Reported by Jessica Purver
With its uplifting sound and evocations of childhood and tropical beaches, the ukulele has found a home in rainy Vancouver.
Known for its Hawaiian roots, this small instrument has grown in popularity among both accomplished musicians and beginners. Vancouver, due in large part to school programs and lessons offered in the community, has adopted a new ukulele trend.
Ukuleles appeal to everyone
Amber Leake, sales associate at Long & McQuade Musical Instruments, found it was a popular purchase for children and teachers.
“They’re pretty simple,” she said. “There are a lot less strings and they’re smaller too. It’s easier to reach your fingers to the places you need them to go, and softer strings so it doesn’t hurt you.”
For children, the smaller size is an appealing alternative to the guitar. But the instrument isn’t just for kids. Adults who are unfamiliar with playing instruments, as well as advanced musicians, turned to the ukulele for the same reasons.
The convenience factor of the ukulele
Carlen Escarraga, a Langara Studio 58 graduate, taught himself how to play for fun, and ended up playing in professional shows. The aspiring actor used ukulele to broaden his skills and expand what he could do musically.
“It’s a bit of a different structure. Ukulele is just so easy to carry around,” said Escarraga. “Not only is it easier to play, but there’s this lovely nostalgic feeling when playing the ukulele and I think it’s also not as scary for people wanting to learn.”
Founder of Musical Expressions, Joney Poon, agreed that the ukulele is not an intimidating instrument, and its moderate price point is also an attractive factor for her students.
Vancouver’s ukulele scene growing within the communities
Poon recognized the widespread popularity of the ukulele in Vancouver.
“There’s a great sense of community,” Poon said. “If you’re committed in continuing on to ukulele circles, you build a community. They’re growing in that area and there’s a sense of bonding that they do through music.”
Musical Expressions offers lessons at the Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre in South Vancouver.
In this video, Studio 58 graduate, Carlen Escarraga, strums on his personal ukulele