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The Strummer's Graceland
By James Hill

Ukulele used to be the best-kept secret in music. Now it’s gone international in a big way: it’s all over the internet, annual ukulele festivals are held on every continent, and the instrument is no stranger to mainstream TV and radio. And yet no matter how far and wide it may roam, the Hawaiian Islands will always be home to the jumping flea. And so Hawaii—the strummer’s Graceland—is our theme in this issue.

Our in-depth interview with Roy Sakuma, Hawaii’s best-known ukulele teacher, takes you inside the world of ukulele education in the 50th state today. Roy, a strong advocate of ukulele in public schools, elaborates on his own journey from performer to teacher and discusses strategies for dealing with some of the challenges we face as music educators.

We also have a feature article on the early history of the ukulele by my good friend John King. John is a remarkable researcher, author, and ukulele player; I’ve yet to meet anyone who can match his thorough grasp of the ukulele’s history or equal his passion for illuminating the finer points of the ukulele’s evolution. As you’ll see, he presents it all in an accessible and entertaining style. John does with “Machetes and Rajoes and Taropatches, Oh, My!” what a good teacher does with a class: he so captivates us with the story that we forget how much we’re learning!

In keeping with our theme, the free transcription in this issue is Hawaii Aloha, the unofficial anthem of the Islands. If you’re planning a trip to the Hawaiian Isles, this is the one song you simply can’t do without. Beyond the melody and rhythms is a golden opportunity to teach your students about Hawaiian language and culture, to connect them to the history of their instrument.

Finally, don’t forget to add your two cents! Our Feature Article, Pedagogy Corner, and Free Arrangement columns include comment forms (scroll all the way down!). Go ahead and post your feedback, questions, and/or suggestions.

Uke on!

James Hill
Editor, Ukulele Yes!

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