Review 2014:
One Thing:
Cynthia Kinnunen.

Happiness in one small but mighty package

Music  I’m a pretty strong advocate for music. I tend to spend a substantial amount of brainpower and energy on a lot of musical things throughout my days.

But if I had to whittle it down to one single thing today, only one “have you thought about this?” tidbit, I think it would have to be – ready for it – the ukulele.

OK, so let’s get the Tiny Tim/George Formby/Youtube-cover-frenzy comments out of the way and then we’ll proceed. And for the record, I do quite like Tim and George although I’m less enthused about the seemingly endless bedroom “uketube” covers...but I digress.

You see, I have discovered the magic in this mighty little instrument. Maybe you have, too. It’s an instrument that is perceived in so many ways and, with its chameleon-like persona, blends into all manner of odd and wildly different surroundings.

The ukulele really is an instrument of the people. It is an instrument that can tuck neatly into a VW van to accompany hipster-friendly tunes. It can be the guitar’s cute cousin in mainstream/radio-play bands. It can be thoroughly and classically mastered to woo audiences with interpretations of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody or hooked up with wires and chopsticks to create a wild experiment in timbre and ukulele-electronica. It can allow the tiniest of fingers to make small, special melodies and old, weathered hands can strum meaningful wartime tunes.

In my pitches for the uke, I often cite its capabilities from a teaching standpoint. I can teach children and adults alike all kinds of things from ear training, theory and composition, to strumming chords or plucking melodies. Accompaniment is also a big one – you can sing and play this little sweetheart, too, for the bargain price of around Cdn $50 to start. Not a bad price point for an instrument that can do so much musically.

The one consistent piece is that it brings happiness. Seriously. There is joy in these teeny tiny music makers. Whether it’s three chords with a pint, or a well-practiced melody and harmony, it brings a positive little vibe wherever it goes. George Harrison knew it. The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra knows it. James Hill knows it, as do Gus & Fin, Eddie Vedder, Taimane Gardner and thousands of others around the globe. I’d like to think it’s now past the point of being a novelty or a phase. I think the ukulele has started to sink into the mainstream as a viable instrument. It’s well-deserved recognition, as far as I’m concerned.

So whether it’s just for a giggle or for some serious music-making, there is goodness to be had in a little ukulele. I think you should try one on for size. Everyone deserves a little musical happiness in their days. In fact, in the words of one of the world’s best players, Jake Shimabukuro, “There is no ego when you’re a ukulele player,” and “The world would just be a better place if everyone played the uke.” Here’s hoping one may arrive in your hands this season. This is my holiday wish: Ukulele peace on earth.

You can follow Cynthia on Twitter @CynthiaCrumb.

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