Always be yourself, unless you can be a ukulele player, then then always be a ukulele player
Everyone loves the sound of a guitar, it’s true, but those who discount the ukulele based on its diminutive size just don’t understand how amazing a sound that is so can be. The ukulele has a lovely, soft little voice that can fill listeners with joy. And there is hardly a person on the face of the earth who can keep their hands off of a ukelele when it’s around, even if that person has no clue how to play.
Thankfully, there is no requirement to know how to play the ukulele on World Play Your Ukulele Day. The only request is that anyone and everyone will pick up that Ukulele and play!
History of World Play Your Ukulele Day
The ukulele is arguably one of the most iconic sounds that has come out of Hawaii, which is where this small instrument got its start. Everything about this tiny guitar is adorable, right down to what its name means: “Jumping Flea”. Sure, fleas aren’t all that cute, unless they are imagined as an adorable cartoon flea along the lines of the firefly in “The Princess and the Frog”, then suddenly it’s the cutest thing that could ever be.
So, that’s the ukulele, a cartoon flea with a bright voice and a cheery disposition.
The ukulele was introduced to Hawaii sometime in the late 1870’s, though the name of its predecessor was certainly less adorable than ‘jumping flea’. The origin instrument was of Portuguese origin, and was known as the machete. Sounds violent, doesn’t it? Thankfully, neither the sound of the ukulele nor its name is violent–in fact, strumming it is sure to brighten anyone’s day.
The first ukulele craze happened in 1915, when it was introduced in San Francisco at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. The instrument became super popular, and a few years later the YMCA took it upon themselves to ship these instruments and their music to soldiers to bring a bit of joy during World War I.
While it originated in Hawaii, the instrument actually played a central role in helping to revitalize Canada’s music programs, as it was an inexpensive way to introduce students to music, and was incredibly practical to teach and foster musical literacy. The Doane program was named for its creator, J. Chalmers Doane, and during its time it taught nearly 50,000 children to love and play the ukulele. While the Doane program has ended, it has a legacy that is headed by James Hill in coordination with the original Doane.
Now, people all over the world love this little versatile instrument that has become more and more popular over the past several years.
How to Celebrate World Play Your Ukulele Day
Wondering how to celebrate World Play Your Ukulele Day? Well, it’s right there in the name, of course! Try out these ideas to enjoy the day:
Get a Ukulele and Play
Go out, get a ukulele to call your very own (or, perhaps, start by borrowing one from a friend), and start playing! With its bright tone and cheerful disposition the music is sure to bring joy to everyone around, even if they are just laughing along with you as you try to pick out a tune.
The great thing is even the worst musician sounds amazing on a Ukulele. Well, that is, as long as no one is listening too closely.
Join a Ukulele Band
Get together with a whole bunch of others who like to play the instrument, and get jammin’! A quick online search for the local area should reveal groups, societies and bands that all revolve around this tiny but mighty instrument. Don’t have a band that can be found local? Then start one!
Take Ukulele Lessons
The great thing about this instrument is that it isn’t extremely difficult to learn. And with only four strings to deal with, it’s not super hard to get the chords mastered in a fairly short amount of time.
Finding a teacher locally is a great way to learn, or try out some online lessons.
Those who don’t want to invest in an actual teacher can find a whole host of resources available on the internet so that they can teach themselves to play the ukulele at home on their own.
Listen to Some Ukulele Music
Whether taking a break from playing, or simply trying to get in the mood and inspired, listening to someone else play the ukulele is a great way to pass some time on this day! Try out these ideas for incredible ukulele artists to listen to, whether buying a cd by them or streaming them online:
- Eddie Kamae. Prior to Kamae’s appearance on the scene, the ukulele was almost exclusively used as a backup instrument. But this founding member of The Sons of Hawaii put it on the map as a solo and lead instrument–and he was issued into the Ukulele Hall of Fame in 2001.
- Jack Johnson. Raised on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii, Johnson’s music is super relaxing and has been part of bringing the ukulele into the mainstream in the past couple of decades.
- Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Most famous for his delightful version of “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World”, Kamakawiwo’ole is more commonly known as “IZ” and his traditional Hawaiian upbringing shines through in his music.
- Jake Shimbakuro. Popular not only in Hawaii but also in Japan, Jake has a mastery over the instrument that is extraordinary, which he uses in different genres of music including elements of blues, jazz, and rock.