Thursday, April 14, 2011
Of all the annoying trends in the ukulele community (you are keeping count right? I lost track…) there is one that has to be the top of my pet peeve list. I think of it as the “Happy Ukes Saving Blind Baby Marmots from Wars” syndrome. You’ve seen these things right? Some overblown well-meaning charity – usually dealing with children and or world peace with a mission statement that reads like a hallmark card in a Maui tourist-trap gift shop.
Aloha! (Note the superfluous exclamation point. That’s certain to get my respect.)
My name is Bake Jimambukuru (What? Oh please, like you weren’t thinking it by the time you read the words "Blind Baby Marmot". I pick on him because he can take it…)
Our mission here at Happy Ukuleles to Save the Blind Baby Marmots from War is to make sure everyone everywhere can feel the simple joy of the ukulele and thereby make the world safer and kinder by spreading Aloha spirit through blind baby marmot happiness. The ukulele IS the world’s happiest instrument and no one can resist its charms! (Note the absolute certainty and conviction that ukes CAN make a difference – and the insistence that everyone everywhere agrees that the uke is a “Happy Instrument!!”)
We firmly believe that the joyful sounds of ukulele music can save the world – one uke at a time!! (Not remotely unrealistic, and note the almost universal catch phrase – “One Uke at a Time!!!”)
I’m not just picking on Jake here – there are dozens of these things, with more springing up all the time. All very similar in formula.
Ok now look… I am not against charity. I give generously. Money, time, and yes – even musical instruments to causes year round. I even joined a Kiva mico-loan group started by the amazing Mike Hater called “Ukulele’s to Decrease World Suck”, and re-invest my loans with folks all over the planet. But there is something unpretentious about the Kiva group, and my other charities. They don’t put unbelievably obnoxious and unattainable – and completely inexplicable – personifications on the ukulele. "Decreasing Suck" seems within reasonable grasp.
“If more people played the uke, there would be less wars and violence!”
Really? So, Jeff Dhalmer wouldn’t have eaten prostitutes if someone would have just handed him a uke? I’m unconvinced.
Look. People suck. With very few exceptions, people are selfish and hateful at best and unbelievably cruel otherwise. What do you get when you give an asshole a uke? An asshole with a uke. That’s it. Nothing changes.
Music education makes a difference? Yes – arts education makes for a better culture. Real and practical time, effort, and money for those who need help? Hell yes. Ukes for Peace? Not going to happen.
There is another side to this though – and it’s more annoying than the charity angle – at least those things are trying to *do* something. An incredibly naive and largely useless something, but it’s something.
The stuff that REALLY bends my noodle the wrong way is the incessant and inane insistence that the ukulele “makes people happy!” Enough already. I am not just speaking for myself here, but as a musical instrument the uke is capable of incredible melancholy, soulful expression, and deep heart-felt emotion - even rage. The uke has range. If all you get out of the uke is “it makes a happy sound” – you are doing it wrong. The uke has range.
The two phenomena are related – and result in a very strange assumption by some that the “uke community is the bestist!” and somehow better, more giving and vastly superior to everything else. While I admit – playing the ukulele has led me to some lasting and real relationships that I treasure, I’m not silly enough to blame the uke. Most people still suck. In fact I know several uke players who I’d rather light on fire than ever speak to again. I know couple of cyber-stalking creep uke players. I know a violent and misogynistic uke player. I know quite a few over-zealous homophobic hateful uke players. I know drug addicted, alcoholic, misanthropic miserable people (not just me – shut up) who play the uke. More jerks, self-centered nozzles, and utter tool-bags than you could shake a vintage Martin with a fret buzz at. In fact, after three years in the happy island heart of the uke community, I hate just as many uke players as regular people – if not more. The proportion of people who suck is just about the same.
So I beg you, for the sake of my sanity – and the dignity of baby marmots everywhere - please stop. The uke is an amazing instrument capable of inducing a smile *and* a tear. It does not make anyone a better person, and it will never – ever – save the world.
Now go *do* something.
Posted by Grumpy Coyote at 5:20 PM