Ukulele Journey - Herb Ohta Jr.

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - September 07, 2007

The 411

Ukulele Journey
Ukulele Journey

When he was just three years old, Herb Ohta Jr. learned to play, Happy Birthday from his grandmother, and it seems the early teachings have paid off — as he releases his seventh solo recording, Ukulele Journey this month.

What Ohta is most proud about with this new recording is the guest musicians featured on the album, including Jon Yamasato, Ledward Kaapana, Nathan Aweau, Noel Okimoto, James Pilgrim, Michael Guerrero, Ken Lykes, Chino Montero, Moon Kauakahi, Daniel Ho and Barry Flanagan.

“What I’m excited about is I get to collaborate with two musicians that I really look up to,” says Ohta. “Barry, I’ve recorded with before, but doing something with Moon and Ledward is very special to me.” When Ohta decided to record the song, Kaleohano on his album, which is written by Moon Kauakahi, he thought it would be respectful and nice to have him be a part of it. The result is a splendid remake with Kauakahi on guitar and vocals.

“I always loved that song (Kaleohano),” says the University High School grad. “I have to say the Makaha Sons of Niihau is one of the reasons why I’m playing music today and I always respected Moon Kauakahi because of him being part of the group.”

The album includes five originals (written by Ohta), six covers and one traditional Hawaiian song, which are collectively described as a musical voyage fueled by his creative expression and musical imagination.

Besides composing, recording and performing, Ohta also spends as lot of his time teaching ukulele classes either at Harry’s Music Store or privately at homes. Ohta’s goal? To share the beauty of Hawaii’s music, its culture and the ukulele to people all over the world.

For more info about Herb Ohta Jr. visit


Herb Ohta Jr
Herb Ohta Jr

What local musician to you most enjoy watching perform live?

They could be Makaha Sons or Hapa, or Ledward Kaapana. There’s so many people that I respect and enjoy watching. I like watching Ledward and Barry Flanagan for their musicianship, but in terms of a local group then to me Makaha Sons are the best.

What is your definition of success?


Who or what do you credit for your musical success?

My father.

What album do you think you’ve listened to the most times in your life?

Probably the Makaha Sons of Niihau’s Ho’oluana CD.

What color best describes your personality?

Blue, but I like orange though for some reason. I have an orange car.

Where is your favorite place to play music?

Whittier College, it’s a great venue. The overall ambiance off the place and the people who come. It’s very special there. Wolf Trap in Virgina is an outdoor venue that’s also great. The Hawaii Theatre is also nice. And there’s so many great places in Japan.

How has music enriched your life?

It’s therapeutic for me. Even though it’s my livelihood and my career, without it I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. It’s not that I don’t know how to do anything else. I just think music needs to be heard and music needs to be shared. I always tell this to people, that without music that life would be boring. Music is a roller coaster ride of emotions — it makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you smile, and that’s healthy for people. People need that. Music just fills ones life with a lot of joy no matter what I think overall.

What advice would you give to musicians that you’ve learned over the years in the business?

Get out. Nah. (laughs) Work hard and be true to yourself. Also, try not to become a person that you’re not and don’t imitate anyone. Just be true to yourself and be yourself because that’s when you become truly valuable and heartfelt.

How much of your time is spent on the road touring?

I’d have to say 60 percent is here and 40 percent is away.

Where is your biggest fan base, aside from Hawaii?

The mainland on the West Coast and Japan. I have a fan club in Japan and I can’t really believe it. I don’t understand.


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