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Lalz
03-13-2012, 04:16 AM
Hi everyone!

I was wondering if there's African uke players here on UU, or if anyone knows of African musicians playing the ukulele? I'm interested in particular in Sahelian and Sub-Saharian West Africa, where people play some of my favourite string instruments.

I'm wondering because the guitar (both acoustic and electric) was successfully incorporated into West-African music and since then has been played in a completely african way (think Ali Farka Touré, Tinariwen, Habib Koité etc who are even quite famous abroad). So I wonder if there's people doing the same thing with the uke? If so, there must be interesting playing techniques or songs to learn from them!

All I know for now is that no one I personally know down there plays the uke or even as much as thinks about the instrument. And so far the only video I've found involving a ukulele was of two small kids lip-synching to Amadou & Mariam on Malian television, one of them pretending to play a red soprano (supercute, hehe!)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVqsUuaP0nw

So if you know of anything, please let me know! Thanks!

buddhuu
03-13-2012, 11:48 AM
I love the guitars in Congolese soukous and Ghanaian highlife music, but ukes in African music? You got me there. Don't remember ever seeing or hearing one.

Lalz
03-13-2012, 12:52 PM
I love the guitars in Congolese soukous and Ghanaian highlife music

Me too! Highlife is one of my favourite musics ever. Sometimes I try uking along with some E.T. Mensah songs, lots of fun


but ukes in African music? You got me there. Don't remember ever seeing or hearing one.

Well hopefully someone will show up on this thread one day and say "Yes, me! I'm an [insert African nationality] uke player with a very unique african style and technique, and I'll teach you all everything I know!" :)

stevepetergal
03-13-2012, 12:57 PM
Here's a photo of a young man in Bahir Dahr, Ethiopia playing an instrument called a Masenqo. It has neck, headstock, a hollow body made of leather, a single soundhole not seen in this pic, and a single string. It is "fretted" without a fretboard, using all four fingers to make pretty complex melodies. Played with a bow, though.

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A photo of a very young cattle rancher playing a home-made flute/pipe, also in Ethiopia.

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And one goof playing an ukulele in a little house in 110 degree (F) heat, Ethiopia.

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Lalz
03-13-2012, 07:19 PM
Very nice pictures Steve, thanks for sharing! Love the one of you playing the uke :) Did you use to live in Ethiopia or were you visiting?

Nice one the mazenqo. There's so many string instruments on that continent, it's quite amazing. My favourite are the Malian kora (harp-like with 21 strings in average) and the ngoni (4 strings lute-like, but tuned and played in a very different way from the uke because the top string and the bottom string are used as drones, tuning changes with each song, and there's no frets). I play a tiny bit of kora myself but really badly, and I have relatives who play the ngoni and the african guitar really well.

Maybe people don't play the uke there (from the looks of it so far), because there's already too many other options available?

Well being an optimist, I've just started a UU group for African Ukers (diaspora and foreign residents included). Hopefully some people other than myself will join in :)

uke4ia
03-14-2012, 07:46 AM
I'd like to get the Madagascar instrument kabosy. It's steel strung, has a mandolin to ukulele kind of sound, but has frets that are only under some of the strings, so that you can only play in the pentatonic scale of whatever key it's tuned to.

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Lalz
03-16-2012, 05:10 PM
I'd like to get the Madagascar instrument kabosy. It's steel strung, has a mandolin to ukulele kind of sound, but has frets that are only under some of the strings, so that you can only play in the pentatonic scale of whatever key it's tuned to.

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Wow, beautiful instrument! :drool:

chris667
03-16-2012, 11:55 PM
Strikes me there's an opportunity to spread the uke love there. Does any other instrument bring such positive things into people's lives as the ukulele? So accessible, and relatively inexpensive?

I have a friend who runs an education charity in Nigeria. I'll ask him what gives with them over there.

Lalz
03-17-2012, 08:39 AM
Well, there are already tones of really nice instruments there, it's not like there's a shortage of them (apart of course from a few massively poorer areas). But being myself totally in love with the ukulele, I believe the uke has quite interesting and unique musical qualities that probably work wonders in most musical contexts, and being half West-African myself I'm particularly interested in this specific musical context. That's why I'm wondering. What I was thinking though was more in terms of "what can we learn from (hypothetical) uke-playing african musicians and the way they might have adopted and adapted the ukulele" (anyone here on UU btw? anyoooone? echo... echo... echo...), rather than "let's go on a mission and spread the ukulele love all over the continent" ;-)
This said, I do get your point: it's a really nice and cheap instrument, and it makes everyone who plays it really happy :) Looking forward to hear what your friend says!

ChrisRCovington
03-17-2012, 12:02 PM
"let's go on a mission and spread the ukulele love all over the continent"

It seems that it is a pretty rare instrument across the continent. Maybe we will have to spread it first? I'm sure we would get some very interesting tunings and playing methods within a short amount of time.

chris667
03-18-2012, 12:15 AM
Well, there are already tones of really nice instruments there, it's not like there's a shortage of them (apart of course from a few massively poorer areas). But being myself totally in love with the ukulele, I believe the uke has quite interesting and unique musical qualities that probably work wonders in most musical contexts, and being half West-African myself I'm particularly interested in this specific musical context. That's why I'm wondering. What I was thinking though was more in terms of "what can we learn from (hypothetical) uke-playing african musicians and the way they might have adopted and adapted the ukulele" (anyone here on UU btw? anyoooone? echo... echo... echo...), rather than "let's go on a mission and spread the ukulele love all over the continent" ;-)
This said, I do get your point: it's a really nice and cheap instrument, and it makes everyone who plays it really happy :) Looking forward to hear what your friend says!

I hope what I wrote yesterday didn't come accross as patronising.

What I mean is this; AFAIK, it doesn't have a big following over there. If there aren't African ukuleleists, it seems as though there's some interesting music that doesn't exist as yet.

Or is there a reason they wouldn't catch on? I'll have to ask Gabi next time I see him.

Lalz
03-18-2012, 02:38 AM
If there aren't African ukuleleists, it seems as though there's some interesting music that doesn't exist as yet.

Totally agree! :)