Ukulele & Languages

Different countries,
Different cultures
one common language... the ukulele.

Archive for January, 2010

Listening to The Beatles and liking English was totally uncool in France when I was a teenager. But it had other advantages. Have you ever realised how many idioms, and grammar rules are illustrated in Beatles songs? I did have English classes at school, yes, but The Beatles taught me real, spoken English.

Learning a language through music is very effective : you start humming a melody you like, then you get down to the words and before you know it, you can sing the song off by heart.

The Beatles were experts in creating catchy songs, the type that easily gives you ‘earworms’. Listening to them non-stop over a few years taught me more English than school and its boring approach ever did.

Do you realise that when you’re singing When I’m Sixty Four you’re actually illustrating the fact that you should use the present tense after ‘when’ ? (In French you use the future as in Quand j’aurai 64 ans). There are tons of example like this one but not for today’s post.

As a tribute to The Beatles, who made me love English and the British sense of humour, I have decided to do a World Tour of Beatles ukulele covers, sorted chronologically by Album. Going through the whole Beatles discography in one post is a bit too much so this first post will focus on the years 1963 and 1964.

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I discovered the existence of the ukulele completely by accident when I stumbled upon a YouTube video featuring the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain back in April 2008. The Ukes are solely responsible for me taking up the uke and I believe they have inspired and will inspire many others.

Four excellent videos of songs they performed at the BBC Proms have just been uploaded to their YouTube Channel. These videos are taken from the DVD Prom Night which can be purchased from their website.

I have favourited their brilliant version of Psycho Killer by the Talking Heads. I must say, Will Grove-White‘s French is really sweet too :)

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I love finding out how people from different countries have come to play the ukulele. It is a nice way to travel to different places and at the same time document the progression of the ukulele in the world.

Giacomo, an Italian ukulele player living in Finland has offered to tell me his story. Giacomo calls himself Jaakko ja hänen mahtava ukulelensa, which in Finnish means ‘Giacomo and his amazing ukulele’.

U&L : How long have you been playing the ukulele ?

Giacomo : I have been playing ukulele for a little more than one year now. I nearly bought a uke in Sweden, where I lived for two months in 2007. A lot of artists I like are Swedish and play / used to play ukulele, such as Jens Lekman (which I guess was the first artist playing ukulele I have ever seen, if I exclude Oliver Hardy in ‘Sons of the Desert’).

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Happy  New Year everyone !

Our first trip of the year will take us to Hungary as a few ukulele videos related to Hungary have cropped up on YouTube lately.

Sweet Soubrette is a singer and songwriter from the United-States who has created a few songs for the Cabaret Magyar.

Ode to Hungary, is Sweet Soubrette‘s tribute to the nation of Hungary and it is interesting to see how ukulele and accordeon can mix to give a traditional Hungarian feel.

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