Wednesday, November 14, 2012

If you like a Ukulele Lady...

Come closer....I want to tell you something.  Ready?  I've discovered the secret to world peace. <<sharp intake of breath>> I know, you're shocked aren't you? Shocked and stunned that it is me who should have discovered it. What do you think it is?  I could make you guess but we'd be here for years so I'm going to come straight out with it. The ukulele. Yes, the little ukulele (ookoolaylay, to give it its correct Hawaiian prononciation) is the secret to world peace. We should be sending ukuleles to Afghanistan, not soldiers.

A couple of months ago I met up with an old school friend who I had lost touch with about 20 years ago. A friend posted a video on YouTube from her recent birthday party showing her playing her ukulele. It looked a lot of fun.  Hmm, I thought to myself.  It's small and portable so you could take it anywhere. It's only got four strings, so chords looked easy. And I'm sure my friend won't mind me saying that she had no particular musical talent, yet she clearly handled her uke very well.

And here's my lovely friend proving you really can take a uke anywhere
 Then our village pub had an End of Summer Bash and on a lovely, sunny Sunday (yes, there was one. I think) we sat in the garden and sang and danced to a local band, Paper Moon, which heavily featured a uke. One of my friends turned to me and said she really fancied learning to play it. 'Fantastic! Me too.' I replied and before we knew it we had a third recruit as well. and The Ukuladies were born.

Within a few weeks we all had our ukes and were totally and utterly smitten. It's such a joyful little instrument that you can't help but smile when you play it. The Boy and The Girl were scathing, yet within minutes of it arriving, The Boy, who plays the guitar, was wandering around the house strumming it and yesterday, when I announced that I was going to upgrade to a concert sized uke, which is  bit bigger than my little soprano one, The Girl asked if she could have the old one.

Once word got out, another friend told us he had a mandolin and he'd like to join our strumming group. Fantastic, we thought. Three Ukuladies and a Mandolin had a nice ring to it, especially as he was a man. He turned up for our first strumming session, having never played the mandolin. We struggled to tune it - I mean, come on, 12 strings? - and managed to break two strings while we did so.  While we faffed and fretted about it, he borrowed a uke and within minutes had decided to ditch the Mandolin, lovely though it was. He's now the proud owner of a lovely Tanglewood concert uke but he's completely ruined our name!

We've only been playing for a few weeks but already we can sing and play a few songs and it is just so much fun. Why schools bother teaching kids to play the recorder when the ukulele is just as easy and much more fun.Honestly, who ever learns the recorder at school then keeps it up into adulthood?

On the other hand, all these cool and in some cases surprising people play the uke

Neil Armstong - yes, that one!

Jamie Oliver - pukka!

Zooey Deschanel

Zac Efron

Frank Skinner on banjo uke. Griff
Rhys Jones and Harry Hill also play

Not to mention all the famous musicians who play or played the uke; Joe Strummer from The Clash, Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters, Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, Roger Daltrey from The Who, George Harrison and Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Taylor Swift, the list really does go on and on. 

You don't even need a teacher these days, you can learn on YouTube. Just do a search for Ukulele Mike, everyone's favourite Californian, and within hours you'll be able to play something recognisable. And you don't need to spend a fortune. £18 will get you a half-decent instrument to start on. And once you do, you won't stop smiling. Honest! It has also made international stars of the likes of Jake Shimabukuru who is a virtuoso player and Julia Nunes who is just plain fun!

In the right hands (not mine just yet!), the humble uke is an instrument of incredible beauty.

Take a few moments to sit back and listen to Jake playing Bohemian Rhapsody. He's incredible.
We now take our ukes to the pub on Friday evenings and have a little sing-song. So far no-one has thrown us out and we've even had some positive comments. The landlady has now agreed to let us start a strumming group once a month so we are hoping to connect with other ukers. At the end of the month we are heading down to Taunton for the South West Ukulele Union Jam. Eighty or so ukulele players will converge on a pub in the town for an afternoon of jamming and probably from me, not a few bum notes. Afterwards we are going to play for a bit at the Ice and Fire Festival. It should be enormous fun.

So get with the program and get yourself a Uke, and make your own personal contribution to world peace.

Even the leader of the Free World plays one -
well he is from Hawaii.  Get your uke-playing
Obama figurine here!
And for your further delight and delectation, Bette Midler, another well know uke player, singing 'Ukulele Lady' in Las Vegas. Sadly she's not playing but her daughter is.


the fly in the web said...

If they'd given us ukes rather than recorders when at school we might have turned into reasonable musicians!

dinahmow said...

You've inspired me! I played a uke when I was a kid, now I fancy having a crack at it again.
(Shame about your botched name! )

Wylye Girl said...

Fly, my children had to lear the Kazoo! I mean, how flaming pointless is that? And it was a private school where they could have afforded a couple of Stradivarius (Stradivari?) if they wanted to

Dinahmow - yes, go and pick up that uke. Join the new uke movement. You'll never look back!

Zig said...

My nephew teaches the uke in schools :)
So much better than starter recorders or worse, violins!

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