Sopraninos at twenty paces
In July, the now thirty-year-old Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (UOGB) won a case in the High Court banning four-year-old The UK Ukulele Orchestra (TUKUO) from using that name in Britain for obvious reasons. It doesn't ban them using it in any other country, however, and the UOGB has been mortified to find that not only are the imitators using the name in the US, but using it while currently touring at the same time as the UOGB and in the same areas of the East Coast. The fact that TUKUO members are eight in number and wear evening suits whilst playing well-known covers has even fooled some concert-goers. Apparently they don't sound nearly as good as the UOGB. Case closed.
Short term 'pain' for long term gain?
With the Australian ukulele festival season getting back up to speed after a break over winter, I have heard an interesting issue being discussed by participants.
The resurgence of the ukulele over the past decade and its uptake by those who have never played an instrument through to experienced musicians, has been a major step in the right direction for humanity (not to mention ukulele manufacturers). However, the inclusivity which is a necessary precursor to widespread takeup has naturally lead to performances at festivals by enthusiastic, committed ukulele groups who's stock in trade is an undifferentiated strum and nothing-to-write-home-about group singing. Are they to be applauded? Of course! Are they to be encouraged? Without a doubt. Is it entertainment? Sometimes.
And here's where the western world's separation of performer and audience starts challenging not only our perceptions, but our cultural paradigms. I think we're at a critical point where this separation is slowly making way for acceptance and allowing the flow of music back into our lives as music makers, not just listeners.
Of course there will always be people for whom music is a profession and whose talents and hard work go in to making songs we love to play and/or arrangements that we can employ to share music in an entertaining way with others.
That music doesn't need to be at a festival though, it can happen in a loungeroom,
a backyard, at a park, in a bar. Best case scenario - once started, it'll prompt the involvement of whoever's around, whether singing, dancing, playing percussion on an empty box or dragging out auntie Beryl's piano accordion. In some places it already happens like this, and with our courage, it will happen more.
Don't wait for permission!