Petra and I got Travis a ukulele for his birthday a couple of months ago. They’re great little instruments – so versatile and easy to play. You can be strumming recognisable tunes in very short order, and if you’re musically gifted you can display impressive virtuosity. We’ve been listening to ukulele covers and thanks to the wonders of youtube we’ve stumbled on a few really wonderful ukulele orchestras. Yes, ukulele orchestras are a thing. Who knew.
There’s one right here in Wellington, that includes Brett Mackenzie of Flight of the Conchords fame. They’re a good time band – a bit shaggy round the edges. They obviously enjoy themselves together and they’re fun to watch. My favourites of theirs – It’s a Heartache, which comes complete with a very Wellington video, filmed just round the corner from Travis’s office, and The Bucket, a cover of a song I’d not heard before by Kings of Leon.
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain is a whole other thing. They bring highly-trained musicianship to bear on all sorts of songs, from Anarchy in the UK arranged as a folk song and a jazzed up Wuthering Heights, to really fabulous covers that aren’t just funny novelty songs but excellent versions in their own right. My favourites – their cover of Wheatus’s Teenage Dirtbag and a suitably paranoid version of Psycho Killer.