Give Now

Ukuleles Appearing On Laps Of Musicians Everywhere

If you keep your ears open for it, for will hear ukuleles in music of all genres these days. It has also become a popular instrument for amateurs to pick up.

Playing The Ukulele

Photo: looseends (Flickr)

Ukuleles come in four different sizes: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone.

Making Her Own Music

“The ukulele goes in phases of being mocked to being adored again,” says Ellen Campbell, co-founder of the Bloomington Ukulele Club.

She never faltered in her love of the instrument, however. Growing up, she was a fan of performers like Tiny Tim and Neil Innes. It was after watching videos of The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain that she found the motivation to pick up the instrument herself.

She enrolled in Beginning Ukulele at the People’s University to learn the basics. After the class ended in late 2010, “several of us in the group just loved it so much, and we said we can’t stop now.”

Ellen Campbell And Nathaniel Kohlmeier Playing Ukuleles

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

Ellen Campbell (right) and her son Nathaniel Kohlmeier play ukuleles together in their Bloomington, Indiana home. Kohlmeier plays a royal blue soprano uke while Campbell plays an amplified peanut uke.

Uke Throughout The Years

The ukulele was brought to Hawaii by Portugese immigrants in the 1880s. It became popular in the United States in 1915 after it made an appearance at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Fransisco. It increased in popularity after World War II thanks to performers like Tiny Tim, Ukulele Ike and Roy Schmeck.

As rock ‘n’ roll took hold in the 1960s, interest in the ukulele died down. By the mid-1970s, manufacturers like Martin and Gibson had stopped making the instrument leaving Kamaka in Hawaii the only remaining ukulele company.

The latest resurgence started in the early-1990s with musicians like Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and his popular rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” Now, contemporary performers like Jason Mraz, Eddie Vedder and Mumford & Sons are putting out music that prominently features the instrument.

Southern Indiana’s Ukulele Connection

Mike Hater of Mainland Ukes in Nashville, Indiana is reaping the benefits of all this ukulele love — his business is booming.

“It’s been really snowballing,” he says. “We’re having a hard time keeping up with demand.”

Southern Indiana becomes ukulele Mecca every summer when the Ukulele World Congress convenes in Needmore, Indiana.

Further proving the ukulele’s international appeal, Hater says they sell instruments to Thailand, Brazil, Estonia and Singapore. “You name it, we’ve sent ukuleles there.”

Mike Hater Of Mainland Ukes

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

Mike Hater, owner of Mainland Ukes, calls the ukulele "the easiest string instrument to play."

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

View all posts by this author »

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

Search Arts and Music

Stay Connected

RSS e-mail itunes Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Recent Popular Music Stories

Popular Music Events RSS icon

More Events »Submit Your Event »

Arts & Music is on Twitter

Find Us on Facebook

This Week on Poets Weave

How To Live Inside A Storm


Lisa Low reads "Girl I want to be in Chinatown," "Still," "How To Live Inside a Storm," and "One Day."

Read more »

The Poets Weave is a weekly five-minute program of poetry reading hosted by local poet Christopher Citro.

More from The Poets Weave »

This Week on Earth Eats

Scones, Best Baked With Friends

marie shakespeare making scones

We hear stories of baked goods, from hobby to profession, from Marie Shakespeare and Lynn Schwartzbreg. We also make One World Catering's Apricot Almond Scones.

Read more »

Earth Eats is a podcast, radio program and blog of the freshest news and recipes inspired by local food and sustainable agriculture.

More from Earth Eats »

This Week on Focus on Flowers

Iris Parade

Iris spuria

Generally, all the shorter iris types bloom earliest, starting the parade of iris flowers that continues throughout the summer.

Read more »

Focus on Flowers is a weekly program about flower gardening hosted by master gardener Moya Andews.

More from Focus on Flowers »