The Happiest Filipinos are the Ones with Ukuleles
Ukulele Underground Philippines Primer
By Mackie Mac
So why choose the Ukulele? I’ve been asked so many times that I’m still looking forward for a week without being asked. Being Filipino, surrounded with awesomely musically talented people from church and even family, I was surrounded with music all the time. Immersed and satiated, I was decided to not just sing. I’d like to learn an instrument I reckoned. Like any Filipino kid, I had my share of summer long piano lessons. That didn’t work. I guess Mary had a little lamb and twinkle twinkle little star were not the songs I was looking forward to learn for weeks. And yeah, my piano teacher died, not because of me though but because of old age. As a kid, wouldn’t that throw you way off? I grew up in a house with guitars inside. From time to time I would pick it up but until now, I haven’t even decently completed a single song. To say the least, I felt frustrated and bored.
How I found the ukulele was sort of a divine intervention I believe. If you’re not spiritual, I guess this will throw you off. But I don’t know how to describe it any other way. At one night while searching for songs we will sing in church, I found in Youtube a cover of really mellow Christian song reinvented using a ukulele. Knowing how the song sounded originally, I tremendously noticed the difference. The mellow heavy Christian song sounded light, honest, vulnerable, and in my opinion happier. That opened up a whole new respect for a new instrument. I googled ‘ukulele.’ From numerous articles, one of which I don’t remember anymore, I read that the ukulele is the second easiest stringed instrument anyone could learn. And it was fate from then on. Maybe I could learn the ukulele. Weeks passed, and for days I also passed by numerous music shops gazing through a very very limited stocks of ukuleles. I ended up with one that’s made in Indonesia. Got home, looked up how to tune it and then I was surprised and hour later. I was able to learn this land is your land, yellow submarine, and surfin’ USA in one hour and these were taught by one guy – Ukulele Mike from youtube. Three songs in one hour, I was amazed and happy. Sure it wasn’t MJ’s man in the mirror but it’s better than Mary had a little lamb.
Now, just a few months from March this year, because it’s fairly inexpensive, I already bought several ukuleles. The insatiable quest to acquire the right sound and feel has begun. As a plebian ukulele player, my major waterloo is the limited recourses available locally in the Philippines. For example, for decent Aquila ukulele strings alone, I still have to order them in Singapore. The ones available locally either are too quiet, or too slack. For ukuleles themselves, the last one I bought was ordered online. Although I still consider myself a newbie in ukulele playing, I do notice subtle differences on tone, resonations, and volumes. You can’t ignore that the ukuleles that are available around metro manila will leave you wanting for more.
And mind you, I was wanting more. Seeing an abundance of cool ukulele stuff available abroad further fueled the urge to search. One cool resource online is ukuleleunderground. Ukulele Underground’s objective is to promote and grow the next generation of ukulele players. It strives to abolish the preconceived notion that the ukulele is just a toy and not a valid instrument. The organization was started in 2007. And since then, it grew to a very cheerful, extraordinarily informative, friendly fun loving community of ukulele players that encourages ukulele playing around the world. From Ukulele Underground, I have read countless ukulele reviews, found song tablatures and chords, tutorial videos, and many many more ukulele information. From then on the site is one of my daily devotion. A day wouldn’t pass without scanning through new things to learn.
A few days ago, a friend of mine, a fellow follower of Ukulele Underground asked permission to have a Filipino fan page and affiliation. Surprisingly so, they granted the permission to use the name ‘Ukulele Underground’ with some minor restrictions like we cannot use it for fundraisers and monetary solicitations. Ukulele Underground Philippines was born. As we begin for now with just a basic Facebook fan page, we hope we’d fulfill the same objectives as our mother site strives for and has been successfully doing. Soon enough, we aim to have our own identity and gain roots here in the Philippines as a community of fun loving, ukulele playing people, who wants to spread the carefree spirit of the humble instrument that is the ukulele.
In our Facebook fan page, we posted some information on how to source, where to buy, and even tips on acquiring a ukulele both locally and abroad. What would a first time visitor would notice first hand will be pictures of the meets, greets, and jamming that have gone documented the past months. Links to awesome ukulele performances, discussions on when and where the next meet will be, song suggestions that everybody digs, and information on who we are, where we came from has peen posted. Ultimately, as our search continues, we aim to reveal local resources that could be valuable for a Filipino Ukulele player. We are very much aware of the great heritage of our local luthiers that are based in Cebu. We want to promote them as soon as we lay ground and have done our research. Tapping local instrument makers would mean a boost in the confidence of local instrument players too. Rest assured that a few weeks and months from now, we will be able to post more stuff in there. So if you are Filipino, we’re inviting you to pick up a ukulele and learn it with us. Join the meets and ukulele jamming and meet the happiest Filipinos in the Philippines. I tell you we’re not at all exclusive, on the contrary we like to be inclusive. Filipinos are welcome, whether you think you’re still just about to start and haven’t touched a ukulele yet but plans to, a newbie who just started playing a week ago, or a ukulele virtuoso, be linked and gain not just a new joy of learning an instrument, gain new friends too.