Music Week: Geeking Out With the Ukulele

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“Play something I’d recognize,” an intrepid Hawaii traveler insisted when we visited the mainland some time ago.

My son, the ‘ukulele player, played several traditional Hawaiian songs, drawing nothing but a blank look. Not sure what else to share, he played a standard Hawaiian vamp.

“Oh, I know that one!” she swooned. For her, the vamp may as well have been an entire song.

In the hands of a musician playing traditional Hawaiian music, the ‘ukulele evokes white sandy beaches, palm trees, and plumeria-scented breezes. One familiar Hawaiian vamp can transport the listener straight to paradise.

However, in the hands of musicians who prefer to experiment with their ‘ukulele, all kinds of quirky goodness can happen. Take, for example, the ‘Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. This collection of ‘ukulele-wielding musicians delivers their British humor and wit to appreciative audiences around the world. It’s not every day you hear The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly on ‘ukulele. Follow the ‘Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain on Twitter.


Traveling to North America, we have the inimitable James Hill (you may remember this earlier GeekMom post about James). Many people are surprised to hear that ‘ukulele instruction is part of the Canadian school program, but lucky for us. Without that exposure, James might never have written Ode to a Frozen Boot. (It’s Canada. It gets cold.)


Victoria Vox entertains her fans in both English and French. You’ll recognize the ‘ukulele on her original tunes, but you may be surprised to discover that the trumpet you hear is actually Victoria playing her mouth horn. Follow Victoria on Twitter.


As often happens with musicians, a little collaboration brings James and Victoria together in a one-of-a-kind rendition of Billie Jean (yes, that Billie Jean). Watch that man play (and watch for a hilarious special appearance by Ralph Shaw).


Of course, even Hawaii-based ‘ukulele artists can get their quirk on once in awhile. Who would ever have thought to play Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody on an ‘ukulele? That would be the fabulous Jake Shimabukuro. If you haven’t seen this yet, prepare to be wowed. Follow Jake on Twitter.


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1 thought on “Music Week: Geeking Out With the Ukulele

  1. I play ukulele. I can’t play traditional Hawaiian songs, but i can play lots of contemporary rock and indie songs! It sounds really cool cuz they dont even have ukulele in the origjnal version. Check me out at

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