Elvis Costello) and her ultimate inspiration, her son.

About essence: Billboard Magazine describes essence as ?a singer, who, like Madonna, isn?t afraid to take musical chances.? A sixth generation San Francisco native, her parents were quintessential flower children from Haight-Ashbury, hence her name spelled with a lowercase e. She traveled extensively, lived in Africa and Europe and went to 14 schools before fifth grade. Upon graduating from college, essence signed to a division of MCA Records. In 1998, she won The National Lilith Fair Talent Search (5,000 entries). essence was then signed to RCA records for three years and worked with producer Bill Bottrell (Michael Jackson, Sheryl Crow). With producer Garth May, she completed her critically acclaimed ?Mariposa? record. Subsequently she signed with Or Music (Los Lonely Boys, Matisyahu) out of Manhattan. essence produced ?Feels Like The Future? independently in 2009 which lead to winning the grand prize for the Great American Song Contest (15,000 entries), and second place in the International Song Writing Contest (2010). The title track was prominently featured on ?Access Hollywood,? and several songs played live and recorded on the nationally syndicated ?Art of the Song? (240 NPR affiliated stations).

essence has opened for Jason Mraz, Shawn Colvin, Tom Petty, Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Chrissie Hynde, Steve Miller, Linda Perry and the Indigo Girls. essence?s voice and style has been compared to Jewel, Alanis Morrisette, Tori Amos and Imogen Heap. Her key inspirations are Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell and Willie Nelson. More information about essence can be found at http://www.essencemusic.com