Did y’all know that world’s biggest ukulele brand is headquartered in Richmond? Isn’t that wild?
Richmond Grid Magazine gave me the opportunity to interview Leon Lewis, who manages the Lanikai ukulele brand for the legendary Hohner instrument company, and I can’t tell you how fun working on this article was. Hohner’s Richmond office is downright Wonka-like — packed with memorabilia, ephemera, and instruments — and getting to walk around and meet some of the people who work there was a genuine privilege. So was talking to Lewis about Richmond music — his ties to the local music community run deep, and I had to stop myself from gushing when the conversation turned to Worthless Junk Records and the amazing Black Girls, No BS! Brass Band, and White Laces records he helped release.
Above all else, I walked away with a changed appreciation for the ukulele. As cool as it is that Merrill Garbus from tUnE-yArDs has used Lanikai ukuleles to channel her astonishing musical genius, I think the access that the instrument gives beginning musicians — people who want to cross the divide that separates listeners and makers — is even cooler. The musical landscape is made richer by increased participation, and for that reason, I think what Lanikai is doing ( especially when it comes to community outreach efforts like Uke ‘n’ Roll) is profoundly worthwhile.
I hope you’ll check the article out — it exists only in print at the moment, so click here for a list of spots that distribute Grid, and I’ll update this post if and when the article becomes available online.