My fondness for the ukulele is no secret. It started as a Hawaii thing, but really, it’s so much bigger than that. Because I play the uke, I met a Hungarian refugee with an amazing repertoire of Yiddish folk songs.I played a gig with friends at a divey Seattle rock bar and played with Hanohano award winner Manu Boyd at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. (Please note, I didn’t say I did either of those things very well. I did okay at the rock club gig, but I totally biffed it with Manu Boyd. He was very kind about this.) Because I play the uke, I know the good people of Seattle Ukulele, and my life is better because of them. Plus, to my never ending joy, they were game for doing this on stage:
(I know it’s dorky. So am I. I never get tired of watching this.)
The ukulele is easy to pick up and easy to fall for. I won’t tell you it’s easy to play well (see also: Jake Shimabukuro) but you’ll get to mediocre very fast, where, like me, you can spend a long time happily plinking along, hacking your way thorough hapa haole tunes and jazz standards. You need a ukulele. And I have a way for you to get one for hardly any money at all, plus, that hardly any money goes to a very good cause.
We are in year three of Passports with Purpose, the travelbloggers fundraiser. And even while I look back at last year’s efforts made real, I’m looking forward at the plans for this year. We are building a village in India. Working with LAFTI, a nonprofit that’s been working in land reform for India’s Dalit (untouchable) population, we will raise 50,000 to house 25 families who have never before had the hope of owning a home.
Here’s how this works. You’ll go to the Passports site and make a 10 dollar donation — I promise it will make sense once you click through. You’ll put your donation on the uke line in the catalog of stuff we’ve got as incentives.Your tenner goes directly to LAFTI and helps build that village. Then, at the end of our fundraising efforts, we’ll pull a name at random and someone gets a Flea. Maybe you. Oh, yeah, and 25 families get homes. There’s that small matter.
I have a Flea, it’s a little mango colored number. I am crazy about it. It’s sitting right here (plink plink plink) and it goes with me just about everywhere. I’ve played it in the airport in Danang, Vietnam, and the St. Mary Campground in Glacier National Park. Because it’s got a plastic body, I don’t worry about leaving it in the hot car. While I’d be very, very sad if anything happened to Georges (that’s what he’s called, my little mango colored Flea), he’s also replaceable. I love the design of this uke, the way it’s got a flat base to stand on, the cute pineapple-y shape. And I really love to play it – it sounds great, it fits my hands just perfectly and yeah, okay, I’ll say it. This uke makes me happy.
Flea Market Music has donated a Flea to the cause. I don’t know what color you’ll get, though you can make a request. It’s will be a second, but I’m assured by my contact at Flea Market that this means “a minor cosmetic issue — sometimes these are very hard to detect.” It comes with a bag, that’s right, a Flea Bag — and a beginner’s book. If you’re in Seattle, I’ll help you get started with a lesson. There’s one restriction — Flea Market will ship in the continental US only. The lower 48. But hey, if you’re coming to town, they can ship it to me and I will take good care of it until you pass through to pick it up. It absolutely fits in the overhead and nothing breaks the evil TSA from their stride like sending a uke through the X-Ray machine.
In short: Give 10 bucks. Build homes and change lives. Maybe get a uke that changes YOUR life. Go here and give.