Clarissa Rizal: Alaska Native Artist Blog

Accentuating Tlingit Traditions

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The Addition of a Dear Friend: The Ukelele

January 8th, 2013 by Clarissa

After my mother and brother passed away in 2011 (along with other major “losses” in my life between 2009 and 2011), I felt I needed a “happy fix” or mend or healing; something that would help me let go of the trauma and drama.   For a long time, I felt a ukelele was coming to me, lingering around the eaves…then one fine Fall day in 2011, I bought myself the ukelele…and except for a 6 month period last year, I’ve been learning all kinds of songs and strums…it is truly the instrument of happiness and peace! – If everyone played the ukelele, there would be world peace!

At the beginning of 2012, I made a goal to learn one new song per week on the uke; i was going good until the first week of May (when the Ex presented another curve ball in my life).  Since May, I hadn’t played much less learn a new song every week – not until Christmas Day 2012; I spent the day playing.  My granddaughter was looking through these two song books (below) and I had forgotten we had these two gems for many years on the kids’ bookshelves.  Such a delight to find “Ghost Riders In the Sky”, “Tingo-Lay-O” and “This Little Light of Mine” (amongst other old timey favorites like “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”).  I play some of these songs with a combination of Native American chant, spaghetti western and Hispanic rhythm – if you can imagine that.

I learned three Christmas tunes including my all-time favorite “The Christmas Song” (starts out with “chestunuts roasting on an open fire…”) and I learned all of the above tunes as well.  I also learned the traditional Andean tune “El Condor Paza” made famous by Simon and Garfunkle.  I almost made up for lost time last year learning about 10 songs the past three weeks to the already 25 songs I know (4 of them Bob Dylan tunes).

For those of you who are interested in playing the ukelele, buy the next size up from the standard size uke, the “concert” size, from the Hawaiian Music Company.  Buy one with a plug-in so you can have the option of using an amp.  The uke is fairly easy to play.  To learn a few traditional and pop songs, plug into youtube and search for Ukelele Mike’s ukelele lessons.  He’s pretty simple, clear and ….well, different.

I appreciate the addition of this dear friend in my life.  Once I master this little guy, maybe in the next year or two, I am going to get myself the cello!

 

We’ve had these two kid’s song books in our family for over 25 years. They came with cassette tapes but those are long gone with all the moves we’ve made in that time period. Once you learn your chords, take up these books; they are packed with old-timey, simple songs that even your grandchildren will love to boogie!

I have no intentions of getting pulled off track this year if I can help it any.  I intend to learn one new song a week during this year.  Thank goodness I still have my aging wits about me that I can even REMEMBER the words to the songs!  heehee!

Playing ukelele during late Spring in the Colorado mountains at 10,000 feet amongst a grove of evergreens, aspens and wildflower meadow – the great thing about the ukelele is that it can go with you just about anywhere; it is lightweight and portable and when you put it in the overhead of the plane, people think you’re a violin maestro instead!

My friend Shar Fox just emailed me the group of folks playing ukelele, the Juneau JamBusters in Juneau, Alaska — check them out on their website at:  http://www.juneaujambusters.com/

I know where I’ll be when I return to Juneau!

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