Rafu Staff Reports
“I like to see things before they happen. That’s a distinct joy,” Alvin Okami beamed. “And when they eventually do happen, I’m smiling in my mind.”
The 68-year-old Honolulu native and his unstoppable optimism will be noticeably absent when the documentary short about his ukuleles screens Tuesday at the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live. He won’t be there for a simple reason: he hates to fly. Hasn’t been on a plane since 1974.
“Maybe it’s old age,” he said with a laugh.
Directed by Gary San Angel, “My KoAloha Story” follows on the heels of a previous project that depicted Okami, the founder of KoAloha Ukulele, and his journey into the craft of producing the four-stringed instruments.
Alvin and his ohana (Hawaiian for “family”) at KoAloha have been dedicated to crafting the highest quality ukuleles for almost two decades, but their story goes further into music and family, and how a small instrument can change lives and bring people together.
After a career as a plastics manufacturer, Okami – whose inventions include the famous toothpaste tube squeeze rollers – somewhat incidentally fell into producing souvenir miniature ukuleles. They were so well made that he was encouraged to try his hand at full-sized instruments. His company has since become one of the premier ukulele makers on Earth.
Okami explained how the director had flown from Philadelphia to purchase one of his newly-developed ukes several years ago, and stayed to film a quick interview.
“We were sold out of the one he wanted, but there was one that had been ordered and not picked up,” he said. “Then he said he wanted to do an interview.”
For “My KoAloha Story,” San Angel has travel the U.S. and abroad, collecting stories from KoAloha owners and their experiences.
Prior to the screening on Tuesday, Grammy winner Daniel Ho will perform and take part in a public ukulele workshop.
Guests are also welcome to join Ho, blues ukulele artist Jason Arimoto and KoAloha craftsman Keith Yoshioka for a one-hour workshop titled Ukulele 101, beginning at 5 p.m. This informal class is a fun and educational way to learn more about the beloved ukulele.
In the Hawaiian “talk-story” style, the speakers will share their love and knowledge of this special instrument. Although not required, guests are welcome to bring their own ukulele with them to learn and strum along.
Arimoto is featured in the film and Yoshioka will also talk story with folks about KoAloha ukulele and their unique brand of ukulele making.
San Angel will also be at the Q&A to share his passion for this film and his unique style of community filmmaking.
To register for the workshop, RSVP to [email protected]
The screening is at 7:30 with Q&A to follow.
For KoAloha fans who have been waiting for a Southern California screening, this is your chance to catch the film, take a short ukulele workshop and hear the stylings of Daniel Ho.
There are only 200 seats in the theater for this unique screening, workshop and live performance, so early purchase is encouraged. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the Grammy Museum website or box office.
The museum is located at 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Suite 200, in downtown Los Angeles.