Today we are joined by the jawaiian (pop-reggae from Hawaii) group The Opihi Pickers. Originally formed by Imua Garza, Hoku Garza, Kahale Morales, and Kevin Okimoto, The Opihi Pickers paved their way in Hawai’i with their catchy melodies, infectious rhythms, and virtuosic ‘ukulele playing. Though the group disbanded during the summer of 2008, they finished with a 10 year career and 7 album releases.
More specifically, today we are going to focus on the lead ‘ukulele player of the group Imua Garza with a medley of two of their biggest hits titled Old Fashioned Touch and Victim. The group starts the medley with some reggae hits and vamping over chords as Okimoto introduces the band. Imua plays the hits with the group, lightly embellishes with some lead (0:10), and plays a hard roll on a Esus4 chord (0:16) with a few more hits before launching into the main rhythm of Old Fashioned Touch. The ‘ukulele holds down the infamous “chuck/chuck-up” on the 2 and 4, almost disappearing among the different timbres of the other instruments and the strong melody line (0:51). The ‘ukulele only reappears for light chordal fills (1:28). After the refrain Imua takes an ‘ukulele solo with a grand opening of triplets traveling up the neck played alongside the bass player Morales (1:34). A mixture of pull-offs (1:44) and sweeps (1:46) help decorate the solo before he does a walk down (1:48) serving much like a punctuation mark. He then wraps up the solo with an impressive 16th note pull off run on 1st string (1:56). During his solo the camera man zooms in on his ‘ukulele so you can get a great view of both his hands. A sign of a strong ‘ukulele player is a practiced right hand, so watch Imua’s hand as he switches between techniques to get his specific desired tone. Watch as he mostly uses the pads of his fingers pulling up on the strings.
Fast forward to the second song (3:23), Victim starts off with a light ‘ukulele interlude. With Okimoto taking the lead vocals on this piece it lets Imua focus on his ‘ukulele playing as he begins to play more fills that are more complex and more frequent (3:42, 3:56, 4:00, etc). You can also hear that he has a light delay on his ‘ukulele as he finishes one of fills with a hefty bend (4:06). Imua also does a great job of seamlessly switching between his fills and holding down the rhythm (5:22, 5:36, etc) without missing a beat. The group then goes into a latin inspired instrumental break in the form of a ferocious ‘ukulele solo (5:44). He puts a light tremelo right before the break to tease the ears. He runs up the fret board on the 1st string, muting the other strings so he can just strum (5:53). He slides back down the fret board with pull-offs and slides back up to continue his pull offs back down the fretboard again (5:56). He stops half way down the neck to begin arpeggiating the chord changes before finishing everything with another hefty bend (5:59). As the bend decays (6:08) the rest of the group snaps back into the reggae rhythm and takes one more chorus. They take the song out with Imua soloing as he melodically uses the riff from the start of the song as a jumping off point (6:29 & 6:53). Speaking of melody, he uses octaves to tag the melody from the chorus in a series of hits to finish the song (6:53).
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.