Roman Tudela was twelve when he first started playing the uke. A musical guy, he was singing at his church, but wasn’t as serious about the ukulele. A trip to Oahu, Hawaii changed all of that; a trip that lasted for two years. On the island Oahu, Roman’s cousin gave him a real introduction to the uke, showing him the chords. Roman found himself constantly going online, listening to music and looking at chords. From there on out, he hasn’t stopped playing.
With a family so big on music, it’s no wonder. Uncle Roman Tudela has a few albums out. Uncle Roman and his sons are all into the music, as well as the younger Roman’s sisters and cousins, all singing and making music together. Sundays are like concerts; everyone hangs out, plays and sings.
Even with all of his experience, Roman wasn’t so sure he wanted to go public. Fatherhood changed that for him. When his two-year-old was first born, he had a hard time going to sleep, and he’d cry. Roman, outside relaxing and playing the uke, stepped inside while still playing, and the baby stopped. Now Roman plays for his son every night; a son that’s clearly interested in music.
Ludi and Renus Domingo, the owners of Island Kine Grinds in Nampa, knew Roman as the Firestone tire guy. They’d known and liked Roman for years, but had no idea that he could play. When they discovered him on a random YouTube video, they knew they wanted to have him play at their restaurant.
Roman started to play a lot, with friends, and when going out. He’d get invited to sing and play with lots of other people. Playing for Island Kine Grinds was a boost. Then he started to post more videos, and found that he got a lot of comments. A Portland man found Roman’s video through a friend, then invited Roman to play at a concert in downtown Portland during the United Nesian Fest, the fest for every ‘nesian. The Nesians flew paid for the flight, the hotel, and they drove him around, wanting Roman to to experience being in the music industry.
It was a huge event, and Roman was nervous, but told himself that he went there to practice being in front of an audience, so there it was. After singing an hour, he had them all chanting, “More, more, more!”
“When I came down from the stage,” Roman told me, “There were a bunch of people asking for my posters that they made for me, and they were asking me to sign it. Yeah, it was just weird, they started taking pictures and asking if I had CD’s.”
Back in Idaho at Island Kine Grinds on Friday nights, Roman is flexible, and sensitive to his audience. If he feels that someone doesn’t like the song he’s playing, he changes it out. He might play a country song that’s in a Hawaiian style, or a more modern song with an island twist to it. The restaurant’s customers aren’t the only ones who like Roman’s style; his co-workers are fans, too, even though they’re normally into rock.
The uke is Roman’s therapy; it’s relaxing to play, and he says, “It’s nice when you have your family into it. I might be playing, and they’ll come and sing backup, all freestyle. They’ll just make up their own stuff. Sundays are the fun time when we all have our ukes. Someone will start the beat and everyone joins in.”
Roman gave us a demonstration. The man opened his mouth, and out came pure music. Enjoyable, right on with the rhythm, and an obvious up and coming talent.
Roman Tudela; watch for him.