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An Ukulele Christmas 2 Biography

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North Shore virtuoso Kalei Gamiao is a Hawaii Music Award winner and multiple Na Hoku Hanohano award nominee whose contemporary style has its roots in his studies under extraordinary Hawaii musicians such as Alfredo Canopin, Benny Chong, and Kimo Hussey.  Kalei’s passion and dedication to his craft brings the ukulele sound into the twenty first century as he thrills audiences and inspires the next generation of ukulele enthusiasts. Kalei performed “Little St Nick” on a Kamaka tenor.

Imua Garza is a master musician whose talents extend beyond the ukulele to the piano, guitar, violin, and electric bass. Imua made his recording debut at the age of 11 as one of Hawaii’s most promising ukulele players and hasn’t stopped to take a breath since. In addition to performing on over a dozen album projects, Imua Garza is an accomplished producer, recording studio engineer and musical arranger. Imua Garza performed ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing” on an Kanile’a Tenor.

Hawaii’s troubadour, songwriter and storyteller, Gordon Freitas, has mastered several instruments including guitar, mandolin, Hawaiian lap steel guitar, harmonica, and ukulele. Gordon’s popular Local Folk performances, featuring many of Hawaii’s most accomplished artists, celebrate the blending of cultures, affectionately known as “local style.”  Gordon performed “Blue Christmas,” on a Pono tenor.

Aldrine Guerrero is the ukulele instructor behind the world’s most popular ukulele website, The Ukulele Underground, which generates over a million hits a month.   Reaching a growing fan base of ukulele enthusiasts to the far corners of the planet means lots and lots of national and international performances for charismatic Aldrine, who wholeheartedly shares his passion for the uke. Aldrine performed “Skating” on a Kanile’a tenor.

Maui’s ukulele virtuoso Derick Sebastian, is known for blending different genres of music such as Latin, Jazz, Clasical, Pop, Reggae and Rock, to create his distinctive “Sounds of Sebastian.” As Maui’s ambassador of aloha, Derick is as comfortable entertaining on his home island as he is performing for international audiences in South Korea, Thailand and Japan. Derick performed “O Come O Come Emmanuel” on a Kanile’a tenor.

Corey Fujimoto has been described as a masterful guitar player who can also rip on the 'uke.  This Na Hoku Hanohano nominee’s passion for the ukulele inspired him to create the tutorials for Hawaii Music Supply on You Tube which kicked off the solid following he has today. Corey performs “Last Christmas” on a custom Ko’olau tenor.  

It didn’t take Rio Saito long to become known as “the young ukulele sensation from Japan.” He’d only been playing for two years when at the age of ten he took first place at Duke’s Ukulele Contest in Waikiki.  An extended stay in Hawaii opened the door for Rio to study under ukulele virtuosos Kalei Gamiao, Bruce Shimabukuro, Herb Ohta Jr, and Alfredo Canopin among others who enthusiastically helped this budding prodigy develop his own unique style while mastering advanced skills. A frequent visitor to the islands, Rio has an open invitation to perform at Waikiki’s Hard Rock Café.  Rio performed “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” on a Kamaka tenor.

Benny Chong is among only a handful of musicians in the world who specialize in jazz ukulele. Known for his widespread left hand fingerings, Benny Chong taught himself to play the 'ukulele when he was a pre-teen, played for about 10 years and then put the instrument away to play guitar for thirty five years. After an illustrious career as a guitarist which included performing with Don Ho as a member of the infamous Ali’is, Benny Chong  returned to the ukulele where his innovative techniques and sophisticated style reached new heights. Bryon Yasui, Professor of Music at the University of Hawaii and a master of ukulele in his own right said it best,  “Thanks to Benny Chong, this humble instrument of folk origin will be taken a little more seriously from now on, and ukulele playing will never be the same.” Benny Chong performed, “Frosty The Snow Man” on a custom Ko olau ukulele.

Jingle all the way from Black Friday to New Year’s with “An Ukulele Christmas 2,”

Carole and Florent Atem, having shared the stage with the likes of A-List entertainers Henry Kapono, Melveen Leed, Jerry Santos and John Cruz, are well known among Hawaii’s audiences.   These Tahitian Music Award winning siblings, masters of island, pop and rock, have also made a name for themselves internationally, performing with rock legends Virgil Donati and Michael Angelo Batio. With Carole on keyboards and Florent on a Te Kaha ukulele this dynamic duo performed “Go Tell it on the Mountain” for An Ukulele Christmas 2.  

One of Hawaii’s busiest entertainers, Rodney Bejer, best known for his contributions as a singer-songwriter and bass player for the popular island music bands Island Rhythms, Ka’ala Boys, and The Kaimana Band, is also an accomplished ukulele player. For An Ukulele Christmas 2 Rodney performed “Silver Bells” on a Kamaka ukulele.

The music of the Ka’u Crater Boys served as the inspiration for Aaron Crowell to learn to play the ukulele while he was in high school. Fast forward and now Aaron is one of Hawaii’s most promising ukulele artists in the islands.  His ukulele lessons were viewed so often on Youtube that he finally took his fans advice and released his “MY UKE 101” DVD.  Aaron performed “Santa’s Hula” on a Weimer ukulele.

Uke School founder and longtime member of Hawaii’s second generation Society of Seven, Jan Luna has performed with many successful Hawaiian groups including Mana'o Company, Na Leo Pilimehana and Sean Na’auao and has contributed his musical talent to over a dozen album projects.  Jan performed “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” on a Kanile’a ukulele.

Chris Salvador is a true representation of the newest generation of ukulele artists bringing attention to Hawaii’s diverse music scene. A former member of the Na Hoku nominated duo Heart & Soul, Chris is known for his lively performances and passion to “just shred.”  Chris performed “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” on a Kanile’a ukulele.

Na Hoku Hanohano award winner Abe Lagrimas Jr is a multi-instrumentalist who has mastered the drums, vibraphone and ukulele.  Formerly a member of Prelude, a popular South Korean jazz band, and a regular performer with Waitiki 7, Don Tiki, Bop Tribal and The North, Abe has entertained audiences throughout the world on all three instruments.  Abe has also authored an instructional curriculum titled, “Ukulele Ensemble, Beginning Ukulele Level 1.” He performed “Deck the Halls” on a Kamaka ukulele.