Troy Fernandez is widely-considered one of the best ukulele players alive. He is known for his very fast fingers and his virtuoso style. He began playing the instrument early in life. Ukulele is a common part of Hawaiian music education, but it was apparent from the start that Fernandez was not the average elementary school ukulele player. By the time he was 13 years old, it was obvious that he had a gift and he had already started his first group, called “Us”, that would bring his first successes as a professional musician.
Fernandez, however, would be forever associated with the band Ka’au Crater Boys, a Hawaiian music ensemble known for its virtuoso playing. The band became one of the most popular contemporary Hawaiian acts in the world and Fernandez was able to launch 6-month tours of both Guam and Japan because of their popularity. The band’s first album, Tropical Hawaiian Day, remains one of the most popular contemporary Hawaiian albums and was the recipient of a Na Hoku Hanohano Award for best album of the year. Fernandez would continue on with this band for 7 years, much to the chagrin of their many fans when the band eventually called it quits.
Troy Fernandez’s work with the Ka’au Crater Boys, and his virtuosity as a performer, are both credited with the increased interest in the ukulele as a serious instrument that began in the 1990s. It’s impossible to listen to Fernandez and not realize the complexity and flexibility of this instrument. The Ka’au Crater Boys brought together myriad influences in their work, including jazz and reggae, further expanding their listener base and producing one of the many fine albums from the latter half of the 20th Century that increased interest in what the islands have to offer from a musical standpoint.
Here is a music series entitled "Island Music, Island Hearts" showcasing Troy Fernandez's mad ukulele skills while he was part of the Ka'au Crater Boys.
Fernandez is an avid surfer and is regarded as an important influence on youth culture on the islands. Younger ukulele players frequently reference him as an influence. His playing managed to bridge the gap between more traditional sounds and more modern, rapid-fire and rhythmic playing, resulting in a blend that appeals to those who enjoy traditional Hawaiian music, as well as those who have never heard it before but who can immediately appreciate the level of musicianship exhibited by Fernandez and his fellow musicians in the Ka’au Crater Boys.
Troy Fernandez remains a force in Hawaiian music. He owns his own record label today, promoting a variety of Hawaiian musicians. He also offers lessons in his own ukulele studio, which are very popular with those who want to bring their skills up to the next level. His name is a household word in Hawaii and abroad, and the albums he released with the Ka’au Crater Boys are still considered among the most virtuosic and important examples of Hawaiian music. His lifetime of producing excellent Hawaiian music and touring the world have culminated in life as a teacher, helping young musicians to explore the ukulele as a serious concert instrument.