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MusicalmusingsSo the temperature has plummeted here in Ottawa down to minus 37 Celsius with the wind chill today.

Frost bite warnings in effect.

Good times.

Once safely indoors, Blythe and I immediately tried to figure out what we could do to warm things up over here.

In the theme of U.

Because that’s where we are in our Musical A to Z to series.

My mind immediately went to the ukulele; and Hawaii; and 50 First Dates; and this song:

1. Over the Rainbow (1939) – as recorded by Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole (1993) from the 50 First Dates Soundtrack

Just sit back and enjoy the views from Hawaii and sun and ocean and warmth to the sounds of this Hawaiian musician’s version of the song.


It’s everything I think of when I think “ukulele.”

That said, if that doesn’t win you over to the soothing sounds of this Hawaiian instrument, whose name translates roughly as “jumping flea”, a little surfing on YouTube will show you just how versatile it is.

Before we go any further, how about a bit of a tutorial? And some Led Zeppelin.

2. Kashmir (1975) – Led Zeppelin – as performed by James Hill

*note – video updated in 2017 as the awesome original of him actually teaching this in a classroom went offline.

Hill is a classically trained Canadian musician who has focussed on the ukulele. As a child, he benefited from J. Chalmers Doane‘s ukulele instructional program. Briefly, in the 1960s Doane changed school music programs across Canada by using the ukulele as an inexpensive and practical way to teach music in classrooms. According to trusty Wikipedia 50,000 schoolchildren and adults learned to play through this program at its peak.

Hill has since met Doane and they collaborated to create the Ukulele in the Classroom program in 2008.

I have to say, as a child who learned recorder in the classroom under what I presume was similar logic, I think this way cooler.

However, if that still doesn’t completely win you over, how about some Beyoncé?

3. Single Ladies (2008) – Beyoncé – as performed by the Fruity Ukuladies

So, they have their own YouTube channel where they cover all sort of songs, so if you like this, check it out. As for who “they” are: Carly, Inga and Bren, who have been playing together on their fruit shaped ukuleles since 2011.

I think I like the Kiwi best.

Next up, how about a punk rock classic?

4. Anarchy in the UK (1976) – Sex Pistols – as performed by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

If this is so far removed that you can’t quite place the original here it is.

That said, I think this one is my favourite. I never thought punk could sound so, well, like folk music. My husband and I spent a good hour last night listening to various of their covers and having a blast. We also greatly enjoyed them doing The Clash, Should I Stay or Should I Go, and I had a good giggle throughout their version of WheatusTeenage Dirtbag.

As for the Orchestra, they formed in 1985 “as a bit of fun”, but quickly caught on and have been performing ever since.

So that brings us to #5. I thought I’d leave you with a bit of Queen and some words of wisdom on the power of the Ukulele from a 2010 Ted Talk.

5. Bohemian Rhapsody (1975) – Queen – as performed by Jake Shimabukuro

We start and end with an Hawaiian. Just feels right. Jake Shimabukuro was well-known in Hawaii and Japan in the early 2000s, but became famous internationally in 2006 when a video of him playing While My Guitar Gently Weeps was posted to YouTube and became one of the first viral videos on the site.

I think that’s a nice thought to end on: the power of the Internet and the Ukulele.

So until next time?

Keep Calm

Image links to where I found it on the web. Thanks again to the Fruity Ukuladies!