When Did the Ukulele Become So Cool?

I blame Eddie Vedder.  Ever since he released his Ukulele Songs album in 2011–something allegedly recorded as a joke but then took on a life of its own–the instrument has become something of a hipster thing.

The latest indication that something is going on was a front-page story in the Globe and Mail this week.

Judging from the evidence, the sound of happiness is 29 ukuleles playing I’d Do Anything from the musical Oliver! in a bar in east end Toronto. It’s a Wednesday night at the Dominion, the pub where the Corktown Uke Jam has met each week for the past five years. Twenty-nine amateur ukulele players – more than 100 can turn out – are blissfully gazing at an overhead projection of chords and music, strumming, singing and (yes) beaming.This is astonishing for many reasons: the economy, the situation in Ukraine, the mayor. But it is especially astonishing because we are talking about the ukulele: the underdog of instruments, the plinking laughingstock of the music world.

They’re everywhere these days.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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