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Hawaii has lots of talented ukulele players. Only one strummed the instrument to a B.A.

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 4:51 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 13, 2021 at 8:21 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There’s something distinctly different about Mika Kane’s ukulele artistry. In his hands the four-stringed instrument takes on a different vibe.

“I like to think my style is very niche. I do things in a classical approach. I have some jazz harmonies,” he said.

Kane’s come a long way from his teen years on the Valley Isle, when he got his first taste of the ukulele.

“I went to Kamehameha Schools Maui, and a bunch of my friends were playing ukulele on the bus ride up to school, and I was always intrigued,” he said.

That intrigue sparked a self-taught journey that eventually led him to the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s music program, where he adapted the ukulele to jazz and classical arrangements.

The turning point came when a State Foundation grant enabled him to study with retired UH instructor Byron Yasui.

“The music I wrote for him to play, a lot demanded right-hand classical guitar technique on the ukulele, which is unheard of,” Yasui said.

“He is the sole reason, I like to think, that I am where I’m at,” Kane said.

In 2018, Kane’s ukulele recital was the first-ever performed in UH’s Orvis Auditorium. He is the first ― and still the only ― UH music major to earn a bachelor’s Degree with the ukulele as his instrument.

“I was the one setting the example,” he said. ”If I failed, then maybe no one else could do it because I convinced them to give me that one big shot.”

He hopes other ukulele players follow in his footsteps, especially if they are inspired to teach.

“I learned everything I did within the music program, put it to the instrument and I’m still doing that today,” he said.

Kane now performs professionally and teaches ukulele at Windward Community College and at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility.

His fascination with the ukulele is just as fresh as when he first picked it up and started strumming.

“It’s easy to pick up and play, but if you want to go the distance with it, it’s really challenging.”

Follow his ukulele journey on his website.

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