The ‘Ukulele is the best-known
Hawaiian instrument. In the 1950’s and 60’s all the
bands had ‘ukulele players. Some of the great musicians
that made the instrument very popular were: Eddie Kamae,
Ohta-san, Lyle Ritz, Don Baduria, Sr., John Lukela,
Jesse Kalima, Kahauanu Lake, and Peter Moon.
Today there is a renaissance of
sorts, thanks to the popularity of the new generation of
‘ukulele players influencing the young people of Hawai‘i
to pick up and learn to play; Troy Fernandez, Kelly-boy
Delima, and Jake Shimabukuro. Herb Ohta, Jr. is
just one breed of ‘ukulele players.
Herb’s interest in music was very
evident at an early age. Herb’s grandmother taught him
his first song on the ‘ukulele at the age of three. The
song was “Happy Birthday.” His father, Ohta-San started
his early instruction on the ‘ukulele and Herb continued
to study music playing the viola in high school. Herb
was also a member of The Honolulu Boys Choir, The
Honolulu Children’s Opera Chorus, and The University
High School Select Choir.
Herb continued to take formal lessons
from his father until he was 12 years old, because he
started to have other interest. After being inspired by
listening to the Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau and other local
musicians at the age of 17, he became a devotee of
Hawaiian music and the ‘ukulele. The ‘ukulele is in his
genes and Hawaiian music is in his blood. Herb enjoys
listening to all types of music, Classical, Jazz, Pop,
Rock, Country, Hip-hop, Rap, Latin, Salsa, and Reggae.
But Herb’s favorite songs to perform are anything
Hawaiian and any types of ballads. He feels that
Hawaiian songs and ballads bring out the natural purist
sound of the instrument. Herb’s style is reminiscent of
his father, but distinct and recognizable as his very
own. There is a graceful “Nahenahe” quality that is very
Hawaiian, reflecting the inspirations of ‘ukulele
virtuoso’s Eddie Kamae and of course Ohta-San.
Bryan Tolentino is a
self-taught ‘ukulele player who began playing the
instrument at the tender age of 10. His early influences
were the musical groups The Sons of Hawaii and The
Sunday Manoa. After graduating from Saint Louis School
in 1979, Bryan and some friends formed a musical group
called The Side Order Band. Bryan's repertoire is a
mixture of Hawaiian, contemporary, and original songs,
blending creativity and diversity with the ‘ukulele.