Schools Across UK Embrace Ukulele, Fling Recorders Out Windows

recorder.jpgAfter God knows how many decades (centuries?) of placing the shrillest wind instrument on earth in the hands of humanity’s most inherently unskilled musicians–young children–beleaguered elementary school music teachers finally have an alternative. Primary schools in the UK are beginning to phase out recorders in favor of the far-mellower ukulele, a seemingly win-win decision for every single party–teachers, students, parents–previously at risk of being forced to attend the dreaded third-grade recorder recital. But are there hidden consequences to this new policy?

The four-stringed instrument beloved by vaudeville acts and Hawaiians is also enjoying a renaissance outside the classroom, even becoming a must-have accessory for some teenagers.

Uh oh. I smell a ukulele fad coming out of the UK music scene. I can just see the NME cover story now: “How Ukuleles Became The Most Important Thing To Music Since Joy Division.”

Llandogo primary school in the Wye valley bordering England and Wales is among the latest to take delivery of a batch of brightly-coloured ukuleles. Its years five and six – nine-, 10- and 11-year-olds – have been experimenting over the last few weeks. Teacher Gail Roberts said: “They can’t put the instruments down. They are writing their own music. They are forming their own little groups. They don’t seem to feel constrained by boundaries. Nobody’s told them this note is A and this is B and this is how you’ve got to play.”

So what you’re telling me is that you’ve given children the means by which to create cliquish ukulele bands that play unskilled, unstructured, single-instrument songs entirely unconstrained by boundaries of any sort? Bring back the recorders! Please! But wait, there’s more:

Benedict, nine, said he liked playing “sort of jazz weird ones”, while Felix, 10, can already play two White Stripes songs on his ukulele. Victoria, nine, said: “I’ve tried the saxophone and the flute and the piano. This is a bit easier.”

Look for Felix’s White Stripes tribute album Seven Ukulele Army to come out sometime next summer, but don’t expect much out of little Victoria, as she seems to prefer the road easily traveled. And as for Benedict, he may very well be the one to pick up where the late, great Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole left off:

Ukuleles challenge recorders in schools [The Guardian]

  • Charlie Kerfelds Jetsons Tee

    Upon seeing that video, my first thought was “HOLY FUCK, THAT GUY IS HUGE.”

    And then I remembered, “Right. Ukelele. NOT acoustic guitar.”

    So he’s big. But not quite as big as I thought.

  • MrStarhead

    Wait… that morbidly obese guy who sings the weird Judy Garland-Louis Armstrong mash-up is dead? Say it ain’t so!

  • Charlie Kerfelds Jetsons Tee

    I almost forgot. Since this might be the only chance I have to post a ukulele-related YouTube video…


    I’m sure more than a few of you have seen it, though. Shimabukuro is becoming pretty popular, from what I’ve heard.

  • chaircrusher

    Heh, too late.

    Not only is there a jug band renaissance going on (witness my good friends Escape The Floodwater Jug Band []), every indie kid in Iowa City has a uke.

    It’s easy to learn to play, and it’s a natural for gentle pop song accompaniment. Girls look cute playing them, guys look sensitive. What more could you ask for?

    They even make them with pickups in them, and a local noise band brings the mad uke feedback howl. What I want to know is what comes after the uke? Ocarinas?

  • ass-hat

    uke -annot be serious, etc. arf.

    if this gets the ukulele orchestra of great britain any more exposure, only a good thing.

  • so1omon

    Ukulele is the new banjo as far as the indie rock kids are concerned. Expect to hear far more of it.

    I personally love the uke, and have almost entirely given up the guitar in favor of the little jumping flea.

  • Dickdogfood

    I hear that you and your school have sold your recorders and bought ukeleles.

    I hear that you and your school have sold your ukeleles and bought recorders.

  • BadUncle

    R.I.P. Iz Kamakawiwo’ole.

    The uke revolution will not be televised. And probably not recorded. But since both Lennon and Harrison were members of the George Formby Club – celebrating the UK’s greatest banjo uke (aka “banjolele”) player – it’s been going on for some time.

  • gorillavsmarykate

    @dickdogfood: nicely done.

    BTW, Yet another sign that indie kids prefer Paul McCartney to the other ones…