Category Archives: Cultural

Ukuleles – A Case of Cross Cultural Pollination

The ukulele is not originally Hawaiian but is actually an instrument that was introduced to Hawaii in 1879 when Joao Fernandez, a Portuguese immigrant to arrived in Honolulu aboard the Portuguese ship the Ravenscrag. He came with 500 other immigrants from the island of Madeira to work in the Sugar cane fields. Instead of working he spent much of his time playing Portuguese folk songs on a borrowed cavaquinho, a small 4 string guitar shaped instrument made of pine wood. The natives he entertained thought his fingers moved like “jumping fleas”. Although it is open for conjecture, this strange image is a rough translation of the Hawaiian word, “ukulele”. Fernandez soon played his instrument for King David Kalakaua, Queen Emma, and Queen Liliuokalani. King David soon became a practitioner himself and introduced it to other royals. Soon local craftsmen started building and modifying the instrument. The most popular wood used in it’s construction is the Hawaiian koa wood. Island musicians started trying alternate tunings and playing methods. Because of it was so portable, light weight, and had such a pleasing sound, it became the most popular instrument on the island. In Hawaiian bands since Fernandez’s time, the ukulele has often been accompanied by the slack steel guitar, the mandolin, and Hawaiian drums. As it has been used in other styles of music, the uke can be accompanied by just about any musical instrument and sound great

Many people think the ukulele is strictly an Hawaiian or tropical instrument but this is far from the truth. As the ukulele grows in popularity, it is being used in almost every style of music including folk, rock, jazz, and classical. Today there are ukulele fests all over the world that offer concerts and workshops by some of the most talented players in the world. At the uke fest I went to in New York, there was one huge room filled with every style and type of ukulele. Many famous uke vendors and entertainers, like Jumping Jim Beloff, were there to display their wares. If you like unique ukes, you can buy a cigar box uke there or buy the kit to make one yourself. Jumping Jim carries his line of “Flukes” and “Flees”, triangular and oval shaped ukes made of a durable plastic. They were invented by his brother in-law. They sound as good as the wooden uke and the flukes stand up by themselves! The smallest and highest pitched ukuleles are the sopranos, with the strings tuned GCEA, as are the larger tenor and concert ukes. The lower pitched and largest uke is the baritone: it is tuned like the first 4 strings of a guitar: DGBE. If you are a ukulele enthusiast, check out a uke fest or just explore how many ways a ukulele can be used!

Appreciating One’s Culture As Well As Accepting That of Others

Another key element of the Bravo Zulu presentation that I have been writing about is appreciating culture. While the initial focus of the presentation is on the various cultures of the branches of the military, as I listened I constantly thought about the multitude of cultures we each encounter every day: family, rank order in a family, an adoptive or in-law relationship family, co-worker family, church family, social organization networks… The list could extend forever.

While often we gravitate toward cultures that reflect our own truths and beliefs, this is not always possible. Take work for example. While every employee may be headed for the same goal, there are lots of ways to get there, numerous interpretations of products and events, and extensive differences in perspectives and opinions. Roughly gathered backgrounds can work as a strengthening force or as a detrimental one. The strengthening comes from listening to and respecting the ideas of others while feeling that one’s own ideas are accepted as well. Listened to, modified, adjusted, and redesigned, a strong group compromises to attain optimal results.

If, however, the group is so seeped in individualism and a lack of ability to consider and evaluate other potentials, the efforts will most likely be detrimental to progress. An inability to think about and reflect on a variety of possibilities inhibits their exposure and growth. A good leader works to advance approaches that vary but have similar objectives; an inept or insecure leader guides through authoritarian practices and disdain for others input.

Our individual culture reflects our attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and values; our functioning group culture rearranges and combines, divides, multiplies, and introduces other analytical functions to create a best case scenario. Groups that stomp, moan, berate, and accept nothing but its own culture rarely achieve long-lasting success.

And so it is within family dynamics. The family who works as a team to confront and solve issues or problems is far more likely to achieve success than one that falls into the pit of negativity and disgust of others. In my Alzheimer’s Support Group caregivers often fret about serious decisions they face in helping a loved one while being attacked by other family members, often those who live far away, who want to monitor from a distance, offer advice without clear understanding of a situations, or who demand changes when they are unaware of the actual circumstances. While I encourage conversation and interaction with those who care about a love one, I also work to strengthen the stance of my attendee. It is much different to care for someone 24/7 or several times a week than it is to dish out advice during or after a once-a-year fly-by visit.