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Small Instruments, Big Sounds

By Jessica Issa on June 6, 2013 in News

Photo: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

Photo: Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

The ukulele originated in Hawaii. Developed in the 1880s, it is based on several small guitar-like instruments of Portuguese origin, the machete, the cavaquinho and the rajao, introduced to the Hawaiian Islands by Portuguese immigrants from Madeira and Cape Verde. The name roughly translates as ‘jumping flea’, perhaps because of the movement of the player’s fingers.

The popularity of the ukulele in Australia is at an all-time high and as such, a number of ukulele groups have formed across the country. One such group is our very own Uke East.

“We started up around two years ago with about 12 people, and now we have over 150 members, with 70 turning up each month to sing and play,” founder Steve Ward told The Beast. “We meet up monthly at the Woollahra Golf Club in Rose Bay with about a dozen songs set in advance.”

Group members sing along while playing their ukuleles, with the talent varying from professionals who play solos, to beginners who are barely able to strum. But being musical isn’t what Uke East is all about.

“Some people aren’t very good, but that’s not why they come. They come because it makes them happy, and they get to sing. Everyone goes away feeling good about themselves. It’s similar to a sing-along at church. People get a lot out of it, especially a very strong sense of community, of belonging. It’s a great, easy and affordable way to bring music back into your life. You can buy a ukulele for 30 bucks!” Steve added.

The group is comprised of two bands: Uke East Big Band, which meets monthly and is better suited to beginners; and Uke East Band, which is a more professional group made up of about ten members. Uke East Band has played at festivals and will be playing at the Lord Dudley Hotel in Woollahra on May 24 (so if you get this edition of The Beast early get down there).

Uke East is welcoming, friendly and open to everyone. The group meets on the last Monday of each month at the Woollahra Golf Club at 7.30pm and attendance is free. For more information visit