Playing the Ukulele in Africa
Discovering the Uke
I had, of course, heard about the ukulele, and had a faint idea that it was an instrument similar to a guitar. The ukulele, unlike the guitar, is not very popular in Africa.
Perhaps what immediately stood out when I first saw a ukulele was the size. I have a tenor ukulele, which is pretty small compared to the size of the typical acoustic guitar. It is a miniature instrument, but what is lacks in size, it makes up in its fantastic sound, sleek design, portability and instant gratification.
Comparing Ukulele Sizes
There are four types of ukuleles: soprano, tenor, concert and baritone ukulele. Soprano, concert and tenor ukuleles are all tuned to the pitches of G C E A while the baritone ukulele is tuned to D G B E.
Of the four, the soprano ukulele is the smallest followed by concert ukulele. The baritone ukulele is the largest while the tenor ukulele is the second largest.
You can watch the video below to see the comparison of the various sizes.
Purchasing the Ukulele
Since ukulele is not a very common instrument in Africa, getting the right one might be a bit tricky. Although you are likely to find a ukulele in a major town where you live, the variety to choose from might be very limited. In the case of Nairobi, which is close to where I live, I could only find a limited range of soprano ukuleles.
The other option would be shipping directly from Amazon. Here only four countries in Africa (Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya) are eligible. The shipping should not take more than two weeks. The downside of this option (apart from the fact that it is not available for most countries in Africa) is the expensive shipping fee.
The best option then might be to look to buy the instrument locally if you can get a good ukulele near you.
I was so excited about getting the ukulele that for the first few days, I would not let it out of my sight.
The first thing to do was to tune the instrument. I could not for the life of me figure out how to tune the instrument from the tuner in ukulele.io, you will need to have a trained ear to do it that way.
Thank goodness for technology! I had an electronic tuner and in a few moments, the instrument was tuned. Rebecca has even made a video on how to use the electronic tuner. You can view it here.
Another option is to get an smartphone app that will help you tune your ukulele. There are lots of other apps about ukulele playing too. Click here to learn more about how to use Android and iOs smartphones in playing the Ukulele.
If you are a newbie, you will need guidance on the basics and 21 Songs in 6 Days gives you all you would require and much more to get you started on playing the ukulele.The book also comes with free access to online ukulele videos. You get to read, listen and watch for the fastest, easiest learning experience possible.
You have a Small Guitar
“Paul, you play a small guitar ?” that was the question of almost everyone who saw me with the ukulele.
“No no, this is not a guitar, this is a ukulele” was my prompt answer.
Ukulele sounds very much like a Swahili name. In fact, some of my friends had to Google it to confirm that it is actually the English name for the instrument.