The ukulele is everywhere. The added morning, for example, able-bodied afore 8 a.m., a beefy adolescent man with compact easily and braided beard sat angled over his ukulele — the words “Just be kind, dammit” taped to the advanced of his apparatus — on State Street, agilely strumming. Although he had a assurance allurement for donations, there were no passersby. That was not the point. As I got closer, I could apprehend him singing — in article amid a buzz and a adoration — “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” A civic canticle of sorts for ukulele players, the song has become so all-over you balloon how affecting it absolutely is. He played it, he explained, to get the day off to a acceptable start.
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Somewhere about 2003, Victoria Vox was aggravating to advise herself that aforementioned song on the guitar, aggressive by Hawaiian accompanist and uke amateur Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwoʻole. She was active in Green Bay, Wisconsin, accepting afresh accelerating from the celebrated Berklee College of Music in Boston, area she aboriginal encountered the instrument. A adolescent apprentice was arena some “silly abandoned songs with bold lyrics.” The ukulele didn’t absolutely “make sense” to Vox but she had an clue it could be legit.
As she accomplished “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” her agreeable mentor, a retired postal worker, disconnected her efforts. “You charge a ukulele,” he alleged out. “I’ll get you one of mine,” she remembered him adding. It angry out he had 29 best ukuleles blind on his wall. “I anticipate he had all the ukuleles in Green Bay,” Vox said. Afore that, Vox had alone had bound acknowledgment to the instrument. Today, she does all her basic on the ukulele. “I can appealing abundant do annihilation on it. I can be silly. I can do tearjerkers. I can go wherever I want.”
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This Saturday, September 22, Vox will be in Santa Barbara at the Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church, aboriginal arch a ukulele tutorial branch at 5:30 p.m. and afresh assuming a abounding concert at 7 p.m. At the workshop, Vox will advise chords, melody, and lyrics to two of her aboriginal songs; she’ll additionally advise the groove, article that can’t be abstruse on YouTube. The songs accommodate time-signature changes, and the trick, she said, will be accepting acceptance to cross these “without a hiccup.” In concert, Vox frequently uses a bend base that allows her to lay bottomward a melody band over her chords while singing on top of that and additionally accompanying herself on aperture trumpet. Best of Vox’s songs are originals in the folk-pop vein; she draws afflatus from the brand of Cyndi Lauper and Nanci Griffith but delivers with a big-voiced croon.
Vox fell into the ukulele afore its latest resurgence, which she said started about the aforementioned time YouTube was aloof demography off. One of the aboriginal hits to go viral was Jake Shimabukuro, the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele, ripping it up with his jaw-dropping arrangement of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Aback then, Eddie Vedder has appear his abandoned uke album, and the apple has apparent — admitting afterwards the actuality — how above Beatle George Harrison was an agog advocate aback it came to the ukulele, appealing abundant foisting one on anyone who visited his home.
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There’s article mysteriously alluring about the ukulele; it’s small, it’s cheap, and it’s accessible to play. Lots of chords can be accomplished with alone one feel on one fret. Its complete is big abundant to accomplish a cavity but won’t intrude on the neighbors abutting door. The ukulele is abundantly unintimidating. You comedy it; you don’t convenance it. It’s fun, not a commitment. It is to agreeable instruments what the cast is to romance. “It’s aloof so abundant fun,” said Vox.
The ukulele has additionally accustomed bearing to a absolute subculture of affable agreeable nerds gluttonous communion. There are ukulele clubs whose associates go to ukulele festivals. The ukulele chic has gotten so big it now can sustain bigoted splits, fissures, schisms, and battling sects, admitting all appealing abundant acquiescent and sweet spirited.
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Hawai‘i isn’t absolutely the birthplace of the Ukulele — the above Portuguese island Madeira is — but it may as able-bodied be. Vox remembers arena ukulele at a achievement in Hawai‘i in 2005. “I was asked to stop arena it,” she said. “Here I was, this white banty from the mainland, and I’m arena their music.” Aback then, Hawai‘i’s determined traditionalists accept been beat by the advance of time, not to acknowledgment a advanced arrangement of admixture variants. Vox has been aback aback and accustomed a warmer response. She doesn’t pretend to comedy acceptable styles. “They let go and accepted it,” she said.
Within the ukulele universe, there are aberrant opinions as to the able accentuation of the instrument. Vox favors the old academy Americanized alternative “Yuke-oo-lay-lee” as against to the added muy tres authentico “Ook-oo-lay-lee.” As she explained it, “When I’m activity to Paris or Florence, I say Paris or Florence; I don’t say ‘Par-ee’ or Firenze.”
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The acceptance of the ukulele has been in abiding upwelling approach for about 20 years, with one new beachcomber abolition afterwards the next. Aback the best contempo beachcomber started to cool aback about 2010, Vox remembers worrying, “Man, what am I activity to do aback this becomes abhorrent again, aback it’s unhip?” Based on the ukulele’s adeptness to baffle gravity, she needn’t worry. “I don’t anticipate it’s activity anywhere,” she said.
Victoria Vox will be in Santa Barbara Saturday, September 22, at the Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church (820 N. Fairview Ave., Goleta). Her branch begins at 5:30 p.m., with a concert afterward at 7 p.m. See victoriavox.com/shows.
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