Tuesday, January 3, 2012

205. Pulling Strings: VINTAGE UKULELE

At the most recent Greenhills Antique Fair, I found this Philippine-made toy ukulele that I could not resist. It dates from the 1950s , and is fairly in good shape for a 50 year old musical instrument. At first, I thought it was a toy guitar--it was shaped like one. But then it only had 4 strings, making it an official ukulele. And to top it all, it was still playable.

I tried singing "My dog has fleas", to tune the 4 nylon strings, but it remains out of tune, so I'll leave it that way in the meantime. The front panel of the ukelele is inlaid with some other material, possibly plastic or other wood. Of hawaiian origin, the ukulele was widely popular in the Philippines in the 50s and 60s--thanks to Tiny Tim who strummed a uke to the tune of his hit song, "Tiptoe Thru the Tulips". Israel Kamakawiwo'ole revived the popularity of the instrument thru his 1993 medley of "Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World" that reached #12 on Billboard's digital chart. Likewise, Bruno Mars does a lot of songs accompanied by lazy uke strumming. Now, there's even a museum devoted to the tiny ukulele (http://www.ukulele.org/), proof that it has earned its place in musical history!

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