Israel Kamakawiwo’ole/Jason Castro – Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Chords)

Jason Castro/Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Click here for Chords)

I never thought I’d be putting this song on the blog. But, when I realised even Simon Cowell isn’t too hard-hearted and cynical to be won over by a song’s charm, I reconsidered my position. Despite the obligatory American Idol warblings, I thought Jason Castro made a pretty good stab at the song.

His version of the chords are simpler than Brudda IZ’s – particularly since the intro is missed off – which makes it ideal for beginners. The strumming pattern varies throughout the song, but good starting place is:

Down, down (pause)
Up, down, up
Up, down, up
Up, down, up

All that for each chord.

To answer Julie’s question it’s an Oscar Schmidt ukulele. I’d guess it’s an Oscar Schmidt OU5. One thing it’s definitely not is a guitar. Bloody Paula Abdul.

A big thanks to Jeff for alerting me to this performance.

UPDATE: A very IZ-inspired ukulele version turned up on Glee last night. Here’s a video:

View Comments


  1. Olly April 9th, 2008 11:21 am

    Isreal “sombody”? Simon Cowell’s meant to be huge in music… Isreal Kamakawio’ole was the big daddy of the uke! grrr….

    A second Grrr… goes to the woman person. That’s like me saying she’s huge with an extra leg or something!


  2. Alison April 9th, 2008 1:31 pm

    I admit, I’ve been kind of fond of Jason so far this season, as I like his subtle, quiet style. When I saw him with uke in hand last night, my support was clinched. You know, if I actually voted on these things.

  3. Art Crocker April 9th, 2008 1:52 pm

    I support Al’s comment that Jason did a pretty good stab at the song with great results, do appreciate the link here. The Paula comment on Guitar is kind of funny, wonder if there is anyway to write her to get a corrected comment for next show?

  4. Alowisney April 9th, 2008 2:49 pm

    How did I know Uke Hunt would have the tabs up for this simplified version when I started browsing the web this morning? ;) And it’s good to know what kind of ukulele it is, I didn’t recognize the head stamp.

  5. Howlin\' Hobbit April 9th, 2008 3:19 pm

    Just last night I posted somewhat of a rant about this on the ezFolk forums.

    I see that the thread has continued and included a link back to this page.

    While I acknowledge that it’s an unusual and rather nice change of pace for the program, I still don’t want to poison my brain with any more of the “obligatory American Idol warblings” than it has already been exposed to.

    Good luck to Jason anyway.

  6. LonnaB April 9th, 2008 4:24 pm

    I’m with Howlin’ Hobbit on this one. I enjoyed the back porch comment from ezFolk and agree with you whole heartedly.

    I don’t watch the program. But, I have seen enough clips of Paula Abdul to notice that she was looking rather sober last night and still she didn’t know that was a uke!?! Someone should get that girl some help.

    As for the song, without the pipes to back it up I don’t see the point in even trying it. Castro did do it justice, though. And, I totally dig the Michael Franti style dread locks.

  7. MC Safety April 9th, 2008 4:53 pm

    Olly, American Idol couldn’t care less if any of their judges know the first thing about music. Simon Cowell has a spot primarily because he’s an ass to the contestants, and he’s good at being an ass to the contestants. Of course, nine out of ten times he’s also right, but he’s been wrong before.

    I really wish he’d played at least a slightly more complex version of this song. The actual version isn’t that difficult. Oh well, at least he had the voice needed to get the vocals right.

  8. Steven Strauss April 9th, 2008 5:22 pm

    As far as Simon Cowell calling Bruddah Iz “Israel Somebody,” you must understand: English people cannot pronounce the Hawaiian language and they have the self-knowledge not to try. My Lancashire mom married an AIr Force mechanic from Lanai and none of her family could ever pronounce a word of the Hawaiian they had to talk about. Add the Andy Capp tendency to dismiss as trivial anything beyond one’s own abilities and you have the ingredients of a ruined evening.

    The funniest minutes on BBC ever have been the back announce segments following blocks of Hawaiian music. Ian Wiccan had to come on stage at Ukefest 2004 in Santa Cruz and introduce a band from the Islands and he fled for the wings with a minor scandal on his hands.

  9. Howlin' Hobbit April 9th, 2008 5:39 pm

    It’s just laziness. Except for putting a more “v” sound to the “w” than we do in English and the use of the apostrophe (when spelling it in English) to indicate you should pronounce BOTH of the vowels, Hawai’in is a dead simple language to pronounce.

    (As an off-topic aside… Al, I wish to goodness the software you use didn’t insist on inserting those damn escape slashes for the apostrophes (see my comment above). I often forget to delete them before posting. It’s a pet peeve of mine re: lazy programmers since it’s pretty easy to code around. Are there no Irish programmers? You’d think the O’Briens, O’Reillys, etc. would get as tired of their names being mucked with as I do and raise a fuss about it.)

  10. Steve Guzman April 9th, 2008 8:25 pm

    Hey Bra!
    Thanks for the site. You know, I have a question.
    I’m listening to the Bradda Iz strumming on SWOTR/WAWW and he plucks a string… sounds like the G on the 1st and 3rd beat, just before he strums. It just sounds like an open G… but when in the next measure it’s pitched up a half note (or something) and I can’t get my uke to make the same note. I though it would be like you were fingering an A7, but it doesn’t sound right… and “yes”, I do have my uke tuned to GCEA. Is it because he’s using a Concert Uke instead of a Tenor, like I’m using? Thanks in advance for any advice!
    Austin, TX

  11. Woodshed April 9th, 2008 11:42 pm

    Olly: I don’t blame Simon for not knowing his name. I’m impressed that he’d heard of him – more than can be said for the other two jokers.

    Alison: I must admit, I haven’t been following it. But I watched a couple of videos of Jason and he’s officially my favourite. Anyone covering Leonard Cohen on primetime TV gets my (also non-existent) vote.

    Art: I doubt it very much. Thanks for mentioning the post all over the place.

    Alowisney: You’re obviously psychic. Any racing tips?

    Hobbit: Sorry about that. I noticed the \’ problem for the first time myself with wiwo’ole. Upgrading to WordPress 2.5 and updating the theme at the same time means it could be either (or a plugin not getting along with either). Whatever the problem, I’m far too dumb to fix it.

    Lonna: I think ‘sober’ is purely a relative term in this case. I have to disagree with you on the white-boy dreads. It’s always wrong. Has Newton Faulkner made it over there? Ginger dreads = very wrong.

    MC Safety: I don’t mind him playing a simple version of the song. It must be incredibly nerve wracking playing live to a huge TV audience (particularly for amateurs). He mashes up the words a little as it is.

    Steven: Oh, the joys of BBC announcers and foreign names. Football commentators have a hilarious tendency to over-pronounce foreign names.

    Steve: I’ll have to give IZ’s version a proper look sometime. And throw all my rules on the fire.

  12. Lucky Jean April 9th, 2008 11:44 pm

    Jason’s timing couldn’t have been better. Here in Hawaii we just finished up the Merrie Monarch Hula festival, a huge festival celebrating hula and all things Hawaiian. And then Jason goes and does this song by Bruddah Iz, as he’s affectionately known here…Iz was very popular, and this was his most popular song. I bet everyone in Hawaii will vote for him. We tried to. We couldn’t get through…

  13. Albert April 10th, 2008 4:47 am

    I think this just goes to show how little those three so called ‘judges’ know about music! If they can blunder like that after a performance they would have obviously known about beforehand they could have spent 5 seconds telling their assistants to write up a few simple notes for them… something like: “Paula, its a bloody Ukulele, not a guitar”…

    If these people are a joke, just like the show in general!

  14. apunt3s April 11th, 2008 4:22 am

    does anybody know what kind of uke that is?
    it sounds so beautiful im jealous

    please let me know

  15. Ryan April 11th, 2008 3:54 pm

    I shouldnt say thats Jason Castro guy in the tittle hes just some american idol idiot, it should say iz, and whoever else originally wrote the song. Good song though but everyone on American Idol is a sell out loser.

  16. Kaleo of Mililiani Hawaii April 11th, 2008 6:36 pm

    Thank you Jason for keeping Bruddah Iz’s legacy alive. You did him and the state of Hawai’i right. You made us very proud! Mahalo nui loa.

  17. Woodshed April 11th, 2008 8:04 pm

    apunt3s: It’s an oscar schmidt OU5.

    Ryan and Kaleo: I’m with Kaleo on this one. Obviously he’s no IZ. But he does well with it and I’m sure plenty of people have discovered IZ and the joys of the ukulele because of it.

  18. Emily April 26th, 2008 8:14 pm

    Is Jason using a pick in this song? Or, really, is it standard to use a pick when playing this song?
    Thanks to anyone who can help!

  19. Woodshed April 28th, 2008 10:45 am

    I don’t think he’s using a pick. It’s best not to use one. IZ didn’t for his version of the song.

  20. Amblin May 10th, 2008 2:50 pm

    Something I found rather amazing is that this was Jason’s first time playing a ukulele. He’s played guitar for 2-3 years (not the same I know). But decided to learn to play ukulele for this song that week on Idol. I thought that was pretty brave and he did a terrific job.

  21. Woodshed May 11th, 2008 10:29 am

    Thanks for that, Amblin. I didn’t know that. He certainly did well for a first go.

  22. Uke Hunt Is One | Uke Hunt May 12th, 2008 6:01 pm

    […] IZ/Jason Castro – Somewhere Over the Rainbow I woke up one morning to an email from Jeff telling me about this guy who had played the uke on […]

  23. Skye May 14th, 2008 5:56 am

    I’m new to this site. I have a baritone ukulele; I’m a beginner.
    Saw Jason Castro and took the song to my voice/music teacher and I would really like to sing and play this song by “Bruddah Iz”. Loved the sound of the ukulele! And the song!
    Saw the Oscar Schmidt OU5 concert Koa Ukulele by Washburn on ebay, new, and could not stop myself. It’s on the way.
    How do I tune it and any recommended chord chartbooks? Is it a soprano? Or tuned like one? Wow, I know so little. But I’m in love with the uke!

  24. Woodshed May 14th, 2008 4:45 pm

    Congrats on buying your new uke, Skye.

    The OU5 is a concert ukulele – which is just slightly bigger than a soprano. It’s tuned exactly the same as a soprano (GCEA). You can hear the tuning notes on this page (it’s the first one).

    There are a whole heap of chord char books that you can get fairly cheap like this one or this one. Or there are plenty of places online you can find them like here.

  25. Michael Coniff May 31st, 2008 1:12 am

    Hey there
    I was reading through this article and looking for the chords?? were they posted anywhere on the site am I just not seeing the wood for the Ukulele’s………..

  26. Woodshed May 31st, 2008 9:59 pm

    Hi Micheal. If you click where it says “Jason Castro/Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Chords)” or here:

  27. braddah risso August 20th, 2008 2:27 am

    i think iz wen play em like 10000000000 times betta but he was alright

  28. Zoo September 7th, 2008 8:20 pm

    Hi, I don’t see the chords attached with your posting…would love to see them! Thank you.

  29. Woodshed September 8th, 2008 7:40 pm

    Zoo: Click where it says “Jason Castro/Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Chords)” or here:

  30. Zen September 16th, 2008 8:34 am

    I see players on the internet playing uke’s with 14,15 frets to the body then i see 12,13 and they all seem to sound pretty much the same. is this just the make/model or are they different size’s (concert-tenor)??? i am looking for a uke to learn on(played guitar for 30 years) and would like to be able to get the same type of sound as IZ .i am pretty big and was suprised at how small the soprano uke was at the local shop(all they had was soprano or concert nobody there knew what the one they had was and i didnt either) can you make a suggestion as to name/size uke for me to look for(as i will have to order it online and and only see a picture prior to ordering) i am not able to spend alot of money right now (lol who is) but i want a real instument not a toy or piece of junk. any help is appreciated and i hope this isnt too off topic.

  31. Woodshed September 16th, 2008 7:26 pm

    Hi, Zen. The number of frets do vary between models, but generally the larger ukes (tenors) have more frets.

    IZ used a Martin tenor. But that might be beyond your budget. I’ve heard plenty of good things about Lanikai Tenors and they’re much more affordable (particularly the LU-21T).

  32. Steven Strauss October 8th, 2008 1:08 am

    Zen, don’t overlook the Bushman Jenny. It’s a concert scale instrument and for $250 it delivers what you’d expect from a five hundred dollar ukulele. Full, pretty tone, and a lot more dynamic range than most ukuleles at any price.

  33. What are the best songs to play on the ukulele? | Ukulele Online November 3rd, 2008 11:39 am

    […] when he played it on the ukulele on American Idol. You can find the Jason Castro version of the Somewhere Over the Rainbow ukulele chords […]

  34. solita November 28th, 2008 8:30 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I’m performing this song for my fam for xmas and I just got my uke. I’ve never played before and the the tabs for the Iz version totally intimidated me,lol.

  35. Woodshed November 30th, 2008 9:53 am

    solita: Good luck for the performance.

  36. David December 9th, 2008 3:28 am

    you say “His version of the chords are simpler than Brudda IZ’s ” – i can’t seem to find Brudda IZ’s chords anywhere – does anyone know where they are – or have you considered posting them on Uke Hunt?

  37. Woodshed December 9th, 2008 8:30 pm

    David: I’m pretty sure it’s in the IZ chord book.

  38. David December 10th, 2008 8:55 am

    thanks Woodshed, but i was looking for something a little more free of charge. ( :

  39. Woodshed December 10th, 2008 8:24 pm

    David: I try to avoid posting stuff when there’s already commercially available tabs/chords for it.

  40. jonny blaze December 20th, 2008 7:33 pm

    wow that was a waste of time, a vid that doesnt work and ah oh yeah where’s the tab??

  41. Woodshed December 20th, 2008 7:52 pm

    jonny: As it says twice in this thread already, the big red letters at the start of the post.

  42. Josh December 28th, 2008 8:16 pm

    Simon Cowell, how dare he!

    Israel Kamakawiwo’ole is the best on that song…no doubt.

    however, the video was done quite well

  43. Morgaine January 22nd, 2009 6:24 am

    While the above vid doesn’t appear to work anymore, I looked this up on youtube because I had to see if it even compared. I gota say I’m not a fan of Jason Castro’s take on it.

    Anyways, new to the uke. Already bought IZ’s book. Should get it in the mail tomorrow! ;)

  44. Tribal Surf August 28th, 2009 9:18 pm

    Not sure if it was mentioned but if not, it is definitely worth mentioning to those that are trying to play this as Brudda Iz played it that his Martin tenor had a low G string. A great video on YouTube suggests that he damped the strings after X-DU part of the strum to get that stoccata feel.

    As much as I enjoyed this guy’s rendition – as I do any rendition – it hardly comes close to how beautiful Iz made it sound.

  45. Woodshed August 29th, 2009 10:13 am

    Tribal Surf: Thanks for the info. I have to agree that the IZ version far outshines the Castro version.

  46. briana May 4th, 2010 8:15 am

    that track got me singing. I love this site and it actually makes me laugh (because you’re hilarious… not in a ‘oh my goodness this is so horrible its hilarious’ way or whatever. yeah) anyway thanks

  47. Johnny B Good May 16th, 2010 3:10 am

    Brudda, I find the warbling you speak of as a total waste. The Castro boy wasnt even alive when the little ditty rolled out on the sound waves and some money grubber wanna play mine mine mine on it. they got a bedda chance a ownin some knarly curls on the north side than they have rights to this history. thanks for defying the Lono and postin this anyhow!

    Da Haole

  48. Woodshed May 18th, 2010 10:19 pm

    briana: I’m glad someone finds my horribleness amusing.

    Johnny B Good: I can’t pretend I understood all that but thanks for sharing.

  49. elizabeth June 28th, 2010 9:54 pm

    this song is beautiful. do you think you could put up the straight israel version?

  50. Woodshed June 28th, 2010 10:21 pm

    elizabeth: I belive it’s in his songbook.

  51. Talia July 3rd, 2010 7:18 am

    neither of those video links work :[

  52. Mitchell July 30th, 2010 11:40 pm

    IZ was arguably one of the best ukulele players ever.

  53. Mitchell July 30th, 2010 11:43 pm

    But they didn’t put in the intro
    C Em F C F E7 Am F

  54. Sooz October 18th, 2010 2:27 am

    From an absolute beginner – that link doesn’t work, but this one does:

  55. Woodshed October 18th, 2010 6:16 pm

    Sooz: Thanks for the link. Videos of this are forever going up and down.

  56. Stephanie November 30th, 2010 2:31 am

    man no matter how hard I try to play this it still doesn’t work, I just got my uke today
    the Kala KA-S
    can someone please give me a tip or two?
    I’d appreciate it a lot :]

  57. Lucian December 2nd, 2010 5:43 am

    Stephanie, take a look at this video.
    Hope it helps…

  58. john miller January 10th, 2011 8:58 pm

    Hey I just got my first Ukulele. Beyond the excitement of playing an instrument that I can basically take out of the box and have fun with even being a complete beginner to stringed instruments there’s a big bonus on top of that. It’s finding your absolutely amazing and wonderful web site (just by luck). I’m not going to be going any further for quite awhile as it seems like everything I need for now is right here. I just wanted to say thank you, thank you. You really put something special together here. More power (cords) to you!

  59. Woodshed January 16th, 2011 11:20 am

    John: Thanks very much for the kind words. Glad you like the site. And the uke.

  60. Narissa March 8th, 2011 11:38 pm

    Im trying to play this but I dont know how to read the music. Like how do I strum and how long?

  61. Ged June 8th, 2011 8:04 am

    Hi all,
    Doesn’t anyone know the difference
    TABS and Chord charts ? 2 Completely
    different formats.

    Maybe it sounds cooler to says tabs or are
    we dumbing down over time?


  62. Woodshed June 8th, 2011 9:53 am

    Ged: Don’t get me started!

  63. Saint Haze June 22nd, 2011 7:38 am

    both videos are no longer available

  64. Ged June 23rd, 2011 6:47 am

    Hi again,

    The original and STILL the best version is on the IZ site here:

    Hope the WordPress site can cope with the link.

    Cheers, ged

  65. art Crocker July 24th, 2011 1:42 am

    OK, Have been on Maui for a few Months with my uke and I will never bring it again, Only kidding. However it is REALLY humbling when I am playing and it seems that EVERY local that wants to try my ukulele can play SOOO well, OK so I may not be able to fix that. However they will play some kind of cool Hawaiian thing, a little strum and a little picking. Then my turn to play some Hawaiian thing and my Aloha Oe just does not cut it.

    Anyway Al, park in the back of your mind to look for some cool Hawaiian tune. So in the mean time I will try to sneak off the island,

  66. Woodshed July 24th, 2011 8:10 am

    Art: Glad you’re having a great time. I might do a few Hawaiian tunes at some point.

  67. Ken August 11th, 2011 4:45 am

    Hi Im just beginner of ukulele but i played guitar before so i could change chords easily lol. My point is that i cant see the video! for ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ can u fix this? THX

  68. Woodshed August 11th, 2011 11:35 am

    Ken: Thanks for the heads-up. This video is forever getting taken down. I’ve just given up trying to keep up with the changes.

  69. Howard September 13th, 2011 11:24 am
  70. Woodshed September 16th, 2011 8:11 pm

    Howard: Thanks very much for the link.

  71. Alex December 8th, 2011 6:54 pm

    Both of the videos are unavailable…maybe post a new one?
    im trying to teach my self to play, and i find watching videos helps =]

  72. andrew December 29th, 2011 11:17 am

    I am 33 and got my first uke for Christmas. I love it. Most everyone I hang out with plays guitar. In three days time I have been able to learn three songs. This site has helped a lot. Keep strumming.

  73. Woodshed December 30th, 2011 2:31 pm

    andrew: Thanks! Glad you’re finding it useful.

  74. Salma June 13th, 2012 7:50 pm

    Hi there, I just uploaded this video on Youtube of the song on the ukulele, check it out!

  75. Woodshed June 18th, 2012 10:56 am

    Salma: Nice work!

  76. Boshoff June 23rd, 2012 1:37 pm

    The videos dont seem to be working?

  77. Woodshed June 25th, 2012 11:10 am

    Boshoff: They’re forever being taken down. I’ve given up on this song.

  78. Shanley October 13th, 2012 12:43 pm

    Would like to know if you do have the chords for (lenka) Im just a little girl bit in the cught? I wish could have one. Thank you much!

  79. Ernest Parco December 8th, 2012 1:43 pm

    Hi Woodshed. Can you tell me the what is the strumming pattern? How many beats per measure? Thank you.

  80. Julie January 5th, 2013 2:38 am

    Thank you for your wonderful site.

  81. Woodshed January 5th, 2013 11:12 am

    Julie: Thanks very much!

  82. Emma March 8th, 2013 9:11 am

    Would you happen to know anywhere I can get the picking for this song? I have a beautiful version here

  83. Woodshed March 8th, 2013 9:49 am

    Emma: There’s a really good version in Mark Nelson’s fingerpicking book.

  84. monika April 12th, 2013 9:47 am

    hi all this PDF is good but the vidios dont work it woulkd be helkpfull if they did worl

  85. Pandas April 28th, 2013 3:46 pm

    The videos were taken down T_T

  86. Laura July 17th, 2013 2:13 am
  87. Woodshed July 17th, 2013 8:25 am

    Laura: Thanks for the link.

  88. Guest October 20th, 2013 6:08 pm

    Is the ukulele in the strumming pattern sample an Oscar Schmidt OU5? I really like the sound of whatever it is.

  89. A123 October 21st, 2013 2:03 am

    Is the ukulele in the strum pattern sample a Oscar Schimdt OU5? I really like the sound of it and would like to know what it is.

  90. Woodshed October 21st, 2013 1:53 pm

    Guest/A123: I can’t remember for sure what I used. Most likely it’s an Ohana TK-35G.

  91. A123 October 24th, 2013 2:40 am

    Thank you Woodshed.

  92. Woodshed October 24th, 2013 7:56 am

    A123: You’re welcome!

  93. Martipora November 28th, 2013 12:35 pm

    What is the strumming pattern on the verse, or is it the same throughout the whole song? Yup, I’m pretty new! And thanks for this awesome website, it helps a lot!

  94. Grantober October 29th, 2014 1:40 am

    Thanks for the awesome chord chart and strumming pattern, I had this song aced within twenty minutes keep up the good work woodshed!

  95. Woodshed October 29th, 2014 12:42 pm

    Grantober: Thanks very much!

  96. Gael Guerard November 10th, 2014 3:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m new to the ukulele and it’s fun learning with songs I like! Thanks!

  97. Woodshed November 11th, 2014 10:10 am

    Gael: You’re very welcome!

  98. tjvonp April 12th, 2015 8:55 pm

    I thought to myself a few minutes ago, “Oh, man, I’ve had a uke for years. It’s probably about time I learn Somewhere Over the Rainbow. I wonder if UkeHunt has it.” And you delivered! Not only that, but this looks like the most commented on post I’ve ever seen on your site!

    Thanks for the chords, Woodshed!

  99. Woodshed April 13th, 2015 11:53 am

    tjvonp: I think it’s one of the most commented chord posts. There are some other posts that have it beaten though!

  100. Lucas Knerr March 26th, 2017 8:41 pm

    I’m just a rookie uke player, but with my experience from listening to the song thousands of times, I think it sounds the most like iz by using the pattern, “DDU UD, DDU UD” and so on. Also, changing chords every two times you do that.

  101. Lucas Knerr March 26th, 2017 8:50 pm


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