Last summer when we went home to the Philippines, a family gave us ukulele made from Cebu. Not just one, but two. They said one for each of my kids. Though they said I can borrow it too if I want to.
It is a known fact that Cebu is the center of guitar manufacturing in the Philippines, boasting that among the best guitars not just nationally, but international as well, were made there. Cebu is known to be one of the finest crafters of ukulele too. Definitely we got two beautiful and good-sounding ukuleles.
I don’t know how to play the ukulele, but I believe it is simple enough to learn. I have played another 4-stringed instrument in the past, the violin, and I think ukulele is much easier to play than that. Or so I thought.
One of my favorite song that is played with the ukulele is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by the late Hawaiian singer Iz Kamakawiwo’ole. I just love his version of that song with the certain “island-feel,” the care-free strumming, and his dreamy rendition.
No wonder that is the first song I wanted to learn in the ukulele, in that distinct style. So after we got back from the Philippines last year, I searched on YouTube and watched some tutorials to learn it.
First thing to learn is the kind of strumming on this specific song. It is called “island strumming.” But for the life of me, I can’t get it. I guess I am not coordinated enough. My left hand can do the chords with not much hitch, but my right hand just cannot keep up with the right rhythm of the strumming.
Easy to learn huh? So I gave up.
I did not touch the ukulele again for several months until a few weeks ago. My daughter’s music teacher said that it will be nice to have a number that will be different and special if in my daughter’s recital, I play the ukulele while she plays the cello. What song? “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” of course!
I took on the challenge. Besides my son will also play with us, playing the other ukulele. So he can carry me if in case I mess up, right?
So I practiced, and practiced some more. Soon I had my right hand perfecting the “island” strumming. I can transition between chords with ease. I can do it with my eyes closed. I can even do it in my sleep. Maybe not.
The day of the performance came.
As I was strumming on the ukulele, I tried to imagine that we were in a beautiful tropical island, under the swaying palm trees, with the warm breeze blowing, the waves softly lapping on the beach, and we’re lost in a care-free world somewhere over the rainbow.
Off course I got lost in my chords too, but my daughter and son played beautifully that nobody even noticed my slips.
(*photo taken by our friend)