By Kathy Chouteau
Love was in the air Wednesday at Kaleidoscope Coffee, courtesy of local ukulele musicians strumming away at a back table. It was a musical tip of the hat to Valentine’s Day, with love in its many variations on full display.
The loosely formed musical group, Richmond Ukulele Mayhem (RUM), is led by organizer Amy Ukena and meets every Wednesday at the Point Richmond coffeehouse from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
The Rich Life caught up with the spirited crew, who were gathered around a large table for a pre-Valentine’s jam sesh. It included 11 ukulele players, joined on the perimeter by additional musicians playing an egg shaker, kazoo, electric bass guitar and random coffeehouse singers including this reporter.
On the set list that day? A range of classic rock love songs like Brown Eyed Girl, I Can’t Help Falling in Love, I Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine, I Just Called to Say I Love You, Love Potion #9, Love Me Do, Things We Said Today and When Will I Be Loved—to name a few. The musicians sang along to their strumming, often harmonizing, ever adding to the session’s beautifully communal spirit.
During a lively rendition of Love Potion #9, group leader Ukena jovially called out to the musicians, “Let’s rock out on this one!” And so they did.
According to Ukena, RUM is all about “community, fun, music and sharing. Music creates really deep bonds between people. These people become close through the ukulele and I’ve become close to them—these are my friends. My world is expanding because of the ukulele and because of this group. They’ve taught me a lot.”
The majority of RUM’s ukulele musicians—who range in level of expertise—hail from all corners of Richmond and beyond, brought together through their common love of the instrument and music.
There’s a pervasive friendliness and welcoming vibe amongst the group, leading them to enthusiastically invite others to join them during their weekly meet-ups. Bearing testimony to this congenial group atmosphere was the participation of two of its members, who were accompanied by their attendants from the nonprofit organization East Bay Innovations (EBI), a nonprofit serving adults with disabilities.
RUM has welcomed ukulele player Benjamin Barraza, who has a seizure disorder and other disabilities, with open arms and helped nurture his love of music. According to his mother Julie Barraza, “I think for Ben there’s very few things in his life that he can really enjoy. And since he was like two—I think it was right around Valentine’s Day—we realized he loved music.”
Also joining Benjamin and the other musicians was Arian Black, an egg shaker player who was also accompanied by an EBI staffer.
But at the back table at Kaleidoscope Coffee that day, all worries seemingly melted away and there was only music among friends, thanks to a fab little ukulele group and the power of love.
Want to learn more about RUM or check out one of the group’s upcoming jam sessions? Learn more on the group’s Facebook page