Founded in Sydney, Australia in 2011, KAMUKE is a high-quality, hard-copy magazine produced by ukulele players for ukulele players. An entertaining mix of features, interviews, reviews, playing tips and historical articles, it’s the only publication of its kind in the world, and it fits inside a ukulele case
Danielle Ate The Sandwich (aka Danielle Anderson) is a fantastic singer-songwriter from Colorado, USA. Her often hilarious, always poignant YouTube videos have garnered tens of thousands of fans (aka Fanwiches) all around the world. This is her ukulele story…
What was your first contact with the uke?
I rarely thought of the ukulele until I was at the home of my friend Brandon. I noodled around with his uke and loved it so much, I asked if I could take it home for a few days. I kept it for too long and he bought me one so he could have his back. After that, it’s a runaway love story! I never expected the ukulele to take over my songwriting or shape my career in the way it has. It’s been an amazing tool and an amazing way to meet new people and get out in the world and enjoy music!
How do you approach songwriting?
I don’t have a rigid or formal approach. I try to be open to however a song might come to me. I usually start with an idea or subject, or something that’s been on my mind. Then I noodle around on the ukulele, trying to find a good set of chords, then I play them over and over until words and melodies start to fall out of me. In my process, starting a song is more of an exercise in letting go. Trying anything, singing whatever comes to mind, some of it sensible, most of it gibberish, until there’s some form or outline. Finishing a song, then, is taking those loose ideas and whittling them down to make more sense, be more poetic, fit better in the line and stand nicely as the expression I intended.
Making good YouTube videos is a lot harder than it looks. What’s your top tip for anyone who’s just starting out?
I strive to make videos that are engaging and sincere, so I believe strongly in delivering a passionate performance. If you’re able to lose yourself in what you’re doing, as if you were on stage in front of actual people, you’ll give off a level of comfort, ease and intimacy that the audience will hopefully be drawn to. It’s just you and a camera in a room, but it’s good to give it all you’ve got!
And technically speaking?
Technically, I think it’s important to record a little audio and video, then listen back to make sure you’re a good distance from the camera or microphone to avoid clipping or distorted audio. It’s also good to make sure your camera is focused and centred and is set on something steady, with a light source of some kind pointed at your face. It’s easy to get caught up in the fancy lights and cameras, but truthfully, some of the most charming videos I’ve seen are very low-fi! At the end of the day, it comes down to whatever moment is captured and how people respond to it.
You play Mya-Moe ukuleles. What do you like about their instruments?
I think their ukuleles are gorgeous. They sound amazing acoustic and plugged in to a sound system, which is important for me since I’m performing a lot. They hold their tuning, they’re expressive, they’re well built. And aside from the instruments, I really like the team at Mya-Moe. Gordon [Mayer], Char [Mayer] and Aaron [Keim] are good people. I trust them and I enjoy their company – they’ve cooked me dinner! It’s nice to feel close to the instruments and the people who are building them.
What did you do before you became a uke star?
I was a seamstress at an alteration shop. I went to school for apparel design and production and wanted to own a store where I sold the things I made. The alteration shop job was the first ‘real job’ I got after graduating and was the one I decided to quit to pursue music.
You tour a lot. What’s the most important item you’ve forgotten to pack?
I’ve packed my car so many times, I know the way it needs to fit together. One time, something just wasn’t right, but I couldn’t figure out why. About six hours down the road, I realised I forgot to pack my sound system! Inevitably, I freaked out and assumed the tour was ruined, but it all worked out okay. I’ve tried to stop worrying. Most anything I need can be bought or borrowed. Pyjamas, deodorant and my phone charger are the things I always make a point to remember. I always have a hard time packing, even though I do it so often. I should be really good at it!
Have you got a message for your Aussie Fanwiches?
HELLO! And thank you for being my fans from so far away! I’ve always had some really strong YouTube friends in Australia, so there’s a very soft spot in my heart for you. I would love to come and play in Australia some day, but until then I’m so honoured to be in KAMUKE!
Finally, why did you choose the stage name ‘Danielle Ate The Sandwich’? We need to know!
I chose the name because I thought it sounded fun and interesting. I didn’t want to be another singer-songwriter with a boring first and last name. I like my first name and I like sandwiches – how they look and taste and come in different shapes and sizes – so I thought it made perfect sense. I’ve got so used to it, sometimes I forget how strange it is! I pulled it right out of my head!
City: New York (but I also like my city, Fort Collins, Colorado!)
I was recently contacted by a reader named David Markham, who sent me this lovely story about how the uke has helped him. If you have a similar tale to share, please feel free to email me at email@example.com
Placing yourself in a positive frame of mind is a very important thing, and playing your ukulele can help you do this – I know!
Playing my ukulele is helping me get through the chemotherapy I’ve been undergoing to get over a low grade of leukaemia (chronic lymphatic leukaemia).
I started getting sick in 2016, but it was not apparent something was really wrong until the beginning of 2017. It was a really stressful and depressing time, to say the least. Having tests done and then waiting for the results… I thank God I had my ukulele to keep my spirits up!
Sometimes I would wake in the middle of the night, full of apprehension and dread about what was going on, and I would say, over and over, “I am healthy, I am healthy, I am healthy!” This was to prevent me from succumbing to despair and becoming totally despondent.
When I would finally get up in the morning, the first thing I would do (and still do) is play my ukulele.
It’s like a machine that can put you in a better mood fast! And in this better frame of mind, it’s easier and more effective to think positive thoughts that will help you to get better.
I like to strum and sing for a while before I check phone messages, building myself up before having to deal with a dreadful message from the doctor or, even worse, the insurance people!
Sometimes I take it to chemo and play it in the parking lot before I go in. It’s not about being a virtuoso, it’s about you creating joy within yourself, building up your spirit, and you know that’s good for you!
Occasionally I would be so tired, I couldn’t do much strumming or singing – watching ukulele videos on YouTube helped me. The Jive Aces, Taimane Gardner and Howlin’ Hobbit are personal favourites.
As of December 14, 2017, I am in remission. The doctor said the latest blood tests were completely normal, “as if nothing ever happened”! Yay! And I know the ukulele was instrumental (pun intended) in getting me through this ugly ordeal.
So, my friends, grab your ukulele and play the heck out of it and you will make your life better – and it will spread throughout the world!
ESTABLISHED in 1916 in what was then the Territory of Hawaii, Kamaka is the oldest manufacturer of ukuleles in the world and the name is still synonymous with quality. KAMUKE chats to production manager and third-generation luthier Chris Kamaka.
What makes a Kamaka ukulele so special?
Here at Kamaka, we really take pride in our work. We are fast approaching 100 years and I feel special just to be a part of it. Experience helps with anything and we all learn from our mistakes along the road of life. Through the years, there have been ups and downs, but it’s how you handle your journey that makes the difference.
As a Kamaka, was being involved in the family business your only career option?
No, I almost joined the US Air Force with aspirations to be a pilot. Now my two younger brothers are captains with Hawaiian Airlines and my son Dustin is a pilot flying with Trans Air, a cargo outfit here. I majored in business and art design with the intention to join the family business.
What does your role as production manager entail?
I oversee the production models, primarily to manage the orders and make sure everything is flowing properly. I also look over and check each instrument before we send them out.
There are more and more uke builders arriving on the scene all the time. How has Kamaka responded to that challenge?
The ukulele has grown and the popularity is tremendous. Many builders today look to us to set the standard because we have expectations and we hold our craftsmanship at a high level. We try to continue to set the bar high and maintain a level of excellence which others look up to. I am glad there are more builders and welcome them. I don’t see others as a challenge to what we do.
Why do you think we’re seeing such a worldwide resurgence of the ukulele now?
The ukulele has always been a fun instrument. Technology (especially things like YouTube) has helped introduce the ukulele worldwide. There have been many promoters of the ukulele through the years, most recently Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and Jake Shimabukuro.
How did the famous and often copied Pineapple Ukulele come into being?
My grandfather Samuel Kamaka Sr invented the pineapple and actually had it copyrighted until a few years ago. He started building pineapple ukuleles in his garage in Kaimuki, experimenting with the sound.
What’s your bestselling model?
It’s pretty close, but I would say the HF-3, our four-string tenor model.
Tell us about Kamaka’s proud history of employing disabled people.
My dad hired many hearing-impaired workers and they turned out to be some of our best workers. My mom was an occupational therapist and introduced many of these workers back in the day. Their sense of touch was so sensitive that when my dad trained them, they could tell just by tapping on the top of the instrument whether it was correct or not.
What can a visitor expect from the Kamaka factory tour?
If you have uncle Fred as your tour guide, you will have one thorough tour, and I’m sure you will enjoy it tremendously.
Check out the full Kamaka range and find your nearest stockist at kamakahawaii.com
This article first appeared in Issue 7 of KAMUKE, which is available in the Store
KNOWN internationally as the ‘King of the Ukulele’, Ralph Shaw was one of the first performers to catch the Third Wave of Uke in the 1990s and he continues to tour and teach. KAMUKE stands on a chair to have a chat with the tall and talented Englishman/Canadian.
You started playing in 1990. How did people react to the uke back then?
With great amusement. No-one around me was playing ukulele and the novelty value was powerful. Kids loved it, as did older people whose only previous exposure to the instrument was either Tiny Tim or George Formby. Simply taking the uke out of its case was enough to spark expectant laughter.
Before you became the ‘King of the Ukulele’, you were a clown and children’s entertainer. What did you learn from that experience?
What didn’t I learn! In my mid-20s, I was wondering what to do with my life when I discovered the book The Independent Entertainer: How To Be A Successful Clown, Juggler, Mime, Magician, Or Puppeteer by Happy Jack Feder. It was a lightbulb moment for me as I realised the possibility of living an independent life, free from the shackles of grinding employment. (I later learnt that cash-free free time can be as bad as working full-time, so now I try to avoid both situations.) I’ve often thought that becoming a clown for a couple of years should be a compulsory part of everyone’s life – a form of national service. I learnt a lot about myself and how to entertain mixed audiences in every situation. Children are tough and honest critics. If they don’t like you, they tell you to your face.
You released The Complete Ukulele Course in 2003 and it’s still very popular. What sets it apart from other instructional videos?
Well, the title for one thing, which pays homage to the 1653 book The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton – the first how-to book ever written. With regards to my DVD, I’m actually still very proud of that bit of work; it’s something of a low-tech masterpiece. In the video, I take the viewer from the basics of getting started, tuning and simple strums through to trickier techniques such as Formby’s split stroke and melody chording.
What’s remarkable is that it’s all done in one long camera shot without any editing. I don’t know if I could do it again. In those days, the VHS tapes were 60 minutes long and that limited the program length. My performance was 59 minutes and I think Mike, my producer, almost collapsed with anxiety while shooting those last few minutes. Since then, we’ve added bonus features to the DVD, including tips on performing. Obviously, it’s not “complete” in the sense that it shows everything you can possibly do on a ukulele, but when released it was the only video that took people beyond basic strumming and opened their eyes to many other techniques.
Your latest project is a book called The Ukulele Entertainer: Powerful Pointers For Players And Performers. What’s the one thing you hope people will take from it?
That’s a very hard question to answer. It’s a multifaceted book (now also an eBook) designed to get people thinking differently about their performance and playing skills, as well as hopefully being an enjoyable read. I trust people will glean whatever they need. My main hope is that it will inspire players of all stripes to find ways to lift their interest into new and exciting areas. If it does for others what Happy Jack Feder’s book did for me, I’ll be very pleased.
You’ve toured all over the world, including Australia. What are some of your favourite memories from life on the road?
My favourite memories come from the people I meet along the way. I’m not a big-budget act, so I rarely stay in fancy hotels. It’s always a delight to get to know the folks who volunteer to bring me into their homes. We get to know each other pretty well and I’m amazed by the interests, talents and depths of personality I discover. Australians, like John Chandler and numerous others, went out of their way to help me experience their country and I feel honoured to have been in that position.
You live in Vancouver [now England – ED] . What’s the ukulele scene like there?
I’ve been running the Vancouver Ukulele Circle since September 2000 and I’ve watched ukulele fever grow slowly for 10 years and suddenly flourish in the past two. For a long time, I was the only ukulele act in a metropolitan area of about three million. But now other classes have started and people are doing their own thing, and that’s how it should be.
Which musicians inspire you?
I have a hard time getting interested in many newer artists, partly because they tend to sound like the older artists, whose music has also worn thin. As a result, I’m no longer the music fan I was. However, I still get terrifically inspired when I take in an act that is both skilled and original, like some I saw at The Melbourne Ukulele Festival this year. Three favourites for me were The Nukes – a New Zealand trio who put out great songs, a comedic character called Tyrone whose lyrical act is a heartwarming series of musical vignettes, and Liz Wood from the USA, who has a disarming way of performing her songs, seemingly without ego or showmanship.
You have a degree in applied physics. Has it helped you in your uke playing at all?
Finally, where would you be without the ukulele?
Ah, that’s easy – I have no idea.
Animal: Birds, such as the barn swallow, penguin and cassowary
Food: A really good curry
City: No, thanks, I prefer the country
This article first appeared in Issue 4 of KAMUKE, which is available in the Store