What comes out of Rani Weatherby's ukelele isn't what you'd expect. As Rani sang and strummed her new song ‘Wrong Turn’, her uke provided bluesy accompaniment.
"I like to show people how versatile the ukelele can be. It's not all campfire songs and feel good songs.”
Rani is lead singer and songwriter - and ukelele player - for Seattle soul band Champagne Honeybee, winner of Best Band For Hire in the Evening's latest Best of Western Washington viewer's poll.
"The ukelele was just a good fit. I tried guitar and it just wasn't working for me. But the ukelele was easy to pick up for me, I actually taught myself."
The instrument's other benefit -- it's portable. In January 2018, Rani took hers on the road to India, to explore her roots: she was adopted from an orphanage in Calcutta at 2 months of age, then raised in Snohomish, Washington by a single mother. Rani grew up loving music, studying music, and eventually becoming a professional musician who fronts her own band.
She loves her life in America, but adds, "my entire life I always felt like there was some sort of a piece that was missing."
Rani found that missing piece in India, even though she didn't connect with her biological family.
Rani’s trip to India was facilitated by Champagne Honeybee’s drummer Kyle Kirkpatrick, who lives there. Rani and Kyle performed at the US consulate. She made the front page of the Calcutta Times. She even went back to her old orphanage -- now a private home.
But the high point of Rani’s trip was making music and teaching a music class at another orphanage, Shishur Sevay: a home for orphaned, disabled Indian girls - children rejected by India's adoption system.
"I felt like I finally found family in India, through these girls.” Rani said.
The group home was started by Dr. Michelle Harrison -- an American woman who adopted an Indian child, just like Rani's mother had - and saw the tremendous need:
"These girls have a wide range of disabilities -- but what I love about Shishur Sevay is that it shows everyone their abilities. And their gifts."
Rani's back in Seattle now, preparing to release a new Champagne Honeybee video. But she'll never forget the 'family' she found with her music - half a world away.
"Even though I grew up here, I want to believe that some of that talent and some of that musical inclination came from my ancestry. So, to foster it here, then to travel back to India to share it with the community was just, the proudest moment of my life."
Evening is your guide to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. Watch it weeknights at 7:30 on KING-TV Ch. 5 or streaming live on KING5.com. Connect with Evening via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Email.