Today we are joined by the Grandmaster of the ‘Ukulele, Herb Ohta. More commonly known as Ohta-san, he started playing the ‘ukulele with his mother until he was taken under Eddie Kamae’s wing at the age of 12. Fast forward to the 1960’s where Ohta-san had his number 1 hit Sushi, which projected him on the path of a full time ‘ukulele player. Since then he has toured the world, released records in the double digits, and inspired ‘ukulele players of all walks of life to push the envelope but to play the music that you like.
Today we listen to the title track from Ohta-san’s album, Where is my Love Tonight? Joined by jazz guitar player Nando-Suan, the duo perform this classic Kui Lee tune at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel at the edge of Waikiki. Here we Ohta-san in top form with his iconic tone on his soprano Martin ‘ukulele through a Fender tube amp. Plucking and strumming the melody with ornate chords, he uses light embellishments such as the harp-like upwards stroke with his thumb (2:12). Now you can really see the magic happen as they switch roles. Nando launches into a Wes Montgomery octave style solo while Ohta-san uses an Eddie Kamae percussive style rhythm. Tapping on the top of the ‘ukulele and dragging his nail across the frets like a güiro, Ohta-san keeps the latin feel and creates a lot of room for the guitar to take it’s solo. Topping off the song, Ohta-san lightly brushes the strings with the pad of his index and his thumb to slowly bring the song to a halt.
Admittedly it was quite hard to choose a single song or performance from Ohta-san. We definitely will be going back and checking out more from Ohta-san.
UkePrints is a curated playlist of some essential ukulele tracks that all ukulele player should listen to. These songs have left a legacy for future players and in essence, sound impressions of the ‘ukulele or what I like to call them: UkePrints.