The Diminuitive Guitar
April 15, 2003 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Whether you call it the "Jumping Flea" or "that Hideous Portugese Instrument," I'm sure we all have come to know, if not love, the ukulele. Of course, the best known uke player of recent times was Tiny Tim, though you may also remember performances in certain films. This last contains a very famous song. Converted? Then why not learn to play? Don't have an instrument? Build one for $12.
posted by kaibutsu (32 comments total)
Riot Ukes!
posted by rhruska at 10:53 AM on April 15, 2003

Not that there's anything wrong with the Portugese. *grin*
posted by kaibutsu at 10:54 AM on April 15, 2003

This is my favorite Ukelele fan site. There's some good information along with a lot of bad english.

My favorite advice for new players? To paraphrase, "If you can't play well, sing loud!". Indeed.
posted by mazola at 10:57 AM on April 15, 2003

Nicely done kaibutsu, did a dandy job with your needle point on this thread you posted.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:59 AM on April 15, 2003

rhruska: You probably wanted to link here. Which is fsckin' beautiful. I look at it, and don't even know where to begin...
posted by kaibutsu at 11:04 AM on April 15, 2003

I have a ukulele - it's a nice change of pace from my mandolin. I spend most of my time tuning it and then leaving it to sit on my desk. But I did note that bOINGbOING, among its other delights, sponsors a uke blog!
posted by Lynsey at 11:09 AM on April 15, 2003

Dang. Thanks, kaibutsu. Forgot that .coms are a tool of the six-stringed oppressor.
posted by rhruska at 11:11 AM on April 15, 2003

Wonderful links! My wife gifted me with a Fluke Moo-kulele (for the cow-lover, doncha know) a while back, and other than a couple of Petty Booka tunes that I play mostly for comedy relief at parties, I really haven't learned much on it.

And don't forget George Formby and his fabulous jangly banjo uke!
posted by MrBaliHai at 11:37 AM on April 15, 2003

Great links kaibutsu! Here are some more resources:posted by Songdog at 11:38 AM on April 15, 2003

How timely a post this is! Last Saturday, I took a two-hour workshop on the Ukulele. I can play three chord songs now--yes, I know that's very unimpressive. It's a very fun instrument. I highly recommend it. If you love the UKE, I love the group, Petty Booka. They interpret everything from well-known modern rock to country for the ukulele. And if you are in the market for a Ukulele, Kamaka is the Stradivarius of the uke world.
posted by VelvetHellvis at 11:42 AM on April 15, 2003

Even if you think you hate the uke, drop everything and buy "Facing Future" by the late great
Israel Kamakawiwoole. Worth it for his haunting medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World" alone.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:46 AM on April 15, 2003

I've got a couple of disks by "Bruddah Iz" and I suspect any of his recordings is worth it.
posted by Songdog at 11:56 AM on April 15, 2003

The current superstar of the `ukulele is Jake Shimabukuro. (His site, despite triggering "Download Japanese Language Pack" notices, is available in English.)

He's simply amazing. He was the heart of the Hawaiian group Pure Heart (which later became Colon), and recently striking out on a successful solo career.

While you can get a taste of his talent -- either by tracking down songs by Pure Heart or Colon, or seeking stuff from his solo discs (check out his rendition of a Paganini piece in RealAudio or WindowsMedia format, with more samples here) -- it's the way he comes across live that's earned him the following he has.
posted by pzarquon at 12:37 PM on April 15, 2003

Don't forget ukulele Ike. Before he was the voice of Walt Disney's Jiminy Cricket, he had an extraordinary career, introducing such songs as "I Got Rhythm" and "Singing in the Rain" (not to mention "When You Wish Upon A Star"). He was a monster singer and scat singer. A real original, whose uke playing was sublime.
posted by Faze at 12:47 PM on April 15, 2003

Can I just mention here that I was playing a ukelele when I met my wife? And that she says now that it impressed her, at least a little bit? (Take note, teenage boys.)
posted by argybarg at 12:49 PM on April 15, 2003

Stephin Merritt is my favorite ukulelist.
posted by tomharpel at 12:53 PM on April 15, 2003

Worth it for his haunting medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World" alone.

Ah, Iz. Missed this on preview. Also known as the "eToys commercial song," the "Meet Joe Black closing credits song," the "2001 'E.R.' season finale song," and "that song in 'Finding Forrester,'" it went about as far as any Hawaiian artist's work could go… and deservedly so. You can get a listen here (RealAudio).

Speaking of learning to play, though, I noticed Jake's official site has archived three video lessons. I doubt they show him jamming the way he's famous for, but, fun nonetheless.
posted by pzarquon at 12:56 PM on April 15, 2003

Say, were any other MeFites at Ukulele Expo 2002?
posted by Songdog at 1:23 PM on April 15, 2003

Be sure to check out THE DUKE OF UKE, or at least have a listen to my favorite cover of his: "Anarchy in the U.K."
posted by kablam at 2:15 PM on April 15, 2003

Great post, kaibutsu! I loved - excuse the pomposity - the concise richness of it. Besides, I can now impress all my friends.

If anyone's interested, the best modern Portuguese cavaquinho record is Júlio Pereira's Cavaquinho. It's amazing what the guy can do with such an apparently simple instrument.

To discover the profound origins of the ukulele, though, you need to listen to Portuguese folk music. Here's a 30-second mp3, recorded in the Minho, in the North of Portugal, which will give you a good idea of the sound and the gutsy, earthy, percussive context in which it is used. The rhythm, btw, is the Minho beat. In forms such as the chula and the malhão it reaches delirious heights.

It's only one excerpt from a rich database of Portuguese folk music, all in mp3 format, recorded by a team from Minho University. It's a fascinating archive - ideal for sargent serenity's and others' mad music mixes for MetaFilter!

I also went looking for one of y2karl's posts where the Hawaii connection is mentioned - it was very good and wild but I couldn't find it. Perhaps the great master himself can help?

P.S. Oh and please ignore Mr Bali Hai's malevolent, sadistic plea to remember George Formby. Only God knows the years and trouble it took to forget him. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:41 PM on April 15, 2003

And, gese, don't forget the second U in PortUgUese again!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:44 PM on April 15, 2003

Warning- Very sappy story coming up!

I was waiting tables back in the early nineties, and this cute little redhead came in.... carrying a ukulele. So, anyway, I'm waiting on a table, and suddenly I hear this girl singing, and I turn around, and there is that redhead again..only this time, she's dancing around and singing to people as she walks around the restaurant - while playing the ukulele ( very badly, I must say) as loud as she could. Everyone just got real quiet.... we thought she was a bit soft in the head.

And then she walked up to me, stood between the table I was waiting on and myself, and sang a little crazy love song to me ( made up on the spot, she claims), which included her phone number and name. And then walked out of the restaurant without saying another word.

I married her less than a year later.
posted by bradth27 at 3:11 PM on April 15, 2003 [4 favorites]

The Tiki King does some cool stuff (free mp3 downloads).
posted by modofo at 3:19 PM on April 15, 2003

The McGillicuddies will have to wait for me to get a real post together, but we cannot leave the Serious Ukulele Orchestra unmentioned.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:22 PM on April 15, 2003

Thanks for the Portuguese angle, Miguel. I've enjoyed the sound of the Brazilian cavaquinho for years and it's nice to hear from its continental forebear.
posted by Songdog at 3:36 PM on April 15, 2003

please ignore Mr Bali Hai's malevolent, sadistic plea to remember George Formby.

Quiet, you, or I'll send Jacques Dutronc over to croon beneath your window!
posted by MrBaliHai at 3:50 PM on April 15, 2003

I loved argybarg and bradth27 's romantic stories. Who'dathunk the ukulele would lead to true love?
posted by Lynsey at 3:52 PM on April 15, 2003

What a fun thread - thanks for a great post, kaibutsu! To think I have been underestimating the power and allure of the uke all these years!

And what Lynsey said. It is with some awe that I learned ukeleles have been the unlikely device that spawned not one but two Mefioso marriages - who'da thunk?! Uke groupies unite.

...on a quick glance, I feared this post was a slur against Miguel's - er - instrument. Things have been getting rather testy around here lately, so it wouldn't be entirely surprising to see a member slamming another member's member. Glad the reference turned out to be about ukes!
posted by madamjujujive at 5:52 PM on April 15, 2003

Kamaka is the Stradivarius of the uke world.

Too true. If you've ever heard the ringing of a real Koa wood ukelele, your ears will never forgive you for listening to anything else.

Nice psot.
posted by hama7 at 9:23 PM on April 15, 2003

I received my Bachelor of Education degree from a university in Nova Scotia. One of the requisite courses in the Elementary Education field was ukulele. Our professor was J. Chalmers Doane, (the pioneer of the triangular model) and he was an amazing music teacher. He could pick up almost any instrument and play it, but his true love was the ukulele. To sit in his class and watch him play, and to hear the way he made the ukulele sing, was an extraordinary pleasure.
posted by debralee at 7:55 AM on April 16, 2003

GCEA all the way,... hooray for the uke!! nice post!! btw a good sight to help with figuring out songs is Olga's. Of course, it's all about guitar, however the chords for hundreds of songs can be found there! Later now!,... broomp-bibroomp-bibroomp-bibroomp...
posted by danger at 9:04 AM on April 16, 2003

« Older Save the United States!   |   The roots of conflict. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments