“Follow your strings” stands as my motto, and Marimae personified this mantra to the fullest…
Our connection sprouted on Instagram, where our mutual admiration for certain teachers led to the occasional message or comment exchange. Then Paolo, the Italian luthier behind Tembo, gave me the incredible news that someone in Australia desired one of our Tembo!
Excited about it, we started to chat and eventually she shared with me her dream…the opening of the Ukulele Acquisition Specialty Store. I truly admire courageous souls who go ahead in the pursuit of their dreams.
Everybody should try. What is the worst that can happen?
Who is Marimae?
Residing in Brisbane, Australia, Marimae Abreu is a mother of two, Charlie and Olyvia. A Filipino by birth, she transplanted her life to the Australian landscape over three decades ago.
How did she discover the ukulele?
Well, I tried learning the guitar a long time ago, but it was challenging and I gave up. But I always wanted to learn again someday. One day, I was at a friend’s house and saw a pink ukulele lying around. I thought, why not try some chords? I learned a few chords – C, Am, and F – and it was like a lightbulb moment. I thought, “Wow, this isn’t difficult at all!” That’s when I started my ukulele journey.
I ended up getting a few ukuleles – a concert Bondi, a soprano, a Pono, a KoAloha Mango, and even a custom Baritone made from curly redwood and walnut. This special ukulele made me really curious about how these instruments are made, the different woods they use, and all that. Being part of the process and getting picture updates as it was made felt really cool.
The best part is that I’ve met so many great people along the way. I became friends with the people who made my ukuleles, and they taught me a lot. The ukulele community is amazing – so supportive and friendly. It keeps me motivated.
How and why you opened your shop?
Lots of the well-known ukulele makers are in other countries, so buying their ukuleles meant dealing with money conversion, shipping costs, and taxes. It was annoying and made things expensive. In Australia, we don’t have many good ukulele makers or stores that sell good ukuleles.
Then one day, a luthier said, “Why not start a ukulele store and sell custom instruments?” At first, I thought it was crazy because I’d never run a business before. But when I talked about it with others, they thought it was a great idea. They said my passion for ukuleles would make it work.
A year later, I launched the online store. We work with four amazing builders who make custom ukuleles for the store. We also sell special ukulele strings and straps.
Do you play other instruments? Did you study music?
No not really, I did learn the piano as a kid, learnt the recorder in school and dabbled with the guitar back in my 20’s but nothing to brag about. I don’t have any musical bone in my body but have always been fascinated by string instruments and have been keen to learn it one day.
Now you have your shop online, you craft instruments yourself, what’s next?
For now, it’s just focusing on these things, Improving my practice, focusing on the store and where I can fit build instruments. Maybe someday be able to have my own brand of ukuleles. Possibilities are infinite, someone even said that I could be a wood hunter. So who knows?