Backstage with... Kimo Hussey

Updated: 29 Mar 2013

Hawaiian ukulelist Kimo Hussey will be performing his solo concert in Penang. The first of its kind here, the concert is organised by Manuel Ukulele. The charming musician has a bag of smooth string plucking talents up his sleeve, armed with a small ukulele in hand. In this interview, Kimo Hussey talks about his love for the 4-string instrument to Cheng Sim.

How would you describe the ukulele?
The ukulele is a catalyst which helps people to have fun. Around the world, the thing that people seem to like best about ukulele is that they can very easily learn to play it and to have fun. Since the ukulele is very easy to learn to play, people are able to very quickly become involved in the process of making songs and being able to do that is what provides the fun experiences.

Why have you chosen to play the ukulele and when did you first pick up the instrument?
I first learned to play when I was five years old and have continued to enjoy ukulele ever since because it is fun.

How did this solo concert come about and why Penang?
This solo concert came about as a result of my contact with TC Chew and Manuel Ukulele. Being fully retired now, I love to travel around the world doing ukulele workshops and concerts. I enjoy solo concerts because they give the audience opportunity to hear the ukulele in its purest form. This kind of concert is very difficult but that's another reason why I like ukulele because it's also fun. I've never been to Malaysia before, so coming to Penang to help TC Chew and Manuel Ukulele is a real honor for me.

There aren't many ukulele players in the industry. Why is this?
Most ukulele players just want to play for fun and play or sing with their friends. There really are a lot of very good players but not many who make their living doing this. The reason is that it is too difficult to meet economic necessities by relying just on ukulele. Many players who would like to develop as a professional player find they need to have another means of income in order to support themselves. The best way to help these players is to try and develop more venues or concerts that can help support players economically.

What's the toughest song to play on the ukulele?
The one a person wants to know how to play but hasn't learned it yet.

Does playing the ukulele have the same effect on the ladies as with the guitar?
Ukulele has a greater effect on ladies than the guitar. I've met more ladies who play ukulele than guitar and they all enjoy the activity very much.

Kimo Hussey strumming to 'Killing me softly' by Roberta Flack

If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
I love to collaborate with artists who either sing or play other instruments very well. The fun in doing this is to explore different combinations of other instruments with ukulele. I also love to collaborate with other ukulele players especially when we play different kinds of ukulele. Creating different kinds of ukulele sounds is very fun!

What can Penangites look forward to from your upcoming solo concert?
First, I am planning to play a baritone ukulele. Baritones aren't played as much as tenor, concert or soprano ukuleles but they have a wonderfully mellow and pleasing sound, I think Penangites will enjoy. I also plan to play different kinds of songs, so the audience will experience a wide range of styles.

What's the one thing very few people know about Kimo Hussey?
I'm not too sure how to answer this, but I'll tell you something I would like people to know about me: I am very appreciative of the knowledge and experiences ukulele has generated for me. Now that I am fully retired, I want to share as much of those experiences as I can. I am finding that as I continue to do that, I'm also continuing to learn more and more - and so will never run out of things to share. It's a big reason why ukulele is so much fun.

Catch Kimo Hussey in Kimo Hussey (Hawaiian) Ukulele Solo Concert in Penang 2013 happening on Mar 28. For more info, see listing.

Tags: Features