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View Full Version : Your favorite personal uke story....



Griffis
05-11-2016, 09:02 AM
I was reading through some other threads and came upon a few really nice stories people posted of how playing the ukulele helped them through a difficult period, or brought joy to someone who was suffering. I thought it would be cool to have a thread where people could just talk about these sorts of things and share. Apologies if this has been done before.

I'll kick it off...mine isn't a life-changing story by any stretch, but it has always stayed with me.

Back in 2003 my family I and I went to Central Europe. In case this makes me sound like a rich person, let me just say we sold essentially everything we owned (including computers, vehicles, etc.) and saved for more than a year in order to do this.

We stayed in the Czech Republic and Hungary but ended up spending most of our time in Romania. I really fell in love with Romania. In that country there are a few very modern, Westernized cities, but you don't have to go very far to really be in the sticks. Literally you can get 5 miles outside of one of these towns and come across gypsy / Roma families in horse drawn carriages and such. It gets very rural and "Old World" very quick.

So, at one point we were traveling from Brasov to a town called Sibiu. In between was real, real country. Beautiful, lush mountains and forests...the occasional old castle ruins in the distance. It was getting near dusk and we passed by a small inn which doubled as the equivalent of a gas station and convenience store. We stopped for gas and drinks and to let our kids stretch their legs and so on.

At some tables outside the place were three older Romanian men, two of whom were playing music. One had what looked like an oud and the other was playing a gypsy jazz-style guitar which looked to be at least partially homemade.

I listened to them for a while and finally pulled out the only instrument we had with us on that trip which was a Johnson resonator concert ukulele.

I pulled it out of its case and held it up, pointing at it with a questioning look on my face. The men smiled and waved me over.

For the next 45 minutes or so, as the sun fell and it got darker, we swapped music. They spoke little to no English and I spoke little to no Romanian, but I would listen to them play for a bit, then join in on the uke. Then one of them would motion to me as if to say "your turn" and I would start in to something (some ragtime improv sort of thing for instance)--they would listen for a bit then jump in.

I was so engrossed in the wonderful feeling of this that it took me a bit before I realized--my entire family and everyone from inside the inn had gathered around the bench/table we were seated at. Once noticed, people began clapping and dancing.

I very much hated for it to end. It was such an incredible feeling. Perhaps the most beautiful music-related thing in my life. I have played in many bands, even opened up for some fairly big name bands, I have done a lot of jamming and recording with others and had so many great gigs and great times, but this was something special. It took me out of all time and place and just wrapped me in the human communication through the universal language of music.

I will never forget that.

You?

Ukulele Eddie
05-11-2016, 09:21 AM
Music, the universal language! Thanks for sharing. I lived in Budapest for a year back in 1992. Love Central Europe!!!

Booli
05-11-2016, 10:18 AM
Griffis - that's such a great story and one that is very hard to follow - LOL - but it was an awesome story nonetheless.

Thanks for sharing...

When I have some time later I will try to add my own story, and posting this comment here which will sub me to this thread so I do not forget to do so...

In the words of Mr. Terminator - "I'll be back!" :)

Griffis
05-11-2016, 10:56 AM
Griffis - that's such a great story and one that is very hard to follow - LOL

Ha....sorry...I am a rambler.

Twibbly
05-11-2016, 11:21 AM
Ha....sorry...I am a rambler.

I think he means it's hard to come up with something that impressive. A hard act to follow.

Griffis
05-11-2016, 11:25 AM
I think he means it's hard to come up with something that impressive. A hard act to follow.

Oh. I guess I didn't follow. It follows that I would be mistaken in trying to follow up that comment following my usual ham-handed, long-winded tales.

hendulele
05-11-2016, 11:48 AM
Yes, it'll be hard to top that. Not only the story and the setting but the verbal portrait you painted. You took us there, and that's hard to do. :shaka:

Nickie
05-11-2016, 02:50 PM
That is a great story Griffis!
I have never been to Europe, and I'm envious of anyone who has. If I ever went, I probably wouldn't come back here. Learning a new culture and lingo would be a hoot.
I can only think of one story....
Years ago, I was caring for a very sick man who was terminal. His wife asked me to do something to help him "go". I told her I couldn't do that, but my job was to make him comfortable. She saw my uke gig bag, and asked what it was. I told her, and asked if he liked music. She said, "Oh,please, he loves it, play for him."
So I began Amazing Grace, knowing little else at the time.
Before I got through the song, he gently breathed his last breath.
His wife hugged me and thanked me.

ukulelekarcsi
05-11-2016, 08:32 PM
At some tables outside the place were three older Romanian men, two of whom were playing music. One had what looked like an oud and the other was playing a gypsy jazz-style guitar which looked to be at least partially homemade.


Probably a cobza (koboz in Hungarian, which is also spoken a lot there). It's an entirely different musical culture, lots of minor chords and very challenging rhythms and ornamentations. But like you said, very open-minded musicians.

I once worked in a psychiatric ward (in an old castle no less) a bit more to the north (Mesozeg region) where inmates loved to improvise sung lyrics over my ukulele playing. Did you know that in Romanian, every second verse is actually 'lalalalalala'? They were actually quite good at making up spontaneous songs.

Tudorp
05-12-2016, 04:21 AM
Been awhile since I posted, but do lurk several times a week. Just saw this, and a good uke story of my personal stories isn't about me. I shared it years ago here but just thought about it again reading this thread. How a simple uke can touch and maybe even change things for a person. This was several years ago, and the young man it involved is now a grown man of 19 or 20. I still hear from him every so often. I think he was 13 or 14 at the time. But he was what many considered "Goth". I would see him walk down our street every few days, just wondering around. Never talked or said much. very miss understood. Most folks scowered at him, thought he was into drugs and who knows what else. Anyway, at that time I would sit on my front porch and play my Uke. many times I would be out there, he would walk by. I would notice he would look over at me with an intrigued look on his face. I noticed he would slow down his pace and would listen as he walked by. But never would say anything to me. One day, he was walking by, and I was playing. As he got in front of my home, I motioned for him to come over. He stopped, and I could tell he was thinking about it, either no, or yes. I could tell he as confused. But, he reluctantly walked over to my porch. I asked him if he played any instruments. He in a low tone, replied, "No sir, but I have always loved music, and wish that I could play the guitar." I told him well, the only way that dream can come true is if you pick one up and just start playing, even if it's horrible. He grinned, and asked about my "little guitar". I explained it to him, and he seemed very interested. I told him to wait here, and I went in the house and grabbed another one. Went back out and handed it to him. He was beaming from ear to ear. I showed him a few simple chords, and a couple easy songs. A couple weeks go by, and after that he would stop by my porch to listen and talk some. I learned some about the kid. He was lost. He was a very sweet soul, but said people just dont get him. He doesn't defend himself from suspicions of drug use, because he figured it didn't matter. He was actually strongly against drugs of any sort, but people wouldn't believe that no matter what he told them. Anyway, while that time was passing, I was rebuilding a damaged uke, and painted it in his favorite paint colors (Black and red). It was Black, with red details, and I reshaped the headstock in a "Gothy" shape. When it was done, and he was stopping by again, I asked him if he ever thought about getting his own Uke so he could play it anytime. He told me he wished he could, but was being raised by a single mother and they couldn't afford any instruments at all. But said he was ok with just borrowing mine for a few minutes when he came by. I told him, "Well, I am tired of loaning my Uke to ya.." He had a weird look on his face, but then I reached down behind me and pulled his "Goth Uke" out. His eyes got huge. I handed it to him, and he was shocked, and thought that it was the coolest instrument he ever saw. I told him, "Glad you feel that way about it, because that one is yours.. Made it special for you, after getting to know you a little." He was trying to be tough, but he did have a tear rolling down his cheek. For several weeks, he would stop by with his uke, and I would teach him some more stuff, but after a few months, the visits got less and less. After about a year of not seeing him, I see him again. He looked much different. Still "Gothy", but not quite as extreme. I spoke to him. He confided in me that he still plays that uke, and loves it. But, the most important thing is that no one ever had done anything like that for him before, and that he was deeply touched by it. He often wondered if there were people out there that didn't judge, and just loved someone just because. He touched me when he said I gave him that hope that there are people out there that do care, and not judge. I see him still today every so often. He graduated High School a couple years ago. He looks much different today than he did back then. He still has that uke, and still plays it, actually quite good now. He has outgrown the Goth phase, but seems to have a much better outlook on life. He touched me, as much as I touched him really.

Griffis
05-12-2016, 04:43 AM
...he was what many considered "Goth". ...He looks much different today than he did back then. He still has that uke, and still plays it, actually quite good now. He has outgrown the Goth phase, but seems to have a much better outlook on life. He touched me, as much as I touched him really.

Man, I love that story! I identify with that kid. I, too, was something of a social outcast...I was into punk (in Oklahoma!) by 1980 and also went through a heavy goth sort of phase. I never wore the makeup but I did wear some offbeat clothes and had some pretty wild hair at times.

I can't, however, say I never did drugs. In my youth I was pretty crazy. Not troubled so much as just wanting a good time. Fortunately I never got into "hard" drugs or addicted to anything. I have lost friends to drugs and alcohol...good friends who've died from that stuff, so I'm lucky those things did not touch me as strongly or negatively.

What you did--not just rebuilding and giving that uke to the kid--but simply interacting with him and listening to him...it might seem a small thing to you, but I bet he will never forget you and it's impossible to measure the positive impact what you did may have on his life.

Such a great illustration of what music, and simple human kindness, can do to bring people together and improve lives. Really, beautiful story.

Wish you had pics of that ukulele!

Griffis
05-12-2016, 04:46 AM
Probably a cobza (koboz in Hungarian, which is also spoken a lot there). It's an entirely different musical culture, lots of minor chords and very challenging rhythms and ornamentations. But like you said, very open-minded musicians.

I once worked in a psychiatric ward (in an old castle no less) a bit more to the north (Mesozeg region) where inmates loved to improvise sung lyrics over my ukulele playing. Did you know that in Romanian, every second verse is actually 'lalalalalala'? They were actually quite good at making up spontaneous songs.

That's cool. Do you still live in that region?

I looked up images of the cobza/koboz and that is it! More lute-like than I recalled, but I am sure that was the instrument. thanks for that! I had always wondered...

Griffis
05-12-2016, 04:51 AM
That is a great story Griffis!
I have never been to Europe, and I'm envious of anyone who has. If I ever went, I probably wouldn't come back here. Learning a new culture and lingo would be a hoot.

Well, to be honest, we did hope to stay in Europe. I love a lot of things about America but I could happily live in many other countries. It was a pipe dream though. Most people from other continents can't just up and decide to move to Europe without an awful lot of things in place first. It is difficult to do unless certain circumstances apply.

It may be that we do a lot of living in Mexico and South America in the coming years, however. Fingers crossed for that!


I can only think of one story....
Years ago, I was caring for a very sick man who was terminal. His wife asked me to do something to help him "go". I told her I couldn't do that, but my job was to make him comfortable. She saw my uke gig bag, and asked what it was. I told her, and asked if he liked music. She said, "Oh,please, he loves it, play for him."
So I began Amazing Grace, knowing little else at the time.
Before I got through the song, he gently breathed his last breath.
His wife hugged me and thanked me.

That is heavy. Also a beautiful thing. Going out on a wave of music like that. I hope I get to have that.

I've been a caregiver a lot in my years...nursing homes, working with the physically and developmentally disabled, the mentally ill, medically fragile, etc. Never in a hospice situation though. that takes a stronger, better person than me. Kudos to you.

Remember the Great Downfall of caregivers, and be mindful--all too often you give it all away and keep none for yourself. Don't forget to be your own caregiver as well!

Tudorp
05-12-2016, 05:09 AM
Wish you had pics of that ukulele!

Actually, I do somewhere in my picture archives. I'll have to look for it. If I find it, Ill post it here.

Tudorp
05-12-2016, 05:36 AM
cant find a picture yet of when it was done, but this is while I was making it. At least you can get the jest of it. 91075

Griffis
05-12-2016, 05:48 AM
cant find a picture yet of when it was done, but this is while I was making it. At least you can get the jest of it. 91075

Too cool. Dig the headstock shape!

Griffis
05-16-2016, 09:17 AM
Bumpity. Gotta be more cool/sweet stories, right?

igorthebarbarian
05-16-2016, 10:04 AM
Thanks for posting this great story! That's really special/awesome/"paints a picture".


I was reading through some other threads and came upon a few really nice stories people posted of how playing the ukulele helped them through a difficult period, or brought joy to someone who was suffering. I thought it would be cool to have a thread where people could just talk about these sorts of things and share. Apologies if this has been done before.

I'll kick it off...mine isn't a life-changing story by any stretch, but it has always stayed with me.

Back in 2003 my family I and I went to Central Europe. In case this makes me sound like a rich person, let me just say we sold essentially everything we owned (including computers, vehicles, etc.) and saved for more than a year in order to do this.

We stayed in the Czech Republic and Hungary but ended up spending most of our time in Romania. I really fell in love with Romania. In that country there are a few very modern, Westernized cities, but you don't have to go very far to really be in the sticks. Literally you can get 5 miles outside of one of these towns and come across gypsy / Roma families in horse drawn carriages and such. It gets very rural and "Old World" very quick.

So, at one point we were traveling from Brasov to a town called Sibiu. In between was real, real country. Beautiful, lush mountains and forests...the occasional old castle ruins in the distance. It was getting near dusk and we passed by a small inn which doubled as the equivalent of a gas station and convenience store. We stopped for gas and drinks and to let our kids stretch their legs and so on.

At some tables outside the place were three older Romanian men, two of whom were playing music. One had what looked like an oud and the other was playing a gypsy jazz-style guitar which looked to be at least partially homemade.

I listened to them for a while and finally pulled out the only instrument we had with us on that trip which was a Johnson resonator concert ukulele.

I pulled it out of its case and held it up, pointing at it with a questioning look on my face. The men smiled and waved me over.

For the next 45 minutes or so, as the sun fell and it got darker, we swapped music. They spoke little to no English and I spoke little to no Romanian, but I would listen to them play for a bit, then join in on the uke. Then one of them would motion to me as if to say "your turn" and I would start in to something (some ragtime improv sort of thing for instance)--they would listen for a bit then jump in.

I was so engrossed in the wonderful feeling of this that it took me a bit before I realized--my entire family and everyone from inside the inn had gathered around the bench/table we were seated at. Once noticed, people began clapping and dancing.

I very much hated for it to end. It was such an incredible feeling. Perhaps the most beautiful music-related thing in my life. I have played in many bands, even opened up for some fairly big name bands, I have done a lot of jamming and recording with others and had so many great gigs and great times, but this was something special. It took me out of all time and place and just wrapped me in the human communication through the universal language of music.

I will never forget that.

You?

lfoo6952
05-16-2016, 05:27 PM
Great stories!

Tudorp: you done good, man! Very heart-felt story.

Ukejenny
05-18-2016, 03:43 AM
Incredible stories. Thank you all for sharing them.

Griffis
06-17-2016, 03:37 PM
To the top. The uke has been a saving grace for me. I know others out there have more stories to share!