Sweet notes glide in the warm, tropical breeze as an evening ukulele lesson is conducted outside my window. It is the sound of a Hawaiian sunset.
A man is sitting in the common area outside my apartment showing a boy how to play the ukulele. It is a welcome treat for me after a very long day. The man is playing a song slowly, from chord to chord, while the boy follows along in a music book. He plays quietly, not wishing to disturb neighbors, with sure fingers. He names the chords, sometimes the inpidual note, and describes the finger changes. The slow strumming is an interesting change from the more fast-paced songs I usually hear.
“Pick a song you like,” he advises the boy. “It’s good to practice with a song you already know.” He goes back over the section more quickly, as it would be played in a normal tempo. He begins to sing. I can’t make out the words because he is hushed, but the sound of his voice blends perfectly with that of the ukulele.
The lesson becomes more technical. The man demonstrates a series of chords, naming each, then hands the ukulele to the boy to mimic. The chords that danced from the strings for experienced fingers creep out hesitantly for the younger hands. He attempts to play each chord as the man calls it: “D”… “Next one, G.” The man’s voice is patient and encouraging. “You see? That’s it.”
Neighbors walk by as they return home from work or dinner out. They carry children, groceries, brief cases and tote bags, walking past as the music lesson under the palm tree carries the music of Hawaii from the past into the future.