Thursday, September 29, 2011


@ Tim McKenna / Tahiti Tourisme

Close your eyes and think of paradise...what do you hear in the background? Classical music? Relaxation music? Pop music? ... Chances are, most of you can hear the sound of a ukulele playing a mesmerizing tune on tropical notes.

In Tahiti, the ukulele is a popular as Tiare flower leis and the blue lagoon. At your arrival, you will be greeted by the sound of the ukulele playing, in your hotel, you will most probably hear tunes you know and others you don't played on a uke, and in the streets of Papeete, you will certainly encounter a gathering of musicians playing for the joy of locals and tourists. Do not miss the street band across from the tourist office as they are one of the must sees in town and are recommended in most travel books.

You probably know the hawaian ukulele, which basically resembles a miniature guitar and has been sported by a myriad of celebrities, from Marilyn Monroe in Some like it hot to Elvis Presley or even Will I am and Pink, just to name a few...


Aside from being a great souvenir to bring back from your trip in Tahiti, he ukulele, or Tahitian banjo is an intricate part of Tahitian music, from original songs to adaptations...Even though it is not a traditional instrument (as it was brought in by the Portuguese), the uke has become part of our musical environment and  behind the wood and the strings it is made of, this small instrument can be considered as the soul of the party. In Tahiti & her islands, all parties involve music, a lot of music. The guests will generally gather around with a few instruments among which you will always find at least one ukulele and sing the day & night away. To the people in Tahiti, ukulele is synonymous of joyfulness and happiness.

@ Yannick Laille
Although you can find different types of ukes, from simple designs to more intricate carved pieces, Tahitian ukuleles have the specificity of not having a sound box. It is basically a body, a neck and head carved from one piece of wood with a hole in the middle.

Recently, the ukelele has become somewhat of a craze around the world and everybody (well almost) is doing it...Probably one of the charms of this small instrument, apart from being easy to carry around, is that it is easy to play because it has only four strings. This could explain the sudden formation of groups, the most famous of which is most probable the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, who popularized the ukulele by doing cover songs. 

@Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

Look near where you live, I am sure their must be a ukulele festival organized some time during the year. If not, you can always come to Tahiti and enjoy your favorite song played on the uke or even try strumming on the strings yourself. Beware, you might become hooked! 

Some of my favorite uke videos:

Marlon Brando

Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain performing "Shaft"

Classic "Somewhere over the rainbow" by Hawaian singer Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole
Te Ava Piti, one of the most famous ukulele groups in Tahiti

I'm Yours cover...I told you it was easy, singing not so much, but funny

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