Monday, July 20, 2009

The Heyday of UkeTube

Molly Lewis as "Molly: Kickass Destructo-Cyborg Thing" by Len Peralta

By Russ Rogers

We are on the cusp of a new Ukulele Renaissance. The Ukulele had a short fad popularity in the 50's. This was inspired by The Arthur Godfrey Show and the availability of inexpensive, plastic ukes. Seriously, millions of ukes were sold. Then, Tiny Tim had a hit with Tiptoe Through the Tulips in 1969 and set the Ukulele back as an instrument by 40 years. Playing the ukulele became synonymous with being strange and fey.

Thanks goodness for strong Ukulele Godesses like Danielle Anderson who are at the forefront of a growing popularity for the much maligned and misunderstood Jumping Flea, the Ukulele.

Now, there are many factors that are leading to a resurgence of the Ukulele. The instruments are cheap (which makes them ideal starter instruments in these tough economic times). They are easy to play, with smaller necks and fewer strings than a guitar.  And the nylon strings on ukes are easier on the fingers than the metal strings on guitars!  But all the skills you learn, the fingerings, picking and strumming techniques will translate directly to playing the guitar.  It can be a gateway instrument.

But I don't think the influence of YouTube (or as I like to call it, "UkeTube") can be overstated. In this age of DIY entertainment, the uke lends itself to being filmed in videos. It's small size fits in the frame! It's tone lends itself well to funny songs that are a bit cynical and snarky. And that's just perfect for YouTube!

There are a TON of cool Ukulele Channels and players to be sought out and discovered. But I do think that because of the ukulele's small size, it lends itself especially well to accompanying both women's voices and silly songs. So perhaps it's natural that many of the women who have gained fame playing on UkeTube are also funny.

Now, if you are listing UkeTube sensations, yes, you might start with Danielle Anderson, aka Danielle Ate The Sandwich.  She's phenomenal, quirky, charming, smart and funny.  Plus she has a beautiful, evocative voice.

A few more on my list:

Julia Nunes is the Queen Bee of UkeTube.  The Madonna of the Uke, both for her popularity and versatility!  She has over 100,000 subscribers. She recently played the music festival Bonnaroo. She is selling a couple of independently produced albums. And I think she's very funny.  Her covers are great and she has some fine original songs too!  Here's "Maybe I Will":


Julia has a huge fan following, has toured the United Kingdom twice, has recorded two albums and opened for Ben Folds several times!  And this has all been done while she still attends college!  Highly recommended!

Of course, Garfunkel and Oates are Wisecrack favorites. And their uke player Kate Micucci, has some great solo songs too!  Here's "Dear Deer." 

But I don't think any discussion of women, humor and UkeTube could be complete without mentioning Molly Lewis (aka SweetAfton23).

Molly Lewis isn't as professionally experienced as Julia Nunes, Kate Micucci or Danielle Anderson. She hasn't recorded an album, not yet. But her YouTube channel already has 16,000+ subscribers. Molly sprang to fame two years ago with a wicked ukulele cover of the Britney Spears hit, "Toxic."  And Molly has a bunch of great cover songs and a handful of very funny originals. She's a rising comedy, music and ukulele star.

Check out "MyHope":

Molly's made a deal with Hank Green's Label, DFTBA Records. And recently she won the internet songwriting contest, The Masters of Song Fu!  

I've only mentioned four visionary female voices on UkeTube and pointed out a few of their videos.  If there is another Ukulele Godess or an even better ukulele video that has been overlooked, please put the link in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget Lauren & Lena's classic original "Guacamole Ukulele Song". I also personally love Kristen Shirts' Live performance of "Creepy Doll" with Coulton, and her Code Monkey remix.