Wielding his ukulele like it will one day rule the world, Kalei Gamiao mesmerizes audiences with imaginative musicality and flawless execution. This soft spoken young man can silence a talkative crowd as he delicately picks or fires away at his simple four-stringed instrument. Captivated by his skill and the ukulele’s versatility, expressions like “I was floored” or “he had me at the edge of my seat” are familiar responses from first time listeners who eagerly fall under the power of Kalei’s ukulele. His ability to create sounds that are incredibly rich and full are even more amazing when you consider he only has two octaves to work with. Award winning ukulele master, Herb Ohta, Jr., summed it up best when he declared, “Kalei’s music and ukulele prowess will take the ukulele to new heights!”
Kalei’s been at the forefront of today’s ukulele revolution since 2008 when his debut album, “Contemporary Ukulele,” kicked up the demand for performances in the U.S., Japan and Thailand, exposing Kalei to thousands of ukulele enthusiasts. Their hunger for his music inspired him to create www.uketheory.com where fans from around the world can learn many of his challenging techniques. Social media sites and the web provide instant access for his fans to stay connected to his music, performance calendar, and the explosive world-wide popularity of the ukulele.
For Kalei, who says, “There is never a sad or dull moment when the ukulele is present,” the power of the ukulele goes well beyond his ability to dazzle an audience. During his travels, he witnessed the ukulele’s ability to bring people together in spite of obvious differences. Seeing these students of the ukulele happily strumming together in his workshops convinced Kalei that music has the power to inspire, heal, and create peace: “Music has the power to change the world. I’m just a messenger.” Kalei supports his belief in the power of music by actively promoting charitable organizations like the Music for Life Foundation which raises funds to provide musical instruments to Hawaii’s schools, and by offering ukulele workshops to students, in the same way in which he was mentored.
From Hawaii’s sleepy North Shore town of Haleiwa, Kalei’s adventure with the ukulele began at the age of thirteen when he suffered a sports injury while playing baseball and needed to find an activity which would keep him busy while he recovered. Following a suggestion made by his parents he decided to try ukulele lessons. After the first strum, Kalei was hooked. His exposure to a wide variety of ukulele masters including Alfred Canopin, Gordon Mark, Byron Yasui, Benny Chong and Kimo Hussey, motivated him to embrace a range of styles – jazz, rock, pop, classical, blues, flamenco, funk, as well as the music of his cultural roots, Hawaiian and island contemporary. In less than a dozen years, Kalei’s passion and dedication to his craft helped bring the ukulele sound into the twenty first century as he thrilled audiences and inspired the next generation of players to dream of one day playing just like him. Given Kalei’s determination, the unassuming ukulele just may take over the world.