Sunday 27 September 2009

The Convivial Ukulele

Further to yesterday's post, I hear that more and more schools are teaching the ukulele as a starter instrument - with, it seems, dramatic results. This seems to me one of the few things going on in English schools that makes perfect sense. The uke is easy to learn and play, portable, convivial, and makes, even when ineptly played, a perfectly tolerable sound, especially if accompanying a singalong. What's more, as all chldren surely appreciate, it sets them on the road to what they really want to play - the 'cool' electric guitar. Compare and contrast the earlier starter instrument of choice - the descant recorder. This is a perfectly pleasant instrument when expertly played as part of a recorder ensemble - but in the hands of a child learner, its ear-bleeding squawks amount to 'cruel and unusual punishment' for audience and player alike. Furthermore, it leads nowhere - or certainly nowhere 'cool'...
The rebirth of the ukulele is, of course, not confined to our schools. Grown adults are learning the pleasures of strumming along, and the success of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has been such that they have performed at the Proms - here's the Ukes' George Hinchiffe backstage, going from rubbish to genius in 1 min 20sec. And then there's the Wellington ukulele scene - but perhaps I've inflicted enough of that on you (though, if you missed it the last time I linked, do seek out the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra's video of It's A Heartache on You Tube - you won't be sorry). Enough.
This is the Age of the Ukulele!


  1. I hate ukeleles. When I was a young teen and just getting into rock music, I asked my mother to please, please, please let me get a guitar. Guess what she got me? Don Ho be damned to hell!!!

  2. You've just made George Formby a happy corpse Nige, would agree with the sentiment "anything other than a recorder"
    My granddaughter, aged seven and five eighths, started to learn the violin last week, her mum, very sensibly, has opted to hire the instrument, just in case.

  3. Very wise Malty, very wise - another instrument best left to the experts...

  4. I can still taste the dilute disinfectant on the recorder mouthpiece, it having been fished out of the little tank they were stored in. A vile instrument.

  5. Dave Suich, a member of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, "declared" that "[r]elief is one of the major emotions of our audience . . . ."