Nothing says “I’m a newly married manly family man” quite like pawing away at a pineapple-sized instrument best associated with “Tiptoe through the Tulips.”
But as soon as we decided on Hawaii as our honeymoon destination, I knew I would be coming home with a ukulele.
Sure, the uke carries some unfortunate Tiny Tim connotations – but as this recent PBS story points out, it’s also enjoyed a bit of a renaissance as of late. Eddie Vedder dedicated an entire album to the instrument, and I’ve been surprised to find a large and thriving online community dedicated to the “jumping flea” (so named, apparently, because the movement of the player’s fingers resemble jumping fleas).
Part of me was tempted to drop $500+ for a uke made from koa – an especially beautiful tonewood native to Hawaii that looks like someone captured the soul of the coolest tiger ever and poured it into a guitar. Alas, I determined that I’ve already spent enough money on guitars
for a lifetime this year and opted for the much, much more affordable walnut version, pictured below (which still looks pretty cool, I think!)
I picked up the uke from a little store along the highway outside of Lahaina called (appropriately) Lahaina Music. As I was browsing, the very knowledgeable store owner was busy trying to teach a few newbies Iz Kamakawiwoʻole’s version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which is basically Hawaii’s national anthem (you know, if Hawaii wasn’t part of America). Since everyone who buys a uke automatically has to learn this song, here’s my humble take (even though the song is a wee bit out of my range).
It’s also my mom’s favorite song. (Hi mom!)