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Jane and the Hula Boys conjure tropical landscapes in downtown Tacoma

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A man from Utah, a woman from Minneapolis and a man from Sarajevo walk into a bar and start playing Hawaiian music. No, it’s not a joke, but it might just make you smile, especially when you hear them tonight at Embellish Multispace Salon.

Michael Alexander from Ogden, Utah, (a place he calls the Tacoma of Utah) plays ukulele (which loosely translated means “dancing flea”) and banjo in a band called Jane and the Hula Boys.

Nina Vukmanic (bass and fretless guitar) moved here six years ago when he finished school in Germany and his student visa ran out. He was a refugee from his homeland in Bosnia, so he decided to move to America. He landed in Seattle because some friends hooked him up with a family here who welcomed him into their home while he got settled. Vukmanic met Alexander a few years ago when they were both working as landscapers.

Vukmanic met and instantly fell in love with the girl from Minneapolis, Jane Hall (drums and guitar) when they met through a mutual friend who was also a landscaper.

“Jane played an Arabic music show that I went to see because her bandmate was my work buddy at the time,” explains Vukmamic. “We felt strongly about each other instantly. But I was in a strained long-distance relationship at the time and did not contact her right away. I tried to resist the feelings, but I lost the battle and gave Jane a call a couple of weeks later. Fortunately though.”

“We didn’t begin to play together until more than a year after we met,” says Hall. Michael and Nina had begun to work on some of Michael’s music, and they were looking for a drummer and someone to sing supporting vocals, and this person turned out to be (me) Jane. It seemed natural for us to play in a band together. It has been another thing that we can do together while supporting each other and having fun.”

The band they formed was called the Opossum Wranglers, and they played primarily bluegrass music, but the genre ultimately didn’t encompass the artistic vision of the trio so they began a side-project called Jane and the Hula Boys. 

 “I think we were inspired a lot by the acoustic quality, harmonies and expression of Hawaiian music. Michael had the initial spark,” Vukmanic says.

“My initial interest in Hawaiian music came from falling in love with recordings I heard as a kid,” explains Alexander. “I really enjoyed the way Hawaiians developed the guitar and uke to complement their already rich musical heritage. I’ve been listening (to Hawaiian music) for a few years, and it has kept my head in the clouds. I never considered actually playing Hawaiian music until Nina began to work on the fretless guitar, and I saw the opportunity to develop our own Hawaiian material. It’s so fun to play, and the audiences really enjoy it.”

Jane and the Hula Boys performs a mixture of traditional Hawaiian folk and original songs influenced by the Hawaiian music of early flapper/jazz age in the Roaring ’20s, the kind played in vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley eras.

At 8 p.m. tonight Jane and the Hula Boys will headline a big city luau downtown Tacoma on Court D between 11th and 15th Streets during Third Thursday Art Walk at Embellish Multispace Salon and Gallery. Tropzone (aka Dave Calhoun) will perform Jimmy Buffet-styled tropical rock from 6-7 p.m. The Chamoritta Dancerz, a Hawaiian/Polynesian/Tahitian dance group will perform from 7 to 7:45 p.m. Hawaiian art by Erin Linehan will be on display.  Hawaiian pulled pork will be served. Monsoon Room tiki bar will be in the house.

Hawaiian shirts are optional, but a sunny state of mind is required.

For more information about Jane and the Hula Boys, visit

[Embellish Multispace Salon, Thursday, July 19, 6 p.m., 1121 Court D,  Tacoma, 253.752.8144]

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