February 19, 2010


Ukulele sends UK crazy: Why ukuleles are making a comeback (Judy Fladmark, 2/18/10, BBC News)

The modest ukulele is enjoying a surge in popularity. Once considered a novelty, the four-stringed instrument is ready to be taken seriously.

In Spitalfields, where London's financial district borders the city's East End, stands the Duke of Uke, the only specialist Ukulele shop in the UK. Dozens of brightly coloured ukuleles adorn its ceiling and walls.

Shop owner Matt Reynolds explains how he first got the idea after his home became over run with his own ukulele collection.

"It seemed a good idea to start selling some of them off. Little did he realise that he would soon be riding the ukulele wave.

"In many ways they sell themselves," says Mr Reynolds. "It's so portable and occupies not much space around you. It doesn't have the baggage associated with the guitar. It's very unintimidating, it just says hold me and play me." [...]

Back at the Duke of Uke, Matt Reynolds is preparing for a group lesson. He says the magic of the uke is that with its four strings - as opposed to the guitar's six - it is easy to play. As a consequence, "there are a lot of groups forming and running through songs together".

"It's not long before you have a few chords down so that you can play a large amount of music that has been produced in the 20th Century".

"Indie music has picked it up and in the aftermath of the digital age and back to acoustic feel there is a bigger interest in folk instruments and it happened to be one of them."

"Then there is the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain who, in doing covers of songs, have really popularised the karaoke, sing-along aspect that is there."

So could the ukulele replace the recorder as first instrument of choice for schoolchildren ?

Peter Hudson, a ukulele teacher for the Kitchen School of Music says it continues to grow in popularity with primary schools and demand for lessons is secondary school.

"The ukulele is brilliant for kids to learn. It really comes to life when played in groups and they get a lot out of writing their own song. It would be great if everyone could learn the ukulele. It is a good way into any form of music."

The internet has helped fuel the popularity of the ukulele. Al Wood who runs a website for fans of the instrument, called Ukulele Hunt, says that two years ago he had 700 daily visitors and now there are almost 7,000 a day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 19, 2010 6:49 AM
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