Perhaps the ukulele craze is limited solely to high schools, but I watched, amazed, as various people, sometimes completely unexpected people, brought ukuleles to school. I thought that maybe none of them could actually play, and were still just learning. But no. They all played extraordinarily well. I have no explanation for the sudden boost in popularity of the instrument, only that I have thoroughly enjoyed it, as have my peers.
I’m sure you’ve all heard a ukulele before. They’re not uncommon. But to see them in such abundance is fascinating. I have come to love their unique sound. It’s actually quite beautiful to me. But why now? Why have they returned so suddenly, and with such force?
In 2003, Hawaiian musician Israel Kanakawiwo’ole’s medley of “What a Wonderful World” and “Over the Rainbow” rekindled interest in the ukulele as the song reached #12 on Billboard’s Hot Digital Tracks chart. Yes, that was nine years ago. This song got the ukulele going again in 2003, but why is it so popular right now?
In 2010, Glee’s Matthew Morrison covered Kanakawiwo’ole’s version of “Over the Rainbow” as the final song of season one. It was very successful, and many people, especially teenagers, fell in love with the ukulele. I certainly did.
Soon thereafter, ukuleles began appearing everywhere. It turns out that the ukulele is actually quite simple, and can be learned with relative ease. So the instrument began appearing everywhere, and I enjoyed listening to “Over the Rainbow” between classes and at lunch throughout the school year, that beautiful tune reverberating around in my head for days on end. And it didn’t get annoying! Everyone has such different styles of playing that the song didn’t seem repetitive, which is a blessing, I assure you.