Emergency playa ukuleles

For me, it's often the little things at Burning Man that touch me the most. It's the understated art quietly sitting all alone on the playa that can really wow me.

Like this piece I stumbled upon on one of my early morning bike rides. It immediately made me think of one of those emergency highway call boxes.

Etched on one door is "IN CASE:" and the other is "A UKE."

"IN CASE: A UKE"... It is an emergency call box but instead of a phone, it had three ukuleles inside!

Check out that logo. It might be hard to see, but the little ukulele has a tiny "emergency cross." Love it!

I did a little digging and learned the artist is Justin Lange, a creative technologist from Brooklyn. He received a grant from Burning Man to produce it.

He writes:

What if our public infrastructure was built to respond to the emotional needs and inner crises of its citizens? Distributed throughout the playa are a few highly visible red cabinets modeled and finished in the style of pre-war, cast-iron emergency call boxes that provide immediate ukulele access.

For me, it's all about surprise and delight when it comes to playa art and "IN CASE: A UKE" really hit that mark for me. Thanks, Justin!

photos by Rusty Blazenhoff Read the rest

11 obscenely optimistic songs for ukulele

Jeremy Messersmith writes, "I have a new record coming out on Friday and I've released it early as a songbook over at my website (free with an email). It's called '11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs For Ukulele: A Micro-Folk Record For The 21st Century And Beyond.' It has songs about kittens, unicorns, wealth redistribution, critical thinking, and the power of love. I wrote it to be an antidote to all the toxic news as of late; a musical unicorn chaser. I'm also embarking on a 50 show, Atlas Obscura inspired sing-along tour; all free and in scenic public spaces. I've compiled a collection of songs that fans have covered so far into a YouTube playlist over at my website. Thanks for considering!

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Kick-ass flamenco ukulele shredding

Taimane, backed by Jonathan and Jazzy, perform at a benefit on Hawai'i's north shore for Music in Elementary Schools -- Tamaine performs her signature flamenco uke style, which goes well beyond gimmick and into a badass, shredding marvel that is as fantastic to watch as it is to listen to. Read the rest

There's a place in LA that sells ukuleles and espresso, and it is terrific

I'm not as much of an ukulele fanatic as I once was, but when my daughter and I were in Little Tokyo on Saturday and came across U-Space, a store that sells ukuleles and espresso, I had to check it out.

The store has a large wall of ukuleles in all the sizes, from the itty bitty sopranos all the way up to the baritones (which are typically tuned like the four high strings on a guitar). U-Space has tables and comfy couches for drinking coffee and listening to ukulele music. There's also a counter with a couple of inexpensive ukes and instructions with simple chords so that everyone who comes in can have fun playing.

The proprietor, Jason Arimoto, is a very friendly guy. We had a nice chat and I asked him if I could take his photo. He was happy to oblige. He was holding a newly-released clear plastic ukulele, which cost $50 and sounds great. The non-clear plastic ukes sell for $40. These plastic models would make excellent starter ukes. Jason said they are modeled after the plastic ukulele that Arthur Godfrey pitched on TV in the 1950s, selling millions and millions of them. I was very tempted to buy the clear one, but I have enough ukuleles at home that don't get played as it is. Instead, I ordered an espresso, and Jason pulled a perfect double shot for me.

Check out the U-Space website. Besides selling ukes and coffee, they also have performances and teach ukulele lessons there. Read the rest

What's the difference between a $20 ukulele and a $1000 ukulele

The answer is, not much, but if you are serious about playing, an extra $980 is probably worth it. In this video George Elmes compares his super cheap yellow starter uke with his most recent uke purchase, a $1000 beauty. Listen to him play the same song on each uke. The expensive uke has a brighter sound, but the $20 uke sounds pretty good. Elmes says the expensive uke holds a tune better, has better action and intonation, and feels better to play, "however, you can still play a tune on this $20 yellow ukulele." Read the rest

Novelty ukuleles

Celentano Woodworks makes novelty ukuleles and sells them on Etsy. The Atom Uke is sold out, but check out the apple, pickle jar, and cupcake ukes. Read the rest

"In The Mood" for three ukes

Byntje Music's rousing arrangement of Glenn Miller's "In The Mood" for three ukuleles. The YouTube post includes links to tabs so you can play along. (via Laughing Squid) Read the rest