London Ukulele Festival – Be A World Record Breaker

London Uke Festival takes place this weekend and needs players to break the world record for the most ukuleles played at once. David Moynihan explains why now is the time to snap up a uke of your own and get down there…

If, instead of animals, Chinese years were in honour of musical instruments, then 2009 might well be the Year of the Ukulele.

Take, for instance, the evidence that ukulele sales have rocketed in the past few months – with Hanks Guitars in central London apparently selling 300 of the things every week. The Guardian called ukuleles ‘the must have Christmas present of the year’ at the turn of December and this entertaining clip of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain playing the Isaac Hayes ‘Shaft’ theme has had over half a million views already:

It’s undeniable that ukes are fun, cheap and remarkably easy to play. A decent one can cost as little as £25. Plus, they’re so diminiutive they actually fit behind your ear, or under a small child’s tongue.

The fact that they only have 4 strings makes them instantly playable – C chord only requires one finger tip on one string, for example, and the Beach Boys’ classic ‘Sloop John B’ can be played with just 3 chords. In the attention-deficit-disorder age we apparently live in, it’s as simple as Twitter or a Nintendo Wii to pick up and play.

But the instrument needn’t be relegated to kindergarten status. Plenty of great songs have been written and played on the ukulele. Take Beirut’s ‘Postcards From Italy’, for example:

And thanks to YouTube anyone can learn to play the song in 10 minutes…

If you play the uke or you like the look of it then grab one and get down to London’s Liverpool St station this Saturday. The London Uke Festival is happening and there’ll even be a world record attempt for the most ukuleles played at once. The song being attempted will be the three-chord ‘Sloop John B’ – find out more here and then make sure you’re there at noon to take part.

In the meantime if you know of any other great uke tracks worth recommending, post them below, with an audio/video link wherever possible…