City of Images attended the very first ukulele festival to be held in Brisbane, Spruke, and discovered there’s a lot more to ukuleles than four strings and a winning smile. Check out Part Two and Part Three for more superlative uke galleries.
Held at the Southbank Institute of Technology, and organised by B.U.M.S. – the Brisbane Ukulele Musicians Society – with major sponsors Morris Brothers Music and Lanikai Ukuleles – the festival featured a mix of concerts, workshops, open mic opportunities, strolling minstrels and buskers, and ukulele stalls with every possible kind of uke on display.
Here at City of Images, where ukulele playing is becoming a new way of musical life, we pored through our images to offer you the most colourful range of ukes and their loved ones (the attached and adoring humans, that is – and believe us, they’re very attached to arguably the cutest stringed instruments this side of Mount Kilauea).
Speaking of Hawaii, the ukulele originates in that beautiful string of islands, but, according to Ukulele for Dummies (yes, only the best of tutors for City of Images students!), the instrument was developed there by immigrant Portuguese furniture makers from the Atlantic Island of Madeira. Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias and Jose Espirito bought two instruments with them to Hawaii: a machete (no, not the kind of machete used to cut cane, but a four-stringed instrument) and a rajao (with similar tuning to the ukulele). These inspired the creation of the first ukulele. The new instrument was embraced by Hawaiian king, David Kalakaua, and the rest is musical and cultural history.
By the way, although the origin of the word ukulele is unclear, Dummies tells us that the word can be broken down into the Hawaiian words, uku (meaning ‘flea’) and lele (meaning ‘jumping’). Jumping flea – sounds about right, doesn’t it – small and unprepossessing, but with a bite and impact far bigger than its stature.
At the festival, the Ukastle Ukestra from Newcastle performed and entertained an admiring and appreciative audience. There’s an interview with the Ukestra’s founder, Mark Jackson, here at the ABC along with audio you can download. You can also visit the Ukestra at its website here.
You can see Iz Kamakawiwo’ole singing and playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the uke below and enjoy the galleries while you listen: