Friday, April 16, 2010

The Mighty Uke and More Things Ukulele

A few weeks ago I finally got to see The Mighty Uke, a feature documentary about the current craze for the ukulele. It's an uplifting and educational movie that delves into the history of this much-maligned instrument, and gives some context for its recent upsurge in popularity.

The movie roams from Hawaii to British Columbia to Japan, Europe, and the Middle East to trace the alluring appeal of the ukulele, also known as the "people's instrument." There are interviews and performances from well-known ukulele performers like Jake Shimabukuro and James Hill, but we also get a taste of some of the hundreds of ukulele groups and clubs that are springing up all over the world. By the end of the movie, if you don't already own a ukulele, you are itching to get your hands on one. Highly recommended!

While I'm talking about things ukulele, I might as well remind you all about the weekly ukulele jam here in Toronto. Actually, there are now TWO weekly ukulele jams (Monday night "CUJAM West" for the youngsters, and Wednesday "Uke Night" for the rest of us geezers)-- plus the monthly Corktown Ukulele Jam, a themed open mike night. All accessible from the Toronto Ukes website. It's an embarrassment of ukulele riches!

For those of you interested in the ukulele as a vehicle for teaching music, James Hill and Chalmers Doane are putting out some great resources that you can access on the Ukulele in the Classroom website.

If you are a ukulele player-- or want to be one-- this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are festivals, workshops, internet discussion groups, YouTube videos, buy-and-sell sites, magazines, and more all dedicated to the ukulele. It's a whole alternate ukulele universe out there. Go wild (but don't forget your uke)!

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