The Georgia Straight - - Contents - By Mike Usinger

With A Ukulele Night to Re­mem­ber, Daphne Roubini in­tends to show that mu­sic can truly make the world a bet­ter place, and that just about any­one can do it.

If there’s an over­ar­ch­ing mes­sage in Daphne Roubini’s up­com­ing A Ukulele Night to Re­mem­ber show, it’s that some­times you need to try and make the world a bet­ter place.

So it’s not by ac­ci­dent that the event will fea­ture such de­cid­edly pos­i­tive stan­dards as John Lennon’s “Imag­ine”, Aretha Franklin’s “Re­spect”, and Bob Dy­lan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”. Even though a week will have passed since Re­mem­brance Day when 50 ukulele play­ers take the stage in East Van, the spirit of the show is very much in keep­ing with the day of re­flec­tion that is Novem­ber 11.

“It’s go­ing to be an evening of re­mem­brance, peace, and har­mony,” the Van­cou­ver-based Roubini says in a phone in­ter­view with the Straight. “It’s rec­og­niz­ing that we need some­thing uplift­ing at this point in time. There are so many wars still hap­pen­ing around the world, so we’d like to fo­cus on peace.”

There are two A Ukulele Night to Re­mem­ber shows, each di­vided into two sets, the first fea­tur­ing Roubini and Andy Smith per­form­ing as the old-timey ukulele act Ruby & Smith, ac­com­pa­nied by Patrick Met­zger on up­right bass.

“It’s set up to be an evening of ex­plo­ration,” Roubini says. “Ruby & Smith will be ex­plor­ing, with some orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions, what the ukulele can do in terms of jazz and folk.”

The sec­ond por­tion of each show will spot­light a sprawl­ing orches­tra made up of stu­dents Roubini teaches in her Ruby’s Ukes classes that run across the Lower Main­land. Con­duct­ing the group will be Van­cou­ver’s Tim Tweedale, who also helped ar­range the songs—in­clud­ing Led Zep­pelin’s fa­bled “Stair­way to Heaven”, the Wailin’ Jen­nys’ “One Voice”, and the Bea­tles’ “Eleanor Rigby”.

“The orches­tra will be ex­plor­ing what an en­sem­ble of play­ers can achieve with the ukulele,” she says. “It’s a 50-piece orches­tra, and many of them started from scratch, not play­ing any­thing. They’ll be play­ing four parts for a re­ally epic ver­sion of ‘Stair­way to Heaven’ that they’ve been work­ing on. It’s fun, but they are also very, very com­mit­ted. They are stu­dents, but for an am­a­teur orches­tra they are do­ing bril­liantly well.”

Roubini’s ukulele school is also do­ing bril­liantly well; what be­gan as a grass­roots op­er­a­tion is now ar­guably the big­gest out­side of Hawaii. Classes run in three ses­sions (Jan­uary, April, and Septem­ber) tak­ing place in three dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions: the Sey­mour Build­ing, the Post at 750 on Hamil­ton Street, and Pre­sen­ta­tion House in North Van­cou­ver. Each ses­sion spans 10 weeks, with Roubini and oth­ers teach­ing an av­er­age of 35 stu­dents in each of the 12 sep­a­rate classes.

For those for whom the ukulele isn’t ex­otic enough, she also runs a Span­ish-im­mer­sion ukulele class where stu­dents learn and speak en es­pañol, as well as a weekly ses­sion for those who’ve signed on for the orches­tra.

The de­mand for her classes, Roubini says, sug­gests that the days of the an­cient four-stringed in­stru­ment be­ing a Tiny Tim nov­elty are over. In­deed, artists like Amanda Palmer and Ed­die Ved­der have picked up the ukulele as a go-to song­writ­ing tool, with porta­bil­ity be­ing a ma­jor sell­ing point. Mu­si­cal icons rang­ing from Pete Town­shend to Tay­lor Swift have been known to bust out the ukulele on-stage and in the stu­dio, and mega-celebri­ties from Dwayne “The Rock” John­son to Ryan Gosling are on record as de­voted dis­ci­ples.

“I feel like the ukulele is com­ing into its own now,” Roubini notes. “Peo­ple don’t laugh at me any­more when I say that I’ve got a ukulele school. Now they go ‘Oh wow,’ when they used to laugh all the time. I was in a cof­fee shop the other day, and this kind of trendy young bearded guy looked at my ukulele and asked me ‘What’s that?’ I told him I was teach­ing, and he com­pletely lost his sort of trendy, hip per­sona. He asked me, ‘Do you have a card? Be­cause I’m a failed gui­tarist.’ That’s what the ukulele is great for. Not re­ally failed gui­tarists, but peo­ple who are like, ‘I want to be part of the mu­sic com­mu­nity, but can’t make in­roads on the gui­tar.’ They can on the ukulele.”

It’s not lost on Roubini that the in­stru­ment now syn­ony­mous with the sound of Hawaii is well-suited to an evening that aims to in­spire. Un­like the cello, vi­o­lin, French horn, and bu­gle, there’s some­thing about the uke that’s nat­u­rally uplift­ing.

“It re­ally can rep­re­sent the hu­man heart,” she says. “It can be poignant and it can be fun, it can be soul­ful and, yes, it can be mourn­ful, but also joy­ful. And that, for me, is what the evening will be about. I would say it’s beau­ti­ful mu­sic made sim­ply.”

And as won­der­ful as the orches­tra will sound play­ing “Stair­way to Heaven” at A Ukulele Night to Re­mem­ber, what Roubini hopes ev­ery­one in­volved on-stage will one day re­flect on is how they got from dream­ing about mu­sic to per­form­ing it. There are countless ways to make the world a bet­ter place, and be­ing able to spread joy through mu­sic is one of them.

“What I love about work­ing with am­a­teur mu­si­cians is that the love of the in­stru­ment hasn’t been flushed out of them the way that it has with pro­fes­sion­als,” Roubini says with a laugh. “The main thing for me is let­ting the mem­bers of the orches­tra know that, in some ways, the most im­por­tant part is the jour­ney to­wards the per­for­mance, and their evo­lu­tion to­wards that per­for­mance. That’s re­ally the ic­ing.”

A Ukulele Night to Re­mem­ber comes to the Cultch at 3 and 7 p.m. on Sun­day (Novem­ber 18).

for Hard John Lucas

What’s in Your Fridge is where the Straight asks in­ter­est­ing Van­cou­verites about their life-chang­ing con­certs, favourite al­bums, and, most im­por­tantly, what’s sit­ting be­side the Heinz ketchup in their cus­tom-made Big Chill Retropoli­tan 20.6-cu­bic-foot re­frig­er­a­tors. ON THE GRILL

Ali­cia Hansen.


I’m an “art-pop” singer-song­writer from Van­cou­ver (Bowen Is­land cur­rently), and Be­fore You is my new al­bum. The record was pro­duced by Polaris and Juno Award–win­ning Jesse Zubot.


I seem to re­mem­ber go­ing to a lot of con­certs when I was young, but the ear­li­est ones are all kind of blurred into one fan­tas­ti­cal mem­ory that in­volved ele­phants (rid­ing on one?), Char­lotte Di­a­mond on a hot sum­mer’s day, and my un­cle play­ing the clar­inet some­where grand and fright­en­ing with red vel­vet cur­tains, a cav­ernous stage, and squeaky seats. LIFE-CHANG­ING CON­CERT

This wasn’t the first con­cert I ever saw that blew my mind, but it did change my life. It was just a ran­dom con­cert I picked from the Van­cou­ver Jazz Fes­ti­val brochure on a whim. It was the Es­b­jörn Svens­son Trio play­ing at the Cultch, in 2002 I think. It just shat­tered some­thing in­side me—it was so heavy and so free. This was at a point where I had grown to­tally dis­il­lu­sioned with my rigid clas­si­cal train­ing (my life since age 4) and hadn’t touched the piano in months—thought it was all a washout. But I walked out of that con­cert, said “I need to study jazz,” found Bob Mur­phy, started learn­ing to im­pro­vise, wrote my first song, dis­cov­ered my favourite-ever way of mak­ing mu­sic, and never looked back.


Björk Post I stum­bled across this al­bum when I was in Grade 11—I lis­tened to it so much that even hear­ing 10 sec­onds of one of those songs now time-warps me back to be­ing 16 in such a painful way I al­most can’t lis­ten. Which is kind of sad, be­cause Björk in­flu­enced the hell out of me and I still wor­ship the song­writ­ing and pro­duc­tion on that al­bum and wish I could hear it with­out re­vis­it­ing teenage hell. But ah well, it got me through it, I’m grate­ful for that.

Brad Mehldau Places I didn’t grow up lis­ten­ing to jazz, and this was the first “Jazz” al­bum I ever owned. There’s some­thing so lonely and beau­ti­ful about this trio al­bum, at times re­ally dense and dizzy­ing and yet still spare, plain­tive. It made me fall in love so hard with Mehldau’s play­ing, and the way he cel­e­brated mod­ern song­writ­ers (Ra­dio­head et cetera), and just kind of hov­ered above all the def­i­ni­tions of jazz and pop and made his own sound—some­times an­gu­lar and cere­bral, some­times su­per ac­ces­si­ble, al­ways beau­ti­ful.

Andy Shauf The Party I have to men­tion this al­bum be­cause it’s one of the only al­bums my fouryear-old son will let me play in the house. He’s the big­gest Andy fan, and re­quests one of two songs from the record at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals, de­mand­ing to hear them on re­peat un­til I have to pre­tend the speak­ers are bro­ken. But I love The Party. It’s so good, ev­ery­thing placed so care­fully, so ex­actly, laid so so so back. Bril­liant. Any­thing that can stand up to that kind of re­lent­less re­peat lis­ten­ing de­serves a place on this list.

ALL-TIME FAVOURITE VIDEO Michael Jack­son “Thriller” Ugh, who can an­swer that? How about all of Björk’s videos? Okay, with­out over­think­ing this I’ll just say Michael Jack­son’s “Thriller” be­cause I re­mem­ber be­ing a kid and how cap­ti­vated and con­fused I was by its wicked al­lure. Those shoul­der pads, those danc­ing zom­bies, those white socks peep­ing out. Agh!


A bag of… Play-doh. (I hope it’s Play-doh…?) It’s teal, full of thumb in­dents, a sug­ges­tion of glit­ter, and a cer­tain white crusti­ness that daunts me. Will I be screamed at if I throw this away?

Gas­ket ad­he­sive. Yes. Be­cause af­ter the wood-stove re­pairs we thought we might need it again and so re­frig­er­a­tion seemed wise. (!?) Tucked co­zily in amongst the condi­ments. Sec­ond noned­i­ble fridge dis­cov­ery. Mov­ing on to safer re­gions…

About five dozen ap­ples from our ap­ple tree, crammed in at the back, wait­ing to be made into ap­ple­sauce. Plus 14 dif­fer­ent kinds of veg­eta­bles all in a healthy state of fresh­ness (you might be think­ing that I only keep non­food in my fridge or that I let things go bad and I must in­sist I do not), but SADLY, no beets. And that re­ally is sad, be­cause I adore beets and a day with­out one is a hard thing to face.

from page 47 or pro­fes­sion­als.

If your hus­band isn’t feel­ing ne­glected—if he en­joys hur­ryup-and-get-it-over-with sex as much as you do and wants to be tied up and pegged only once ev­ery five years—then you don’t have a prob­lem. But if he’s feel­ing re­sent­ful, you do have a prob­lem. Re­sent­ment has a way of metas­ta­siz­ing into bit­ter­ness, and bit­ter­ness has a way of cur­dling into the kind of anger that can doom a re­la­tion­ship.

So check in with your hus­band, FEMDOM, and be clear about your feel­ings: you don’t hate in­dulging his fan­tasy, but you’re both busy, you have small chil­dren, and his fan­tasies re­quire a lot of prep and setup. Tell him you want him to be happy—and, hey, if he is happy, then great. But if he’s not, then it’s time to talk ac­com­mo­da­tion. You don’t want him to go with­out; you don’t want him to see a pro; and you don’t want him to feel bad about the sex you do have and both en­joy. So how about this: you get grand­par­ents or good friends to look af­ter your kids once a year while you spend a rest­ful week­end in a nice ho­tel peg­ging the hus­band’s ass be­tween spa treat­ments.

Daphne Roubini and Andy Smith will per­form as the old-timey act Ruby & Smith at the first of two A Ukulele Night to Re­mem­ber shows, both of which take place at the Cultch on Sun­day (Novem­ber 18).

Be­fore You. Ali­cia Hansen is an art-pop singer-song­writer who re­ally, re­ally likes beets. Her lat­est al­bum is called

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