At the risk of showing my bias, I just have to say that I love this ‘ukulele player’s playing. Over the course of his career, Corey Fujimoto has become a master of fusing his musical tastes with his subtle yet distinctive style. I found myself getting lost down the “Youtube rabbit hole,” watching the many different genres and styles of music Fujimoto has at his command. Though the connective thread is his ability to weave himself into the song which leaves you not wanting to just hear Bach’s Presto, the fourth movement of Violin Sonata No. 1 again but to hear Fujimoto play it on the ‘ukulele.
Today we listen to Fujimoto play this elegant rendition of Waika. Originally taken from the ancient chant Hole Waimea and set to music by John Spencer, Waika is a shining example of Hawaiian poetry full as it is full of euphemisms and double entendres or kaona in Hawaiian. Here is a link to the Hawaiian lyrics alongside the English translation. For those who don’t use it already, Huapala.org is a great resource online for Hawaiian lyrics and translations. Included are some footnotes on the song that help put the song in context and shed light on the history and meaning. On that note, take a read of the lyrics and let them sit in the back of your mind as you listen to Fujimoto’s impressionistic interpretation of Waika.
As it probably couldn’t be more picturesque, we see Fujimoto sitting on a rock beneath a banyan tree accompanied by singing birds and a gorgeous Mo’Betta ukulele. Fujimoto does a wonderful job stating the melody while subtly embellishing to add tasteful yet not over the top variations. He lets the movement of the chords and the beautiful sustain from the ‘ukulele decay as the soft hum of the forest slowly ebbs and flows with the song. Fujimoto mostly uses all his fingers on his right hand except his pinky, almost assigning each finger to a respective string. Arpeggiating chords in between the melody give an extra sense of movement, helps reinforce harmonically where we are in the song, and fills in the gaps in with a harp-like tone (0:30, 0:41, etc.). Also in this video, you can get a glimpse of Fujimoto move the placement of his right hand in order to get different textures out of his ‘ukulele (0:50). These subtle variations create a woven tapestry of poetry set to music.
– Neal Chin
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.