Ukulele puts fun in music

A much maligned instrument has made a comeback.

The ukulele will take centre stage when the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra performs at the Marlborough Wine and Food Festival tomorrow.

The group combine the ukulele's melodious timbre with full-throated vocal harmonies and comic banter.

Blenheim ukulele enthusiast Steve Austin may officially be chief executive of the Marlborough Museum, but his alter ego, Hugo Del Ma, is "an international ukulele sensation".

He began playing the instrument when he was 12, but got into it in a serious way in 2006 after completing a series of concerts which documented, in German, the psychological disintegration of a man whose love went unrequited.

"A friend gave me a ukulele so I could learn to have fun with music again."

The great thing about the ukulele was that it was versatile, capable of many styles of music, from Johnny Cash, to 1970s disco and even classical, he said.

"Really, the guitar is a mutant, deformed, giant ukulele."

Hugo Del Ma had previously performed at packed concerts at the Boathouse Theatre a couple of years ago, and he hoped to get back on to the stage again, Mr Austin said.

It was wonderful that the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra was performing at the festival. "I think people will be blown away with them; they will be a big hit," he said.

Springlands man Murray MacDonald said he looking forward to seeing the group.

Mr MacDonald said he has been part of a ukulele group since 2009, playing at retirement homes in the region.

He also makes ukuleles, using local wood when he could and supplementing that with fittings and hardware from the United States.

So far, he has made six ukuleles, each taking several months of sanding, measuring, gluing and clamping.

The Marlborough Express