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Ode to the uke

A new ukulele player finds the instrument inspires creativity and experimentation.

In my small apartment, my ukulele does not have a stand. It’s a traveler. A vagabond of sorts. From the couch to the lanai (porch), from my bed to the breakfast nook, this mahogany noisemaker makes its way to all sectors of my humble studio. 

The little wooden instrument serves as the perfect momentary distraction for people with restless hands, such as myself. I strum it during TV commercials, in-between washing dishes and vacuuming the floor, and I also like to serenade my cat, Amira, who is not always entertained. When I play Frank Sinatra, she’ll stick around, ears pointed toward the ceiling with a glimmer of content in her hazel eyes, but when I play Bruddah Iz, she’ll strut pointedly away.

uke
Illustration by Kimberlie Wong

In my short time experimenting with the ukulele, which I affectionately refer to as the uke, I’ve yet to find an unattractive sound, even when my fingers accidentally slip on frets and chords. Instead, I discover a new tune that, with a shift in strumming pattern or tempo, could work on its own. Unlike the guitar, which I had attempted to play for years, with its six metallic strings requiring complex finger positions to produce better tones on a larger, cumbersome body, the four nylon strings on my uke and its small, more practical frame, serves as a freeing, fun alternative.

I truly enjoy playing the ukulele, bobbing my head in rhythm to whatever it is I’m jamming, learning new songs and plucking makeshift tunes on my lanai with Amira, but I have no aspirations of becoming a performer. It’s just for Amira and me. I’m happy creating my own rhythms and strumming patterns, hitting away at random strings and devising melodies that are entirely my own. Some days, I’m dedicated to learning songs or chord progressions and other days, the ukulele serves as a light musical reprieve from my morning or afternoon rush. Either way, I’m glad I invested a little over a hundred bucks for my uke as it never fails to brighten my day, even if only for moments at a time.