Mighty Uke: Win tickets to James Hill

20:27, Feb 20 2013

This week I watched the documentary Mighty Uke: The Amazing Comeback of a Musical Underdog.

I reckon this is worth seeing. I can't tell you it's a must-see - but I'm sure glad I saw it. You see, I have a bit of a love/hate thing with the Ukulele - or Yuckulele, as it sometimes is. I'm not sure all of this Ukulele Orchestra thing is all that positive: it's giving false hope to the talentless, and trivialising a legitimate instrument.

On the other hand it's allowing people to stand up and have a go - it's a great first step for children, a chance to be involved in music, to learn a tactile understanding of how music is made; to bond.

So I'm torn.

I've heard some ukulele ensembles that are amazing - and I've heard ukulele soloists that are incredible. I've also sat through bore-fests, non-musicians far too pleased with themselves - but then you get that in all walks of life/with all instruments...

Mighty Uke is a great film because it captures the comeback of the ukulele. It traces the history too; gives a context, showing footage of crucial names associated with the instrument (such as Tiny Tim) and shows how it is being used - positively - in education.


Mighty Uke is a fine film because it had me thinking about the positives - focusing on the players who used the instrument creatively, interestingly - who extended its reach, who used it as a texture, a treatment, a practice tool, a new sound, a new energy - I forgot all about my gripes of how some lazy fools are milking it.

The ukulele backlash is strong. But I'd suggest that this film is of equal value to uke fans and uke detractors. Fans will find new artists to follow, see and hear new openings and ideas, and have a historical context filled in. And detractors will (perhaps) gain a fresh perspective on the instrument, its value, its history.

Sky TV's Arts Channel is premiering the film tomorrow night at 8.30pm. And it replays at 12.30pm Friday.

The film reminded me of so many great ukulele players - some featured in the film, but it also reminded me of early Split Enz, of Phil Judd's uke playing; Neil Finn too - he's a dab hand with the old uke.

One of the ukulele greats you will see in action in the film is James Hill. He was in New Zealand for last year's International Arts Festival and he's an amazing talent; worth seeing live.

He's back in New Zealand touring with our own Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra.

Thanks to Sky TV I have one double pass to give away to one lucky reader - a chance to see James Hill with WIUO at a venue near you. The Hamilton and Auckland shows are in the past but the band and soloist are still to play Wanganui tonight, Hastings on Friday, Wellington on Sunday and then a South Island tour in early March. (See here for dates).

So if you'd like to win a double pass to see James Hill and the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra just tell me your favourite ukulele player - and mention the town where you'd like to see James Hill and band.

Are you a ukulele fan? Or have you had enough of the uke? And will you watch Mighty Uke? Or have you seen it already?

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