Meet Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, or "IZ" as he was affectionately nicknamed...probably by westerners that can't pronounce that super cool Hawaiian last name. Even if you've never seen this guy, I can almost guarantee that you've heard his version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World (featured below). Although recorded almost 20 years ago it has really come into prominence in the last few years as it gets featured in movies and TV shows. Though I admittedly know quite little about ukulele and ukulele history, I think we can credit this guy for taking it from a 'toy' instrument and bringing it back into the mainstream. Although he died at a young age in the late 90s (he weighed almost 800lbs!), his legacy still lives on.
This year I will add a ukulele section to stickandstrum and private lessons. I have been asked a few times about teaching ukulele over the last few years and was recently approached to teach a sibling of one of my current guitar students. She's already got some musical experience under her belt (years of piano lessons) and it's summer, so I'm open to trying new things.
I have been pleased at how simple the transition from guitar to uke can be and plan to offer it as an 'elective' to my current guitar students as a way to see how knowledge from one instrument can be transferred to another. While there is definitely a place for ukulele players in their own rite (check out Jake Shimabukuro
), the initial focus will be on much simpler songs and chord changes (like IZ's video below).
If you're interested in incorporating ukulele into your lessons, let me know! I may even offer full-blown ukulele lessons at some point, but definitely want to spend some more time studying the instrument and gauging interest first. On a related note, I may also add the mandolin as an 'elective' if there is any interest among my current students.
Look for chord charts and some basic songs here in the future, but for now I can't recommend UkuleleHunt
enough! This website is THE resource for ukulele. In closing, I leave you with IZ's Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World...