ginger's ukuleles
One Wednesday evening in 2006 I was enjoying the ABC's Spicks and Specks as usual when on the segment "Look what they've done..." appeared a dozen or so members of MUK - the Melbourne Ukulele Kollective. The segment was great. But then, at the end of the show, the original dozen were joined by countless other MUKers to play the show out. They kept coming...and coming...and eventually seemed to take over the entire studio! All ages, all abilities...all seeming to have the time of their lives! It was fantastic and I thought, "I want what they're having!".
in the beginning... the next step... moving on...
I spent the next little while rummaging about looking for my old red uke...the one decorated years ago by my friend Primrose. I knew it had to be somewhere as I would have never thrown it out! Eventually I found it, hit Google to refresh my memory of tuning and chords, dug out our old Buskers music books and started strummin'!! I hadn't strummed a uke for nearly 40 years! (During my teen years I'd spent some time in New Zealand with a Maori family who had taught me some chord basics.) Over the next few months I returned regularly to my happy little instrument and was surprised to find how much had remained hidden in my memory banks from all those years ago. The really neat thing was that while playing, along with lots of great memories from my youth flooding back, all daily stresses dissipated! It's simply impossible to feel stressed while strumming a ukulele! It wasn't long before my little old red uke gave way under the strain of old age and excessive exercise and very soon it was time to get serious...the world-wide ukulele revolution had taken a firm hold! So back to Google in search of a Tasmanian luthier. Google threw up Tom Chippindall and after a plethora of emails and a visit to Launceston, I eventually commissioned my pride and joy. By September 2007 I had my Tasmanian blackwood & sassafras concert made especially for me by Tom. It not only sounds heavenly and feels wonderful to play, it is a thing of beauty...in fact, a work of art. Tom's gentle spirit and obvious love of music is completely manifested in the instrument. His workmanship and attention to detail is outstanding and dealings with him were an utter delight. A year on and I felt the need for something a little different. Someone must have heard my wish because for Christmas 2008 a very generous Santa delivered an Applause (made by Ovation) electric ukulele. And it's not just a pretty face...it's a real hoot to play!!
I think I've started a collection... a dream realised... an irresistable vintage vibe...
Christmas 2009 and Santa was even more generous with a Beltona resonator uke from New Zealand. Sensational to play...and look at...an exceptional tone and such a gutsy sound!! Sorta completes a circle really...started with a red uke from NZ in 1966 and now have a red reso uke from NZ!! This has gotta be the start of a ukulele collection! A vintage banjo uke had been my 'holy grail' since meeting the amazing Tas Fleming and his banjo uke in early 2007. In 2010 the dream was realised when Eamonn in Galway put this little beauty on eBay. After beginning its life in the USA in the 1930s this gorgeous little SS Stewart, Collegiate banjo ukulele spent some time in Ireland before travelling half way round the world to take up residence with me in Tasmania! It's pretty much intact with real skin vellum and constructed of birds-eye maple. Its tuning pegs have been replaced with geared tuners and it's now strung with quality Aquila strings but it retains the look and sound of the 1930s. Songs of yesteryear sound so much more authentic on this pretty little instrument which is a pure delight to play. While in Melbourne for the 2011 Melbourne Ukulele Festival I came across this replica of a vintage Nunes ukulele - the aNueNue Vision 1879. It has an amazing sound and is beautifully crafted. Perfect for travel being elegantly small and exceptionally lightweight and, well...what the heck...I didn't have a playable acoustic soprano anyway!
the big daddy of ukes... out of the blue... too good to refuse?...
Desire for the Kala U-BASS came right out of left field. Well...from attending the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain concert in March 2012, actually! I ordered this bass uke from Sam Ash Music in the USA. Delivery was lightening fast and communication from the guys at Sam Ash was brilliant. I've fallen in love with this bass and am thoroughly enjoying learning new skills. I received an email from a guy (I didn't know) selling this little uke..."a 1915 Kumalae with friction pegs and gut strings". My interest was aroused so I hit the internet to do as much research as possible. I discovered that Jonah Kumalae (1874-1940) had made ukuleles in Hawaii from 1911 to his death in 1940. He displayed his ukuleles at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, where his ukulele design won a Gold Award. From 1915 until his death in 1940 Kumalae's ukuleles bore the Gold Award seal. So, although I couldn't put a year on it, it was definitely produced between 1915 and 1940. This one was true vintage...I'd got myself hooked! In July 2014 we were privileged to host Daniel Ho in Hobart for a workshop and performance, via Kamuke magazine. What an amazing man...so talented and yet so humble. He generously shared his boundless knowledge of my favourite little instrument and passed on invaluable advice. He just happened to have 2 ukes for sale...a soprano & a tenor (or concert...can't remember). With solid Koa bodies they were made by Pepe Romera in collaboration Daniel, and have Daniel's signature on the head. Bought the soprano...why wouldn't I? At the time they were the only 2 in Australia...ooh err! I love it...so compact and such a gutsy sound.
Surely, this has to be the end of my ukulele collecting. My favourite number is 9 and in the last 9 years my ukulele 'family' has grown from a 40 year old only 'child' to a total of 9. What a thrilling time it's been. I could never have imagined the incredible times this wonderful little instrument would bring all those years ago in 1966 when I got my first uke. So I think it fitting that my uke 'family' should remain at 9 members...but who knows! Where ukuleles are concerned... never say never!!
my uke 'family' at 'home'
plus a member of my cat family, Chat Noir, who is the first to pose whenever the iPad camera app is launched
And where did this revived interest in the ukulele lead? After a few weeks of solitary strumming following what turned out to be a life-changing episode of Spicks and Specks I decided to set about establishing a MUK-type group in Hobart. Six months later saw the emergence of HUG (Hobart Ukulele Group). (You can read the story of HUG's beginnings HERE) and you can view clips of HUG performing in the Vids section of HUG's site HERE.