The magic of the ukulele

The fourth annual Melbourne Ukulele Festival (affectionately called MUF) is in less than a week. Since this is such a fantastic festival, and my little band the Urban Ukes are playing there, I thought it timely to blog about ukuleles and how they make me rather happy.

Heres the cute poster I made for the event:

Me and the Uke

I picked up the ukulele a few years ago after I got quite sick and needed a positive bed-friendly distraction. My first ukulele was a lovely warm 6 stringed tenor Lanikai, and it's still my favourite. It led to a lot of songwriting and open mics, and then meeting the Melbourne Ukulele Collective (MUK) and playing at their monthly open mic night. There I met the very talented uker, John Ferguson, and we've been playing together ever since. The whole being sick/music thing triggered a bit of a strange metamorphosis in me, and I decided to stop my day job, take a break, and reconfigure my compass in a more permanently creative direction. I have never really looked back. I took a year to study music at NMIT (and even blogged about it here), where I met Tom Jacka, who jumped on board with the double bass. Urban Ukes is now a fully rounded little musical outfit and awesome fun. We do lovely little gigs, mostly around Melbourne, and functions too. If you want to keep up with our news, we have a facebook page!

Why ukulele is the bomb

The ukulele is a pretty special little instrument. Its portable, cheap, easy to learn, and doesn't require any freakish finger stretches to do nice chords. These advantages might partly explain the fanatical plague that has swept the globe in the past few years: replacing the recorder as the class instrument in primary schools, ukulele collectives and festivals popping up everywhere, dominating YouTube channels, inspiring an entire album by Eddie Vedder.

Interestingly, it's not the first time people have gone mad for the ukulele - there was a bit of a craze in the 1920's jazz scene. But mass production and spreading of the word through the web has made this one entirely epic. Its interesting that it comes at a time when vintage, and DIY and all those nostalgic things have most definitely come back into the mainstream.

Even if the boom is just a fleeting fashion thing, it doesn't really matter. The important thing is that it's made music more accessible and less intimidating, so more people are making and sharing it (not just listening) and that is just splendid! I am also quite stoked that kids will be playing an instrument in school that they can sing along to. Recorder always felt so restrained. Except maybe for this guy.

You should play too!

If you feel like jumping on the friendly ukulele wagon, a good place to start is the ukulele hunt website and of course if you're in or around Melbourne, new people are always welcome to come along to the MUK beginners and open mic nights.