Wanted: Used and Unused Ukes

Here on the Big Island
By Kelly Moran

Wanted: Used and Unused Ukes

How many of you have an ‘ukulele somewhere that you never play any more?

Perhaps it was a souvenir of your first-ever trip to Hawaii, and has rested in your closet (along with that matching aloha shirt and mu’umu’u that you now realize no local couples ever wear).  Or perhaps you do keep the uke handy, and you remember “My Dog Has Fleas” – the old mnemonic for tuning the open strings.  But you never seem to find the time to actually tune it or give it more than a strum or two.  Even when you hear some virtuoso like Jake Shimabukuro or Britny Paiva play one on TV or in concert, and you wonder if, maybe, you ought to take it up again, just to see if . . . well, you know.  That’s why it’s still just sitting there.

So, if your old uke is collecting dust, or waiting in vain for you touch the strings, maybe it would be happier in someone else’s hands – those of someone who wants to learn to play but can’t afford a decent instrument.

You’ve probably seen very high-quality instruments – beautiful (and beautiful-sounding) works of the woodsmith’s art – in music stores all across Hawaii, costing a few hundred dollars.  But most serviceable ukes are far from being luxury items.  While some tinny souvenir ukes cost $20 or less, it takes $50-100 to buy a truly playable “first uke,” and while that’s not a lot of money to most of us, it’s still out of reach for plenty of young, would-be players.


Soprano pineapple ukulele, baritone ukulele and taropatch baritone ukulele.


So I want you to know that the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UH-H) is asking for donations of ukes to be played in a new class, beginning this coming Spring semester, called Contemporary Island Music.  It will be taught by Lito Arkangel, a popular local performer who teaches in the UH-H Hawaiian Language College and the Kinesiology & Health Sciences Dept.  (Undergrads note: this will be a three-credit course, academically listed as MUS 198.)


Lito Arkangel


Jackie Pualani Johnson, head of the UH-H Performing Arts Dept., says that Arkangel’s class will be “a survey of contemporary music in Hawai’i beginning in the 1970s and culminating with today’s popular music. Emphasis will be on performance, via the understanding of multi-cultural influences that shaped each era, the styles of composers, and the development of musical trends in Hawai’i. Students will participate in group activities, presentations, and required performances. Practical experience with singing and ‘ukulele will be included.

“If you have a ‘previously loved’ instrument that you are interested in donating, the Performing Arts Department will be happy to write a donation letter for tax purposes.  Please let me know via e-mail (jpjohnso@hawaii.edu) and we’ll be happy to pick up the instrument, too, to make it convenient for you.”

Sounds good to me!  Got a uke you can spare for a worthy cause?

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