Ruby & Smith are a different kind of duo. Its members, Daphne Roubini and Andrew Smith, have chosen to strip their love of jazz, folk and roots music to their core components: two ukuleles paired with Daphne’s haunting vocals.
Vancouver’s First Lady and Duke of Uke, Daphne and Andrew are known across Canada and beyond. They’re at the forefront of the new generation of performers and founders of Ruby’s Ukes, the World’s largest Ukulele School outside Hawaii. As the stars of vintage jazz band Black Gardenia, they’ve won countless fans with a sound described as, “The musical equivalent of taking a bath in a barrel of finely aged bourbon”.
Ruby & Smith’s musical pedigree speaks for itself. Daphne’s enthralling vocals and passion for the ukulele has led her to being profiled on CBC radio, Shaw TV, CTV and in newspapers including The Province, Georgia Striaght, The Vancouver Sun, Ukulele Magazine, Uke Magazine and the Vancouver Courier. Schooled in the cauldron of London’s jazz and folk scene, Andrew has wowed crowds with his guitar, now he’s bringing his innate musicality to a new instrument as half of Ruby & Smith.
“The ukulele has been around for more than 140 years but it’s enjoying renewed popularity, with sales of the instrument tripling in the past decade. As Melinda Breda explains, the pint-sized instrument has returned from pop culture purgatory.”
Daphne Roubini on CTV News
What’s in Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6-cubic-foot refrigerators.
Daphne Roubini’s career arc doesn’t make much sense. Her resume includes stints as a masseuse, aroma therapist, jazz singer and a personal coach. Now, Roubini’s go-to gig is running what’s billed as the largest ukulele school — Ruby’s Ukes — outside of Hawaii, and she does it without a single cent spent on advertising.
Daphne Roubini believes in magic. She’s seen it enough times to understand that there is something in her beloved ukulele that has the power to transform a life. And not just her own.
Her first ukulele was supposed to be a gift for a child, but Daphne Roubini just couldn’t keep her hands off it. Some 10 years ago the accomplished jazz musician – a native of London, England who now calls Vancouver home – bought her nephew a blue ukulele for his second birthday. To sweeten the deal, Roubini asked her husband, musician Andrew Smith, to teach her how to play “Happy Birthday” on the little blue uke. The problem was that in the process of learning that simple little song, Roubini fell in love.
Sit down with Vancouver Ukulele Festival founder Daphne Roubini and you end up talking about more than the instrument that artists from Joao Fernandes to Tiny Tim to Eddie Vedder have all done their best to make famous.
Vancouver’s First Lady and Duke of Uke, Daphne Roubini and Andrew Smith are Ukulele Jazz/Folk Balladeers. With her captivating voice and their ukulele skills, together they’ve wowed crowds at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Vancouver Jazz Fest and Mission Folk Fest, in addition to delighting audiences across Canada and their native UK.
She’s Daphne Roubini, the one with the Billie Holiday voice, all breath and wistfulness. He’s Andrew Smith, the one picking ukulele behind her, alternating between strumming and single-string leads.
Coming exactly as advertised, A Ukulele Album is indeed centered around the instrument favoured by four out of five descendants of Hawaii’s King Kalākaua. But don’t expect the duo of Daphne Roubini and Andrew Smith to sound like the house band at the fabulous Royal Hawaiian on this low-key but charming full-length.