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  • Writer's pictureDonald Wilson

Ukulele - The Stone-Age Ipod

Hey music lovers! Does your partner/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/small child /pet guineapig own a ukulele? Does the incessant strumming of the same three chords played over and over and over and you crazy?

About 4 years ago I bought a cheap ukulele, more or less on a whim, and have been driving my long suffering girlfriend to distraction ever since. In our household the running joke is

Q. “What's the definition of perfect pitch?”

A. “When you throw your ukulele and it lands in the bin.....broken!”

Yes particularly during Covid, when lockdowns have forced us into closer proximity to folks with unsavoury , antisocial habits, us ukulele strummers have really come under fire.

In spite of this I’d like to put forward the argument that, far from being a Russian conspiracy to spread discontent and disharmony throughout the developed world, the humble ukulele may just be the thing that saves us from destroying ourselves as the earth becomes an increasingly polarised battlefield! Please try to put aside your pre-existing ukutrauma and keep an open mind as you read on.

Small is beautiful.....and unless you go for a kazoo they don’t get much smaller than a ukulele. Being such a small instrument it not only has a small carbon footprint but it can fit easily in your bike pannier or in the back of a tiny super efficient EV or even in the overhead locker (for that once in a lifetime fully carbon compensated overseas trip).

It will hardly take up any space when you downsize into your tiny house. And of course it’s not only small in stature but also has a small voice so you can play it (almost) anywhere without intruding on the personal (and audio) space of other peeps. It’skind of like a stone-aged IPod!!

It’s eco friendly.....Yes I know the phrase is used to describe almost anything from socks made from felted ferret fur through to highly toxic, tangerine scented aerosol deodorants that claim to save water by reducing the number of showers you let me clarify.

The ukulele I’m currently using was handmade at The Fremantle Men’s Shed by my mate Les using all Australian timbers. By turning very small amounts of these beautiful Australian timbers into a deliciously melodious instrument that will most likely outlast both me and its maker, as opposed to being turned into wood chips for toilet paper, I believe we are treating this precious resource with the reverence it deserves.

3.A ukulele can carry a message that might not be heard. Does that sound pretentious? ( Maybe it is?) and what does that actually mean?

Let me explain.

I reckon.... (How’s that for scientifically rigorous proof?)...that when you have something to convey, especially something a bit contentious, it’s best said through song. I have actually explored this idea in another forum (in a song fittingly enough) but to cut a long song to a short story try this thought experiment.

Think of an idea you really want folks to think about....let’s say something you really care about.....something emotionally charged. You are trying to express this heartfelt “truth”. You see their eyes start to glaze over, a smirk start crawling into the corners of their mouths. You might start to talk a bit faster, louder, maybe gesticulating to establish your point. Someone stifles a yawn. To make your point crystal you start quoting statistics and....CLANG! You’ve lost ‘em. The amygdala fired up. Their fight or flight response kicked in and you lost em!!

So just imagine that instead you pull out your ukulele and sing them a song....maybe a bit funny, maybe some sweet harmonies, maybe a few tears, maybe just the fact that you’ve taken the time to find something that rhymes with “Armageddon”....? Of course there’s no guarantee that this would win ‘em over but at least you won’t get a punch in the eye or lose friends and maybe...just maybe you’ll plant the seed of your idea gently in the fertile compost of their mind?

So I’ll leave off with my argument there lest I become hypocritical, slapping you around the head with my insistence that this idea of mine is a truth ....The only truth goddammit!

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