Are Uke Kidding Me?!


Steph Sommer

Junior Kenzie Merrit signing at the East Talent Show. Kenzie played her original song “My Beautiful Friend.”

Steph Sommer, Features Article

What’s the deal with the new Ukulele craze?

Walking through the halls, it’s not uncommon to see students sitting and visiting, happily strumming away on a ukulele. A uke even made an appearance at the EHS talent show. Even on the radio, some of the biggest hits use them. One thing is becoming certain- Ukulele’s are in.

“It’s fun seeing how many people just at East play the ukulele,” said sophomore Ashlyn Bailey.

The small guitar-like instrument began growing in popularity in Hawaii, and now it has spread all over the world. The uke is well known partially because of Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole, who played a ukulele medley of “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World,” selling nearly 5 million digital copies of his recording.

But why is the ukulele such a growing trend?

“It’s really easy to play. You can really play anything and it sounds good,” said junior Kenzie Merritt. “It’s also a really cute instrument.”

Perhaps its popularity is due to the growing popularity of Twenty-One Pilots, a band well-known for their unique mixture of rap with ukulele.

“The YouTube video, Twenty One Pilots with Can’t Help Falling in Love, I thought, that sounds cool,” said junior Marcel Bohlmann.

One of the biggest boosts the uke received was an appearance on the 2016 America’s Got Talent TV show as the instrument of choice of the eventual champion, Grace VanderWaal, and her rise to fame.

“I saw a girl on TV playing it and I thought ‘Oh that sounds cool!’, and it was Grace VanderWaal,” said Bailey.

The rise in the number of new ukulele players seems to coincide with both artists’ rise to fame on the radio stations. However, many others started because of different reasons, like meeting new people.

“When we went to theater nationals, I brought my ukulele,” explains Merritt. “I learned a couple cords for it and I improvised for people, and that’s how I made new friends. I would just say stuff about them and then people thought I was cool.”

Other forms of media pushed people to kicking off their uke careers, such as TV shows and books.

“I read this book called Stargirl, and my favorite character in there plays a ukulele,” said junior Kelly Marston. “I thought that was pretty cool.”

Whether it was the popular music on the radios or they helped break people out of their shell, the ukulele is growing rapidly in popularity.

Ukes are available in different clefs, colors, and shapes, and many well-known songs are being written out to be learned on the ukulele.

“I actually have a rainbow ukulele. And I know the theme from ‘Up,’ which is cool to play on my colorful uke,” says Marston.

The ukulele also helps students to learn other instruments, and they can see quick growth within their musical careers.

“It helped me to start learning and playing the guitar,” said Bailey.

Besides learning new instruments, many students have grown their music abilities just by sticking to the uke.

“I have three original songs that I wrote on my ukulele,” said Merritt. “‘My Beautiful Friend’ is the one I play in public most often.”

The ukulele is loved by many students here at East and around the world in general. It’s cute, easy to carry, and simple to learn. So, next time you see someone carrying a ukulele through the hall, stop and ask them about it. Maybe they’ll even play you song.