Here’s a little photo essay I prepared to tell the story of my junk art for you to explore. It continues to be a great adventure. There are several pieces now on display in the “First Light” gallery at the new Bainbridge Island Museum of Art from now until mid-September; free admission, seven days a week. It’s a short ferry ride from Seattle and the museum features indigenous art. I welcome your comments and look forward to sharing more with you as the story continues to unfold. All the best, Steve
My “go to” uke is a Kala “C-tuned, low G” cutaway baritone that arrived at my doorstep in a box filled with broken ukes sent to me by Kala a few years ago. It was broken into three or four pieces, and all the electronics had been ripped out, leaving gaping holes. It was a mess!
With a little super glue, some minor repair work and a new set of strings, the playability and tone of that instrument surpassed a variety of more expensive instruments at hand, lending credence to the old saw; “It’s the magician, not the wand.”
“Guns for Ukes” and “Ukes Without Borders” grew into slogans from our “Johnny Appleseed” tour as Ukalaliens (2009-2012). Kala Brand Ukulele Co. generously supplied us with most of the artillery (aka ukuleles) necessary to help spread the gospel of the uke; a natural outcrop of the “Ukulele Convergence” we held at Artichoke Music in Portland, Oregon back in 2001. That event inspired us to write the “Ukalaliens Songbook” and to dedicate some time, travel and teaching to the conversion of non-musicians to the joys of making music after we sold the store and hit the road.
Here’s how it all began…
While running my music shop, Artichoke Music in Portland, Oregon (1981-2007), a few encounters instigated what has become my passion for reshaping found materials into unique musical instruments.
I met a retired school teacher from Montana who sold me a very playable and nice sounding guitar and banjo he had made using corrugated cardboard for the bodies and scrap pine lumber for the necks and a little bit of interior bracing.
My “Ukelimbas” are all made from “scrap” ukes that Kala sent me over the past few years; and “found” objects, including street sweeper brush bristles, that I pick up on my long walks in Olympia, Seattle, New York City, Brooklyn, or wherever I happen to be walking. It’s rare that I pass by a piece of hardware that I see in the street without picking it up. (Hey, there’s music hidden in that hand-fashioned junk!)The only “store-bought” material I’ve used in the construction of my Ukelimbas is 5-Minute Epoxy and Super Glue to repair any cracks or loose braces. Some bracing is impossible to access by hand so there is some buzzing and other rogue vibrations that “enhance” the sound of the vibrating metal keys.
“And they shall beat their swords into plowshares … and their guns into ukuleles”
What if we all “lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside” – picked up our ukuleles and played a song together … and what if we re-purposed all our guns into ukuleles? Wouldn’t the world be a better place?
Back in 2009, under the moniker of The Ukalaliens, and with the sole purpose to put ukes in the hands and songs in the mouths of as many people as we could find, my wife and music partner, Kate Power and I hit the road with two dozen Kala Travel Tenor Ukuleles in tow. Our tour route took us around the country across thousands of miles and the response was stupendous! The look of surprise and delight as people played their first chords was worth more than gold – it was a life changer.
Being peace-loving music makers, the Ukalaliens dreamed up a new program we announced to concert audiences; “Guns for Ukes” and “Ukes Without Borders” became slogans to promote peace through music and art. “Trade us your gun and we will give you a ukulele in exchange and teach you to use it …and while we’re at it, let’s turn that gun into a uke.The gun came in. It was an old Mossberg .22 rifle traded to me by Ann, an Eastern Oregon big-game hunter, for a nice Kala tenor uke. Steve filleted the rifle stock and cut the rest into several pieces and rebuilt it into the “Peace Piece”; an electric lap-steel ukulele – to which a scrapped Kala fingerboard was added.
A bit of irony: I grew up in the suburban town of Teaneck, New Jersey, where on a designated Saturday every Spring, all residents would remove “junk” from the attic and basement and put it in big piles by the curbside for pick up. If we got out early enough, my friends and I would go collect treasures from the neighbor’s piles. The first thing I found and brought home was an old Springfield military rifle. Of course, I showed it to my dad, who marched me back to return it to the pile it came from. After that, it was old tube radios and loudspeakers torn out of big wooden consoles … from guns to music!
The words “Recycling” and “Re-Purposing” have become key words in pop culture. What do these words mean? One organization that is doing some monumental work in that vein is LandFillArt.org: An Artist Reclamation Project. The earth has limited resources to draw from. Music, art and new compositions await creation and recreation with discarded materials and a little imagination.
Remember that uke that you ran over on your way to the gig? You didn’t throw it away, did you?
Three of Steve’s playable music sculptures are currently on exhibit at the recently opened Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, a short ferry ride from Seattle in Bainbridge, Washington. The inaugural exhibit runs from mid-June to mid-September 2013; and others will be shown at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, VA in September 2014 in the “Hubcap as Art” exhibit (click for YouTube of Steve wth resonator hubcap guitar).
More information on Steve Einhorn art is available by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.qualityfolk.com.
Steve Einhorn and Kate Power are Quality Folk; Pacific Northwest artists dedicated to promoting peace, community and sustainability through art, music, writing, performance art and collaborative action. The original concept, design and name of the “Ukelimba” ©2011 is the original creation of Steve Einhorn and may not be reproduced without explicit permission. All Rights Reserved. Co-creators of the Ukalaliens, Ukes Without Borders, Kate & Steve have converted countless new ukulele players in the world and are dedicated to spreading goodwill through the arts. Steve & Kate reside in Seattle, Washington. We welcome your comments and thank you for sharing us with your friends.
Publish Date: July 10, 2013
Ukulele+Kalimba = UKELIMBA
Kala is Giving Ukuleles with Broken Necks a New Life!
July 10th, 2013
The new Kala Ukelimba is the creation of musician/artist extraordinaire Steve Einhorn, who while tinkering with some broken Kala Ukes and various items collected on long walks created the first Ukelimba. The result is a resonant and lovely sounding instrument in the Key of C that goes perfectly with the ukulele.
The Ukelimba came to life in a very organic fashion. Einhorn explains, “My “Ukelimbas” are all made from broken ukes that Kala has sent me over the past few years; and found objects, including street sweeper brush bristles, that I pick up on my long walks in Olympia, Seattle, New York City, Brooklyn, or wherever I happen to be walking. The only store-bought material I’ve used in the construction of my Ukelimbas is 5-Minute Epoxy and Super Glue to repair any cracks or loose braces. Some bracing is impossible to access by hand so there is some buzzing and other rogue vibrations that “enhance” the sound of the vibrating metal keys.”
Some of Einhorn’s first Ukelimbas are on display at Kala’s headquarters. “Everyone who sees them, loves them and wants to play them,” stated Mike Upton. “Once people start to play them it is hard to get them back. It is a very addictive percussive instrument that anyone can play. This makes it a great instrument to have during a jam session. It is very easy for anyone to play and no matter what you play on the Ukelimba it sounds great!”
Kala has begun making a limited number of Ukelimbas, which will be the first available to the public. Models will include soprano, Concert and Tenor sizes including versions with pickups and custom
One of a kind pieces. The Ukelimbas are hand-made at Kala’s California industrial workshop, and are available at KalaGear.com.
About Steve Einhorn:
STEVE EINHORN is an artist and a lifetime musician with a deep understanding of the relationship between the story and the song. Hands-on, he has been making music from an early age in the 60’s in New York City to Boston and then to Portland and the Great Northwest since 1978. Einhorn, along with Kate Power, was inspired to create the Ukalaliens method for teaching people to play and sing. Steve & Kate have brought their fun method along with a trunk full of dozens of Kala ukuleles to teach the uninitiated how to enjoy the ukulele. http://www.qualityfolk.com
About Kala Brand Music Co.
KALA BRAND MUSIC is the result of an ever-expanding vision of quality, affordable instruments. With over 150 models currently offered, there is an instrument to fit everyone’s tastes and budget.