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Aloha No Ka'ai

When I started playing ukulele, and was looking for compositions, the first real treasure trove was the work of Ernest Ka'ai (1881-1961), one of the first great ukulele players, and as talented a composer and educator as the ukulele has yet seen. I decided that since Ka'ai was such a profound early influence, that I should write a genuine homage to his work.

This etude concerns itself more than any other, with chords, and like Ka'ai's own work, alternates between densely structured diminished chords and more open-voiced sonorities.


I often play this piece with just my thumb. It's slow enough that the added tone of the thumb can give it a nice consistency. On the other hand, there is nothing to stop you playing it in a more classical way, particularly at the string skips in the opening, where you can play the 4th string with your thumb, and the 2nd string with your index finger.

Much of Ka'ai's music is somehow both joyful and reflective, stately and fun. This piece should be played with something of that feeling. Don't rush it. Don't undersell it. Single notes need to compete with full-textured chords. Try to get a nice clean tone with both.