Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ukes in the NYTimes

Nothing particularly remarkable or newsworthy in this piece in The New York Times. Just the fact that it's there. And, I suppose, it is somewhat more than the usual regurgitation article. Worth a glance. Link


Ron Hale said...

Well, let's just take a look and see if the NYT gets the ukulele any better than it get its politics, Gary. Let's hope...

I'm from and earlier rock era, so
Eddie Vedder (don't think I've ever heard him, except for a couple of uke videos) taking up the instrument (and for how long exactly once the novelty wears off) means little to me. It certainly does not give the uke any more of a serious standing than it held before he came along.

And, in general, why do people think that rock types taking up the instrument somehow validate it in ways that other musical types don't?

Permeates the culture, yes, perhaps to a 'killing the goose that lays the golden eggs' degree. It'll be nice when the excess gets squeezed out of the system and ours is just another instrument.

Amanda's red Hilo is a uke for the ages, a true icon. I've seen her play another, but she sticks to the real deal like Willie Nelson sticks to his beat-up guitar. And amen and
hallelujah to that, sisters and brothers.

No, you do not learn the ukulele in a day. You just don't. Yes, it can be played badly, but fun still can be had even so.

Less strings, well yes, but the uke can, of course, have more than four of those things, a point that most articles of this sort tend to ignore.

I've said it before and I'll keep saying it until they pry the uke out of my cold, dead fingers: mocking Tiny Tim is not cool. It is, in fact, most uncool.
I actually had a go at one of the makers of Rock That Uke on another blog after the fool trashed Tiny in a most crass and juvenile manner.

God bless not just Tiny Tim, but Iz, too.

Nostalgia for a pre-rock 'n' roll era, to be sure. Not to be overly harsh on the current rock era, but its displacing of other, earlier eras in our affections is a crying shame. It is not, repeat not, better music than all that it has steamrolled over.

Glee is the location of the legendary music burial grounds. Music goes there and dies. Perhaps the uke wil go there and die, too.

Yes, Jake's Gently Weep became a
YouTube hit, but has no one ever told NYT about the YouTube hit that put Jake's not just in the shade but totally out of sight? He deserves mention in this sort of article these days.

Zeitgeist instrument, I suppose, but woe betide ukers when the inevitable backlash hits, and signs of it, ala,
'Say no to ukulele playing hipsters' are cropping up already. We've crowed too long and too loud not to have made enemies, and they will crow long and loud at us someday.

I tried learning that simple, effective strum that anyone can learn, and bashed my index finger on the uke to painful results. But a handy, dandy uke pick (thin, flexible, but with a limited life) saved the day.

So, Gary, just what are the uke's unwritten rules that NYT brings up?
Perhaps you could post on this and get some good discussion going.

How many people took up the uke after watching The Jerk? Anyone?

One of my pet peeves is the uke song/album on which you cannot hear the bloody uke. I'm lazy and I don't want to have to strain to hear a uke in a "uke" song, for crying out loud. Don't try to make it sound like something else. The natural sound of our instrument is far superior to anything Tune-Yards or anyone else can make of it.

Along this line, another pet peeve.
Have you ever watched a video of a uker just playing the uke and singing, or perhaps having just a few band members playing along in a low-key sort of way and enjoyed it enough to buy the album on which the song appears, only to play the album and find the uke buried under an onslaught of extraneous instrumentation that the video nowhere hinted at? I hate this.

And people (you know who you are)
stop doing it. Trust the ukulele, don't hide it and then try selling it to ukers as a ukulele album. Call it whatever you want, but don't call it a ukulele album, because it ain't. Thank you...

Anonymous said...

I like the last sentence... "Can I make this happy little instrument as depressed as I am?" I bet he can't. Other's with more experience have tried. Ukester Brown

Bill Robertson said...

As one of the filmmakers of Rock That Uke, I'm puzzled by Ron's memory of an exchange with either me or my co-director Sean Anderson about alleged "crass and juvenile" trash talk directed at Tiny Tim. I have no such memory. No one who would make a movie like "Rock That Uke" would ever mock someone like Tiny Tim. It goes against what the movie promotes, which is open-mindedness toward people and things that may seem different. Which Larry Love definitely was. Either Ron is mistaken about who said what or he simply misunderstood the intent of whatever was said.

Bill Robertson said...

Ah ha! Never mind. I found Ron's referenced exchange--on Ami Worthen's blog--in a follow-up comment I'd never read by Ron, who took umbrage at my tongue-in-cheek description of Tiny in an article I wrote for the Guardian newspaper. I was actually describing the association most Americans had about the ukulele when I was growing up, which was Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim, love him or not, was one weird guy, and weird in a way that directly spoke to issues of masculinity at the time. For many, his weirdness reflected adversely on the ukulele. I don't happen to think weirdness is a bad thing, though, and I'm sorry that Ron read my comments that way. I think weirdness can be very funny. To me, that's not the same as bad. But then that's a nuanced take on things that may not be as easily perceived as I'd hope.

Top 50 Ukulele Sites