Taranaki ukulele scene buzzing
The ukulele scene is strumming along nicely in Taranaki, thanks to musician Tony Hansen.
For the past few years Hansen has been striking the right chords to popularise the four-string instrument by teaching workshops, running ukestras, and taking groups to ukulele events and festivals across the country.
"As a teacher I love seeing people discover music through the ukulele, and creating beauty out of thin air, vibrating strings and vocal chords is a taste of magic," Hansen said.
While the guitar, banjo, mandolin, and bouzouki are also part of Hansen's instrumental repertoire, it's the versatility of the ukulele that made it his first instrument of choice for the past four years.
"The ukulele is so versatile, finger-picking folk, classical pieces, jazz and much more are playable on the uke, it makes learning and being musical doable for anyone who's keen," he said.
Hansen helped form the Taranaki Ukestra which is a group of musicians who play in different ukulele orchestras and come together to perform for different events.
"As a member of a ukestra there are parts that you can play whatever your skill level. It may be a strumming part or one of the picking parts up the fretboard," he said.
"It's always about having fun and learning from each other. Audiences can see the fun we're having and are often surprised at the wonderful vocalists and harmonies on show."
Recently the ukestra played to a packed house during the Blackboard Concert at the Geraldine Ukefest. Come August 25, they will perform at the Gisborne Ukulele Underground, which is a monthly event of singalongs and uke performances, that Hansen helped inspire.
"Its pretty exciting for us to be playing at an event that I played a part in creating. I can't wait. To travel across the country to share it with other ukulele folks is what I call a good time," he said.
Back In 2015, Hansen was invited to share his strumming talent by hosting a weekend of ukulele skill and development workshops in Gisborne.
The uke enthusiast was quick to accept on the proviso there was somewhere for the people who participated in his sessions to continue to play and perform after the workshops were over, from that the idea of the Gisborne Ukulele Underground was born.
Ukulele lady Bev Tatham is a member of the ukestra and the "gorgeous response from people" at the Geraldine Ukefest has her excited to be taking to the stage for her second ever live performance at a like event.
While Tatham was musically inclined from a young age, it was only last year she was drawn back to music when she decided to learn the ukulele under Hansens tutelage.
Music drew her to the ukestra, but the social side helped keep her there. "You couldn't get a nicer bunch of people, we have so much fun," she said.
To find out more about Hansen's ukulele intro and beginner workshops visit www.ukuleletaranaki.com