View Full Version : Iz's Ukes -- Size and Setup

03-08-2014, 10:40 AM
What was Iz's preference with size and tunings of his ukes? He probably did not use the same setup all of time, but very curious to know.


03-09-2014, 12:34 AM
I'm not an expert on the man, but I believe he favored a Martin tenor in low G tuning - though in his videos the uke looks smaller than a tenor..........

03-09-2014, 03:08 AM
:agree: I am also under the same impression.

03-09-2014, 04:01 AM
Everything looked small in Iz's hands! He weighed around 700 lbs. I always assumed he played tenor.

03-09-2014, 04:25 AM
Who is Iz?

03-09-2014, 04:33 AM
Martin has an Iz model tenor. From what I've read, that's what he played, and used a low G.

Iz is Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, a Hawaiian musician. He died several years ago, and spent most of his life rather obese. He seems to be most famous for his rendition of Somewhere over the Rainbow.

03-09-2014, 04:35 AM
just get one of these and you'll be all set...


03-09-2014, 06:27 AM
Iz was one of the most important figures in modern Hawaiian music.

From Wikipedia:


Throughout his life, Kamakawiwoʻole was morbidly obese and at one point weighed 767 pounds (348 kg; 54.8 st) standing 6-foot-2-inch (1.88 m) tall. He endured several hospitalizations because of health problems caused by his obesity. Beset with respiratory, heart and other medical problems, he died at the age of 38 in Queen's Medical Center at 12:18 a.m. on June 26, 1997. Kamakawiwoʻole is survived by his widow, Marlene Kamakawiwoʻole, and their daughter, Ceslie-Ann "Wehi".
The Hawaii state flag flew at half-staff on July 10, 1997, the day of Kamakawiwoʻole's funeral. His koa wood coffin lay in state at the state capitol building in Honolulu. He was the third person in Hawaiian history to be awarded this honor, and the only one who was not a government official. Approximately ten thousand people attended the funeral. Thousands of fans gathered as his ashes were scattered into the Pacific Ocean at Mākua Beach on July 12, 1997. The funeral and the scattering of Kamakawiwoʻole's ashes were featured in the official music video of "Over the Rainbow" released posthumously by the Mountain Apple Company; as of February 2014, the video as featured on YouTube has gained over 99 million views.
On September 20, 2003, hundreds paid tribute to Kamakawiwoʻole as a bronze bust of the revered singer was unveiled at the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center on Oʻahu. The singer's widow, Marlene Kamakawiwoʻole, and sculptor Jan-Michelle Sawyer were present for the dedication ceremony.


The story behind Iz's rendition of Over The Rainbo/Wonderful World:

Hawaii, He Sang of Thee...and people listened

- Jack Boulware
Wednesday, March 9, 2005

San Francisco writer Jack Boulware is the co-founder of the Litquake literary festival. His articles have appeared in Salon, Playboy, the New York Times Magazine, Wired and The Chronicle. The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress on the life of the late Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.

Honolulu, two a.m. Music producer Jon de Mello is sleeping when the phone rings. It's Israel, one of the artists he represents for his Mountain Apple record label. And Israel is wide awake. He often has problems at night because his weight upwards of 700 pounds forces him to sleep while hooked up to an oxygen tank. He tells de Mello he wants to record, right now.

"You got transportation?" asks de Mello. It's difficult for Israel to move around, he needs a few people to help him get dressed, get in and out of places. The studio is about 15 minutes away.

"Yeah," says Israel. "My guys are here." "Get in the car," says de Mello. "I'll meet you over there." In the car, de Mello wonders what he wants to record. They've been discussing a bunch of possibles from a songbook. But it's Israel, you never really know for sure what he's going to do. A traditional Hawai'ian hula. A John Denver song. A theme from a TV show. Could be anything.

A young engineer named Milan Bertosa sits in his recording studio, waiting. He was planning to go home, until some Hawai'ian guy with a lot of letters in his name called up and wanted to record something right away. It's late, Bertosa is tired, but the voice was insistent, saying he only needed half an hour. A knock at the door, and there stands an unimaginable sight. De Mello, whom Bertosa recognizes, stands about five foot two and 100 pounds. Next to him, the largest man he's ever seen, a gargantuan six-foot-six Hawai'ian carrying a ukulele. De Mello introduces the two, they get Israel situated in a chair, and Bertosa starts rolling tape.

Israel leans into the microphone, says: "Kay, this one's for Gabby," and begins gently strumming the uke. His beautiful voice comes in, a lilting "Oooooo," then slips into the opening words of "Over the Rainbow," from "The Wizard of Oz." Bertosa listens behind the glass, and within the first few bars knows it's something very special. He spends most of his time recording lousy dance music. This is otherworldly. An incredibly fat man, elegantly caressing a Hollywood show tune, breaking it down to its roots, so sad and poignant, yet full of hope and possibility. Halfway through the tune, Israel spirals off into "What a Wonderful World," the George David Weiss/Bob Thiele hit made famous by Louis Armstrong, then melts back into "Over the Rainbow." He flubs a lyric, and tosses in a new chord change, but it doesn't matter. It feels seamless, chilling. Israel plays five songs in a row, then turns to de Mello and says, "I'm tired and I'm going home." "Gets up and walks out," says de Mello. "Ukulele and a vocal, one take. Over." Israel never played the song again.

When Israel and de Mello began piecing together his 1993 album Facing Future, they added the demo tape of "Over the Rainbow." Upon release the song took on a life of its own. The familiar melody played in hotels and on rental car radios, in restaurants and bars. Many were moved to tears. If it didn't give you "chicken skin," you were legally dead. The song resonated even more for locals. Some heard its kaona, or hidden subtext, to reflect the sadness Hawai'i felt about having its lands illegally annexed by the United States in 1898. Those who had seen him in concert knew he ended each show with the words, "My name is Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, I am Hawai'ian." Israel was one of only 1, 500 full-blooded Hawai'ians left in the world. He was pure, and so was the recording. It bounced around the islands for the next three years.

And then one afternoon, Santa Monica KCRW radio host Chris Douridas cued up "Over the Rainbow" as part of his program "Morning Becomes Eclectic," to cheer up listeners on a rainy day. After it faded out, Douridas announced the 800 phone number on the back of the Facing Future CD. In two days, Mountain Apple received over 2,000 calls from southern California, people crying and asking about the music, many of them stuck on the freeway when they heard it.

Movie producer Martin Brest bought the rights for use in his film, "Meet Joe Black." As the end credits rolled, movie audiences stayed in their seats to listen to "Over the Rainbow." One of America's most recognizable melodies, first made popular by Judy Garland, the tune had always embodied optimism, depicting a world where dreams really do come true. Israel's version was something else entirely: haunting and delicate, stripped down to a lone voice and a ukulele, an unexpected minor chord contrasting, almost unconsciously, against the happy lyrics of wishing upon a star. After the film's premiere in Hawai'i, people were sobbing in the theater.

Producers bought the very same song for "Finding Forrester," "Made," "The Big Bounce," and "50 First Dates," for episodes of "ER," "Providence," "Charmed," and "Party of Five." It aired in an eToys ad during the Super Bowl, and then commercials throughout Japan, Europe, Australia, New Zealand. Although most listeners couldn't remember the name of the artist, it didn't matter. The music was most important, that raw, perfect-pitch voice that hit people right in the heart, touched their emotional core, reminded them how fragile life can be. You heard it once, you never forgot it.

"Rainbow" came to personify Hawai'i to the outside world. Celebrities publicly announced their love of Israel's music: novelists, actors, directors, baseball players, sumo wrestlers. Bruddah IZ was the state's first artist in history to have an album certified gold. Posters and calendars of his face decorated record stores around the world. "Over the Rainbow" became the No. 1 bestselling song downloaded from the World Music section of iTunes. Israel had produced the most recognizable and beloved Hawai'ian song in 50 years. And he didn't live to see any of it.

Jack Boulware can be contacted at his Web site jackboulware.com. E-mail comments about "Slice" to Book Editor Oscar Villalon at ovillalon@sfchronicle.com.


03-09-2014, 06:44 AM
IZ was an incredible guy. He made a huge impact on the world of ukulele.

I picked up one of the Martin IZ tribute ukes last year. It is amazing. It comes strung highG which is not what IZ used most of the time. Many say Martin should have replicated IZ's uke but they weren't making a signature model but rather a tribute ukulele.

This is mine:





It has been mentioned above, IZ's rendition of "Somewhere over the Rainbow - It's a Wonderful World" is what he is famous for but I really like this clip. At the end, IZ shows his playful side. We miss him.


03-09-2014, 02:15 PM
IZ was an incredible guy. He made a huge impact on the world of ukulele. We miss him.



03-09-2014, 03:27 PM
In addition to the Martin tenor, an article in a Japanese ukulele magazine featured a Sonny D 6-string tenor that he played.


There's a short book about him called Facing Future (http://www.amazon.com/Israel-Kamakawiwooles-Facing-Future-33/dp/082642905X/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1394410789&sr=1-2&keywords=israel+kamakawiwo%27ole) that is a worthwhile read.

03-10-2014, 06:58 AM
About a year and a half ago I was at the Grammy museum in LA and they had one of IZ's ukes on display. It was a tenor, I can't remember the brand, but I distinctly remember that it was a five-string, with a wound low-G.

03-10-2014, 10:26 AM
I'm not sure how many Martin Ukuleles he had but the following quote from a news article would seem to indicate that his main Martin Tenor is no more.

"Israel's body lay in state at Hawaii's Capitol building, a rare honor.

Days later, he was cremated, along with his vintage Martin ukulele the one he used to record "Over the Rainbow." The ashes were carried on a traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe."


03-10-2014, 02:16 PM
Iz used a standard set of strings, but tuned to low-G. Here's a previous thread:


03-10-2014, 04:55 PM
Izzit true that he was a sumo wrestler?