My Damnable Lack of Imagination

When I was a kid, I spent many summers with family in Hawaii.  [Don’t worry, I’m not about to complain about it.]  My grandparents were pretty invested in making sure that I, half Korean kid raised on the mainland, got a sense of the varied cultures that made up the landscape of Hawaii, and local music (and food, let’s not forget the food!!) made up a big part of that.  My grandfather was a bit of a whiz on the ukelele, and would occasionally bring it out and give me a taste of traditional Hawaiian songs.  Thanks to the beauty of YouTube, I can give you an example:

Not bad, right?  Mellifluous, lovely…but a bit staid for my young self (who was, as previously noted, busy grooving to The Thompson Twins and the like).  Despite the encouragement of both my grandparents and my mother, I never felt inclined to pick up the ukelele.  Four strings?  No bass?  It’s a bit tinny and too high to rock, right?

And thus we get the title of my post—my damnable lack of imagination.  Because I was busy trolling the archives over at Angry Asian Man today (all things Asian American pop culture and a Bruce Lee  fan to boot!), and he’s got a link up to a Jake Shimabukuro performance on Conan O’Brien, in which he plays George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”  Reposted here, for your viewing pleasure:

Holy moly!  Why, why did no one ever tell me that the tiny but powerful ukelele could do that, in the right hands?  Here I thought if I took it up I’d have to be standing on a stage somewhere wearing a grass skirt and a lei.  But no!  I could have been ripping it up with Beatles tunes!  Or, like this kid, classics from the Cars, or even, dare I say it, like Will Smith (who knew?!)!  That will teach me to ignore family knowledge.

All hail the mighty ukelele.  Don’t let its size fool you like it fooled me.

5 thoughts on “My Damnable Lack of Imagination

  1. Apparently Harrison was a real ukelele fan as well. After he died, I saw McCartney play “Something” beautifully on the uke in a tribute concert. McCartney said that whenever he had dinner at George’s house, after food, they’d break out the ukeleles and play. A fly on the wall moment there.

  2. Dave—say what? ! That’s all I need: a vision of half of the Beatles and a post-dinner, ukelele jam session. I’m now rethinking my whole profession…

    Ms. B—it’s a good thing that I finished grading my last set of exams before I checked out that link. too much good stuff! But where’s the Tiny Tim?

  3. Should I confess? I have a ukulele. On the carry bag is a patch with the Darkhorse logo on it. That would be the eight-headed horse Krishna drove into battle from George Harrison’s record label, not Darkhorse Comics.

    George’s best ukulele song: “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” with Dani and Jools Holland. See it on the ‘tube:

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