Whilst reviewing the Bluesfest this year, I was afforded the opportunity to take some time out to talk with Vic and Allan from the Brisbane-based band, The Australian Ukulele Show. Having seen them perform the day before, I was really excited to sit down and 'talk shop' with these two very friendly and humble musicians. Vic Kena talked about the beginnings of The Australian Ukulele Show; how the band "appeared out of nowhere". Born from necessity for space whilst on holidays one year, Vic learned a handful of songs on the ukulele, in lieu of his larger guitar, for a covers gig he was doing. He soon realised his new-found love for the uke was something he wanted to pursue, surrounding himself with friends who could play music with him. Having played guitar beforehand, both Allan and Vic mentioned they found similarities between the ukulele and guitar, however, they still felt as if they were learning a whole new instrument.
Even though both appear very confident and competent on stage during a remarkable version of Thunderstruck by ACDC, sitting with these two, they talked of their passion to continue learning and improving. This same version of Thunderstruck saw none other than legendary Jake Shimabukuro accompanying The Australian Ukulele Show up on stage as a guest! When asked how it felt to play with the world's greatest ukulele player, they both lit up, "...it's like having a hero on stage with you", said Vic, noting that the chance to play with Jake Shimabukuro was inspirational, joking how he was their "newest band member".
The choice to have a Hawaiian instrument in such an Australian-themed band was borne from the desire to be different,''left of centre'', as Vic had put it. With the incorporation of didgeridoo, bass and percussion, they try not to stray from the true theme which is, of course, the ever-joyful and upbeat ukulele.
Such a fun atmosphere and ambiance was created by the entire band, it needed nothing more than exactly what it had. Paired with vocals, they really show the crowd the versatility of this instrument, banging out big numbers like John Farnham’s The Voice as well as a medley of quintessential Australian jingles that every little Aussie-battler could sing along to.
Highlights of their festival? Allan and Vic are both in unison with their obvious choice, Jake Shimabakuro. Such a joy to watch your hero, an even bigger joy to see him on stage WITH you. A highlight, not just of the festival, but all-round, one would imagine! Vic was very gracious in mentioning how well the festival itself was organised. All of us agreed that the set up was brilliant, the staff were friendly and took great care of their artists, and of course, the festival food was a real hit.
My final question: Vic and Allan, what advice could you give to an aspiring ukulele player like myself? Here are my simple instructions:
- Stick to simple songs
- Don't get over-technical
- Learn these four chords: C, A minor, F and G7
Stick to the above rules and I was assured many happy years of playing a multitude of songs using these four chords. I was also assured that if I learned said chords and came along to a show, I could be invited on stage to play a song with the band. Game on chaps, and watch out – I might just be the next big cameo for The Australian Ukulele Show...
The Australian Ukelele Show performed as part of the 2017 Byron Bay Bluesfest. Visit The Australian Ukulele Show on Facebook»