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If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain, this is the uke for you - waterproof. And if you accidentally sat on it after too many pina coladas, you could print another one while you slept off the effects. Read the story of the pictured 3D-printed one's genesis and if you're keen, this site has files to download and print your own.
Personal grooming has its limits
This is my favourite scientifically-backed theory for the year so far: singing and dancing were pivotal in making humans the incredibly successful species that we are today, but only because they give us the same natural high that removing dirt, insects, lice, other parasites and dead skin from each other does.
Ever wondered why chimpanzees or apes aren't challenging for supremacy? No music. They simply stuck to the one-on-one personal grooming, the 'glue' of primate life, which boosts endorphin levels and thus this hygienic, helpful bonding. Turns out that for humans, singing and dancing with each other gives us the same endorphin hit, but logistically it can be used to glue together much bigger groups. So our groupings grew large but still managed to have happy times. Furthermore, as was mentioned in the Catalyst programme, music was most likely a precursor to speech, and this research also suggests that singing was necessary for us to develop the breath control required for speech. Maybe that's why some birds can talk?! Read all about it in the interview with Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford.

And here's an obvious extension of that line of activity - the beneficial effects of music festivals, as researched by yet more English academics.
When you simply have to remember what you're playing
Members of the Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) Chamber Orchestra of Cairo pictured above, are all women and all blind. They come from Cairo's poorest areas, are schooled and taught music, including reading braille notation, from a young age, but of course must be able to play their repertoire of around 45 pieces from memory. Pictures and more details are in this story from the Huffington Post. This BBC news video shows them playing, how one of the members learns pieces, and the conductor's modified timekeeping methods.
I have great respect and admiration for these and other musicians who are vision impaired, and so I've been playing some songs with my eyes shut - comparatively pathetic, I know, but it has opened me up to a whole new world of listening properly!
Les Yeux Noirs (Dark Eyes) #2
Gotta love a family band, especially when they're lined up on chairs in the living room, the eight year old looks like she'd rather be somewhere else but is still committed to playing a melody part with one expert finger navigating the A string, the eleven year old does some serious fretwork, and mum and dad keep it all together playing mostly chords. Did I mention they're a Hawaiian family band...
(and they're playing a Russian folk song!)
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