Vernacular Volcano Lanai Music

Homebred — Homespun — Homegrown — Homemade

The word vernacular refers to a way of being, doing, and making that is community and self-reliant, as opposed to formal exchange and/or from vertical distribution — produced and transported from elsewhere. It’s about reciprocity patterns as integral to all aspects of life.

Six Musicians

Tomas Belsky Six Musicians

Obviously, traditional native Hawaiian culture has much to instruct on such ways.

I bring up this word vernacular because it speaks to the activities of people that are not motivated by thoughts of exchange. Vernacular refers to autonomous, non-market related actions through which people satisfy everyday needs — beyond bureaucratic or corporate management. In this vernacular mode, satisfying of our needs in turn shapes these actions in a sort of feedback cycle that likewise elevates our satisfaction. Try that next time you plop down for your Super Big Gulp Slurpee™!

All right, all right.. What I started out to do is to note that yesterday I had the pleasure to once again go kani ka pila with my friend Wes Awana, on Wes and Nancy’s back lanai up in Volcano. We were fortunate to have Kahele Miura join us for our little jam. I say jam — we’ve been couching this in terms of rehearsal for a certain bi-cultural semi-enigmatic alternative-tourism-visionary and a gig he’s throwing our way. Me, I just always enjoy playing tunes with these guys. click here to listen


Seven Hawaiian Songs

Here are seven Hawaiian songs that Wes Awana, Kahele Miura, and myself played up in Volcano the other day. This is actually a rehearsal for a later gig. As such, be forewarned, they ain’t polished into fine art — more like rough-hewn chunks of lava. (And the occasional digital distortion on these recordings is about as smooth as said chunks!) Nevertheless, it is a blast to play with these guys, and the older I get, the more I see that mental flaws are about as essential as dental floss. click here to listen

Two Hawaiians, Two Hoosiers, and Me

These two broads ladies recently graduated from college. Due to the unforeseen delamination of the American dream, their careers are on hold while they open for blog postings: Krishna Emerald, backed up by the legendary Pepper Carroll. Carroll cut her teeth playin’ tenor south of Chi-town. Her face-smashing solo–from the hammock–stretches the boundries of jazzflute ala Monk or Ornette Coleman. Carroll finds the micro-tones and milks them uncompromisingly: listen here


Voggy Volcano Lanai Music

This was recorded amidst some vog on Wes and Nancy’s back lanai up in Volcano. We didn’t prepare much (well, we sort of ran through the tunes..once at least) Nevertheless, it is always a great pleasure to play music with my friend Wes Awana on vocals and baritone ukulele. I’m playing my Dobro resonator guitar. (all files: 128kbps mp3 @3mb each): (Listen to mp3s here)


Independent Community Streaming Audio


The ability for independent thinkers and artists to stream audio on the internet (and to listen of course) is very exciting. Continue reading “Independent Community Streaming Audio”


Hwamei Holiday Mirth

(or hwamei might just be high from eating coffee cherries, or a little of both)

December morning recording of hwamei (Chinese laughing thrush) among the other upper puna ohia forest sounds:

hwameiHwamei (128kbps mp3 @3mb)


Stormy Monday’s Stupendous Ending

Ding dang it anyhow, just can’t help but post this last recording of what is really sort of a triptych for now. The recorder, while faithfully recording our saturday night jam, ran out of memory such that the stupendous ending wasn’t recorded. (..Mark the singer rose up and flew around suspended on secret guidewires..and we had some flashpots..and..let’s see.. oh ya, I got beat up for playing obnoxious shit and not knowing that passing chord.. and er, that was about it.)

Well, that’s how I remember the ending..but I guess we’ll never really know ’cause it wasn’t recorded.

Mp3 file is 3.3mb. So far, it seems like going with a 128kbps mp3 is a minimum to avoid that swirly top end on the tone, so dark-age dial-up folks like me would have a tough time loading it. Fortunately, I can upload the large sound files down in Hilo and postition them when back safely in the jungle.


Learning Ukulele

(recording of a spruce-topped concert ukulele w/low g-string, about 1mb file size)

Playing the ukulele is a great way to relax while learning new ways to use your brain, ears, hands, voice, and heart.

If you are reading this, then perhaps you already have an interest in learning to make music with the ukulele. Congratulations! Through your curiosity you have already begun your study of this interesting instrument. And, if you keep yourself interested in the ukulele, you WILL learn to play it. It’s really that simple. Of course playing the ukulele well requires some other skills. Those skills are what we try and learn for as long as we play the ukulele. You might say that the journey is as important as the destination. Like any other interesting skill, you are always studying and trying to learn new things. Aside from having an interest, the other skills are technical and can be learned if you have some patience.

Brain (The Mind)

Let’s start with that thing in our head called the brain. While you don’t have to be a genius to play the ukulele, your brain probably plays your ukulele more than any other part of your body. Imagination takes place in your brain, and imagination is one of your best tools for learning the ukulele or any other useful skills. If you can imagine yourself doing one of these skills well, the brain has a wonderful way of trying to make that image a reality. Some of this happens when you are sleeping, as dreaming teaches us many things. However, it is important that you take a little time while you are fully awake and imagine yourself playing the ukulele well. Having an idea and imagining how playing the ukulele looks, sounds, and feels, is a very important technique for realizing your imagined future.

Of course the brain does many other amazing things – thinking comes to mind!
In this world, there is plenty of information about the ukulele. Too little information is not a problem for most of us. The internet is a huge source of technical information about playing the ukulele and for actual recordings of beautiful ukulele music. This introduction is a resource kept simple, to get you started on your path of enjoying the ukulele. One of the peaceful and relaxing things about the ukulele is that it is easy to carry and does not need cords or electricity. While it can be exciting to play music through a sound system or to use technology like the Internet, ukulele enjoyment is found in its beautiful simplicity.


Listening well is another key approach to playing good music. First of all, accurately tuning your ukulele’s four open string notes, or pitches, from low to high, G (can be low or high), C, E, A is going to sound out good chords. A chord is like a family of notes, played together. On the ukulele, 3 different notes usually make up a chord. Basically, there are major chords, minor chords, and dominant seventh chords. Other chords can mostly be considered to be some version of these 3 basic chord qualities.

Good tuning of your instrument is a skill that you can continually improve upon. Finding the best notes to compare for a good tuning just takes time. Some, if not most, of these things naturally become known if you just pick up your ukulele and spend some time learning the map of the notes through experimenting and getting used to an ukulele. Electronic tuners are certainly an easy way to get your ukulele in tune. However, becoming familiar through listening and adjusting your uke’s tuning by ear will improve your overall musicality. Remember, whether tuning with a machine or by ear, you should always bring the string’s pitch down and then, gently, upward to the correct pitch. This tuning up into the correct note helps the ukulele better hold its proper pitch. Be sure to pluck the note as you turn the tuning peg.


Of course our hands play a big part in getting sounds from the ukulele. Just getting the instrument into your hands should naturally teach you many things about holding the ukulele. If you let the sounding of notes and chords be your guide for holding the ukulele, you are sure to find out what works best for you. Keeping your left hand fingernails short will help you in clearly fretting the instrument. (If you are left-handed and just starting to play the uke’, you should learn to play right-handed like others do. If you really feel better playing left-handed, learn to play a standard ukulele upside down; not standing on your head but sort of like how Jimi Hendrix did. ((caution: lighter fluid and ukuleles DON’T MIX!)) Seriously though, being able to pick up others’ ukuleles and play is better than being the oddball who has to play a special design ukulele. The experience of experimenting with different ways of making music with the ukulele is your best teacher. Your relationship to the ukulele is a personal one that only you can come to know closely.


If you sometimes try to match the note of your ukulele with your voice, you will bring the note relationship into your body and that can help your musicality. To sing some of the notes can lead you naturally to being able to sing in a very musical way. Your voice is the most interesting instrument you will ever use. Singing harmony melodies is an incredible experience that we can share while developing our voices.


Your heart and your guts are what are behind your expression, musical and otherwise.

(recording is of variations on Am-G7-F-E7, about 1 mb in size)

Drop a line if you have any questions or comments. You are also welcome to email an mp3 file of your playing:

darren @ islandnotes .org (disregard the spaces)