Monday, June 15, 2009

Episode #10

Uke News:
  • "Ukulele Helps Ease the Pain" By Kyle Norris of Michigan Radio
  • New Ohana Ukes
  • Kala introduces a new clip on tuner
  • Uketopia goes on Hiatus (around the world trip with Drake the Kala Travel Uke)
Open Mic: Utah's Highland Games-- Scottish Festival. The Uke + Bagpipes = Good Times

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ukulele Helps Ease the Pain

When times are tough, people cut-back on spending. But one little item has been selling quite well lately.

by Kyle Norris

We're at the ukulele jam that happens on the fourth Tuesday of every month. It's at Oz's Music in Ann Arbor. About twenty people are packed into a studio and it's cozy. Everyone strums a ukulele. And they're cruising through song after sing-able song.

Danielle Willner wears a ukulele necklace and has a ukulele tattoo. At twenty-two she's one of the younger people at tonight's jam. She says the ukulele has made her a more well-rounded and happier person. Willner recently got laid off from her job at a café.

"I had a really rough time with it. I wasn't sure what I was going to do, since the economy's not great here in Michigan, and the job market's not great. I went home and pretty much played for three days straight to help me get through the initial shock. It was very helpful and very therapeutic."

She said it helped her take her mind off not having a job and helped her focus on something more productive.

Stan Werbin sells ukuleles, along with a bunch of other instruments. He owns Elderly Instruments in Lansing. During the holidays, Elderly sold out of ukes. So far this year, ukulele sales are good.

"I would say this year based on what I'm seeing here we're probably up 10-15%."

He says as a business owner, this is a big deal because overall instrument sales are down by around 20%.

Now Werbin is just one store-owner in Michigan. But nationally ukulele sales are up, as well. Mike Upton is selling ukuleles faster than he can make them. Upton is the president of Kala Ukulele in California.

He sells ukuleles all over and business is booming. His sales of ukuleles are up 76% from '07 to '08 and he expects that upward trend to be similar this year. Upton says the economy is definitely a factor as to why ukulele sales are so good right now.

"You know people are exchanging activities, staying home instead of going out. And there are families playing the ukulele together and there are all kinds of clubs forming. There's the social component of people getting together and having a good time."

Upton says ukuleles don't cost a ton of money. You can pick up a decent instrument for thirty bucks. Upton's best-seller goes for $100. Plus there's the ukulele's sound.

Many people associate the ukulele with Hawaii and that tropical, good vibe. But actually, the ukulele was brought to the islands by Portuguese immigrants.

Upton calls the ukulele's tone bright and beautiful.

"Just the sound of the instrument is wonderful. It has a happy sound. It's tuned in a major key when you strum it open. It's hard to be sad when playing the ukulele."

Back at the jam the musicians have been playing non-stop for two hours. John McAuliffe is one of those jamming musicians. He teaches ukulele workshops at senior centers, children's camps, and RV parks.

"If you've had a rough day, whatever you're doing, if you're working or you have difficulties you pick up the ukulele and strum it a few times, then pick out a song you want to try and all of a sudden things are better."

He says playing the ukulele might not make things better forever. But for the moment, it can, and for him, it does.

© Copyright 2009, MICHIGAN RADIO

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kala Clothing

Yesterday I received two awesome Kala Ukulele t-shirts. This picture is actually taken of the back of the t-shirt and it has a larger Kala Logo. It's packaged in the coolest packaging-- a wee little uke shape!

Here is the front with a simple Kala logo. The women's shirts come in yellow and black. I recommend for any ukulele fan to show it off with these t-shirts!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Segment: Uke News

New Segment coming to the Uketopia Podcast-- Uke News!

Reporting from the world of ukulele, Uke News will focus on all things Ukulele.

If you have any news stories or information that is noteworthy, send us an email at:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Dueling Ukes with Craig Miner

I promised dueling ukes, and here you go!
Craig Miner playing the Fender Pa'ina

Monday, June 1, 2009

Episode #09 Mess Up!

Mess Up!

I apologize for the mess up. I didn't catch that I accidently put in the intro to Open Mic in twice and forgot to intro Tips and Tricks. How I missed that is beyond me.

I'll get that changed today!

Thank you for all your support!