We are now living in very uncertain times and it is difficult not to feel helpless and distressed by the terrible conflict that has erupted in Ukraine. For most of us playing the ukulele has always been an escape from our day to day troubles because it makes us feel better. However in difficult times we sometimes need to confront these harsh realities. The ukulele has always been an instrument for the people, not for politicians, and is at its most powerful when used to give comfort and hope.
A single human voice paired with a ukulele can be a simple and effective tool to convey the message of a Peace or Anti-War song, whether sung alone, with friends or in public. Many of these songs that were written in the mid twentieth century have stood the test of time and are simple to play on the ukulele.
The following examples are just a small selection that I was able to find on YouTube, each performed by a dedicated ukulele player. They are well known songs with easily available chord music that can be found online. Look for a version that suits your playing ability or challenge yourself to find a more difficult example.
Firstly is Pete Seeger’s classic Where Have All The Flowers Gone written in 1955 performed by Ms McBride.
Secondly Bob Dylan’sA Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall from 1962 performed by Boozelele.
Thirdly is One Tin Soldier by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter originally performed by Canadian Pop Group The Original Caste in 1969 and played by Kelly Deacon.
Finally we have Yusuf/Cat Steven’s 1971 Peace Train performed by Stephen Norwood and Justin.
Of course there are many more recent anti-war songs that you might prefer to play but these are a good start and all have a universal message that is still relevant and needed today. Let us all use our voices and instruments to try and make a difference no matter how small.
The Holiday Season in Melbourne is nearly upon us. It might be beach weather but there’s no shortage of snow related decorations and evergreen pine trees in people’s homes.
While it is summer here, Australians still love to sing and play winter songs on the ukulele. An old favourite is Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, probably because it tells a fun story that we all loved to hear as children. It is also easy to play on the ukulele and for those who want a simple version, the following lesson by the talented Elise Ecklund is a good one.
However for those who prefer very silly lyrics you could also substitute the original with the lyrics of Robert the Red Nosed Reindeer by Aussie legends Bucko and Champs of Aussie Jingle Bells fame. It’s probably not suitable for little children so save it till later when the adults need a laugh.
If you want to go down a really controversial path and risk insulting some of your relatives at family celebrations, there’s always Bucko and Champs Completely Useless Gifts to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. But maybe don’t play this if you want to see them again next holiday season.
Whatever you play on your ukulele have a Wonderful Festive Season and a very Happy New Year.
Tomorrow Australians and New Zealanders remember our service men and women on Anzac Day. This year it will be very strange without the usual marches and dawn ceremonies held in our countries and at war memorials overseas, but these are challenging times.
With everyone under Pandemic lockdown we are being encouraged to commemorate the dawn service in our driveways this year. Those who are able to play brass instruments are being asked to perform the Last Post for their neighbours. Here is a link to the ABC News website which gives ideas on how to participate in this historic event from your home.
While the ukulele is not suitable for the Last Post, you can still play some songs for the occasion in your home or backyard later in the day and have a sing-a-long with your family or house mates. This website has suggestions in previous posts about war songs made for past Anzac or Remembrance Day commemorations. Just look in the archives for posts in April or November.
One of the most powerful Australian songs about war is Redgum’sI Was Only 19, which is about an Australian soldier’s experiences in the Vietnam War. If you have never heard this song before, the following video features Redgum’s original version played over contemporary war footage of the Australian troops in Vietnam.
I have been unable to find a ukulele cover but here is a link to the ukulele chords, so you can play this song tomorrow.
In these days of covid-19 songs played on the ukulele can help us cope with the unfamiliar practice of social distancing. It is fun to find those with a related theme and here are a couple of my favourites.
A good up-tempo song is The Police’sDon’t Stand So Close to Me. Here is link to the music which is followed by a video of the Police’s version. You will need to allow for the instrumental interlude.
The song music links in this post are in different keys from the original versions, so you won’t be able to play along with the videos, which are included to demonstrate the arrangements of these songs (and because they are so good). You might have to practice for a while to get the right feel, but I’m sure that you are all up for the challenge.
Bayside Ukes regret to announce that, given the seriousness of the Covid-19 virus Emergency in Victoria, we will not be running sessions until further notice, out of respect for the health of our older members and those with chronic health conditions.
This has been a difficult decision, but we are not the only ukulele group in Melbourne to take this step and it will be hard on us all to temporarily give up our group sessions, which we really enjoy.
We must not let this get us down and everyone should carry on with ukulele practice at home to stay sane during this crisis. With that in mind here is a fun ukulele play-along challenge to help you stay strong and give that virus the boot!
If you find some of these chords difficult try to search for an easier version through google.
I will continue with this blog to share any ukulele songs and tips.
Wishing everyone in the ukulele community the very best and hope you all stay well.
From March 6 -9 the Moomba Festival is held in Melbourne. It is Australia’s largest free festival, with all kinds of events held around the Yarra River and the Moomba Parade on the final Monday (9 March). This occurs on the second Monday in March which is also the Labour Day public holiday in Victoria and commemorates the introduction of the eight hour day for workers.
This festival is all about getting together and having fun and what better way than to have fun with you ukulele and celebrate by playing songs about workers. Here are a few good examples.
The BeatlesA Hard Days Night is a classic of this genre. This ukulele version by Neil Starr does the song justice with some great vocals.
The following is Uke Boy’s version of Sheena Easton’sMorning Train. Such a beautiful melody that is just made for the ukulele.
If work is getting you down Fifth Harmony’sWork From Home is wonderfully escapist. Enjoy this lovely ukulele version by EMAYLA.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s seventies hit, Taking Care of Business has been given a fun twist on ukulele and unicycle by C J Hoyle. Would love to see this in the Moomba Parade.
There are other great working songs that I could not find a ukulele version on You Tube, such as Roy Orbison’sWorking for The Man or Australian band Cold Chisel’sWorking Class Man, but I’m sure that you would be able to find online music for many working songs that are suitable for the ukulele.
The ukulele as an instrument of the people is just made for such material. It is a great way to bring joy to your working day and makes every day a festival.
Bayside Ukes has finished its sessions for 2019 after a great year of festivals and fun. Everyone has worked really hard to make our group performances enjoyable for all.
Now the weather is starting to warm up, many of our members will be preparing for the holiday season in sunny Melbourne or are off to far away places, hopefully with their trusty ukuleles.
We’ll be back in 2020 for more ukulele fun.
Where every you may be, whether it is beside a fire or on a beach, everyone at Bayside Ukes wishes you a very happy festive season, full of ukulele joy.
I found this recent video by guitarist and ukulele player, Johannes Linstead performing his song Tropical Christmas. It was filmed in the beautiful Dominican Republic which reminds me of the islands of Northern Australia. Nothing like spending your holidays on a tropical island to inspire you to play the ukulele.
Finally spring has arrived, the sun is shining and it’s a glorious Melbourne day. Not a moment too soon for those who have been flagging with ukulele practice due to winter ailments or in the cold weather have lacked the motivation to pick up their ukes. Now it’s time to shrug off that winter malaise and become inspired.
For those who find it difficult to get motivated here are some suggestions that I find useful.
Have a goal. There might be a song you have always wanted to learn to play. Look around on the Internet for a version that suits your skill level or challenge yourself with a song arrangement that extends your playing style. Your goal might be to learn a new technique so look on You Tube for a lesson that you can immediately undertake to spur you along.
If you don’t already belong to a local ukulele group joining one will give you incentive to practice. There’s nothing like other enthusiastic players to keep up you interested with lots of new songs and playing tips. Belonging to a group may also give you the opportunity to perform which is a great way to stay motivated.
Attending ukulele festivals will also give you a buzz even if you don’t perform. Spring is the time when these start to appear on the calendar. Most places have their own unique ukulele festival (see our links page for ukulele festivals in Australia). At these events you can do workshops, see lots of great performances, view all types of ukulele related products and find plenty of inspiration.
One thing to keep you motivated is to remember that you don’t need to have perfect technique to be a ukulele player. It is more important to play the ukulele no matter what your skill level especially when you are feeling down in the dumps, as it will make you feel so much better.
So what are you waiting for? Just play it!
A song for inspiration: Johnny Nash’sI Can See Clearly Now covered by Natalie Gelman
On July 20 we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Australia played an important part in beaming Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon to the world. The first eight minutes, 50 seconds of pictures were captured by the radio telescope at the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station near Canberra, ACT and then by the Parkes telescope, NSW (featured in the film, The Dish). This event brought the people of the planet together because it was broadcast live to the far corners of the Earth.
Ukuleles have a way of bringing people together, so what better way than to celebrate this historic event with songs on the uke about the moon, which has long inspired songwriters. .
The moon has always kept the human race under its spell and continues to play on our moods. A song in this vain is Blue Moon.
Most of us are earthbound and can only gaze up at the moon and enjoy its beauty. It can lead us into a dance and many songs have been devoted to this subject. Here are a couple.
And once man had walked on the moon this feat influenced songs.
Like the people of the world who gathered 50 years ago to watch the moon landing, let’s get together on Saturday to play some moon songs on our ukuleles and remember that time, as well as dream about the future space journeys of the human race.
It’s the first day of winter down under and next weekend marks the beginning of the ski season in Victoria. Many snow lovers will be heading to the Ski Resorts to enjoy the slopes. It has already been snowing heavily in the Great Dividing Range with the unique snow gum trees covered in snow.
Whether you enjoy these types of winter sports or prefer the warmth of the fireside, it is fun to celebrate the beginning of winter with some appropriate songs on the ukulele. In the Southern hemisphere this season is separate from the end of year festivities so it is nice to find and listen to songs that are only about the wintertime. Some of these are very beautiful like the following examples.
Firstly, a cover of Fleet FoxesWhite Winter Hymnal by Naomi.
Secondly, Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson’sWinter Song is covered by Katie Goffman and Beth Stafford Laird on ukulele with some lovely harmonies.
Thirdly, an oldie but a fun one to play is Let it Snow. Bosco from Ukulele Cheats shows you how.
While we may not get the severe weather of the Northern Hemisphere, Winter, especially in the Alpine regions of Australia, can be quite cold. Luckily it is easy to warm yourselves with some ukulele songs.
Let’s hope you all stay cosy this winter and can enjoy your ukuleles through the cold months.