If you’ve already seen the UOGB (The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain), then you already know.
If you haven’t . . . well, you are in for quite a surprise.
The UOGB was formed in 1985, and while its members have changed over the years, its mission – to reinterpret all manner of musical genres for the ukulele – hasn’t.
Lest you think the Ukulele is only suitable for strumming Hawaiian music, or playing 1920s ditties while wearing a raccoon coat (popular among the college crowd in the roaring twenties) then listen up.
The UOGB has changed the game.
Ukulele music has not only become popular in some eclectic circles, it has become respectable enough for Carnegie Hall as their November 2nd, 2010 sold out performance illustrates (see the NYT’s review here).
Trading on the British love of the absurd, and an abundance of musical talent, the UOGB octet takes the stage in formal orchestra attire, a serious demeanor, and a variety of ukuleles in hand.
Current members include Dave Suich, Peter Brooke Turner, Hester Goodman, George Hinchliffe, Richie Williams, Kitty Lux, Will Grove-White and Jonty Bankes.
They then embark on an evening of puns, physical humor (watching them is half the fun!), obscure references, and hard driving – and often quite amazing – music (vocals and instrumental).
Their website can be accessed here, and you can order CDs, follow the latest news, watch videos of some of their performances, or see if they will be performing near you.
Fair warning, songs don’t always end the way you expect them to. What may start off seeming like a rather pedestrian performance have a habit of morphing into something quite extraordinary before they are done.
To fully appreciate this talented group, you really have to see them in action. And so today, I present a few of my favorite clips of the UOGB from their YouTube Channel and captured from other appearances.
While not `public domain’, these videos are freely available for download.
First a short little introduction by the BBC of the the UOAB’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 2009. It was standing room only and more than 1,000 people showed up with ukuleles of their own.
Next a hard driving rendition of the theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly . . . performed like you’ve never heard it before.
And The Orange Blossom Special has never been performed quite like this – the comedy bits are inspired, as is the playing.
And now for something completely different – David Bowie’s Life on Mars . . . but this won’t end like you expect it to . . . so stay to the amazing finish.
A little Isaac Hayes (can you dig it?). The theme from Shaft!
And here, I’ve saved my personal favorite for last. Fly Me to the Handel. With a finale that has to be heard to be believed.
You’ll find dozens of more clips available on Youtube. Just search on UOGB . . . and in no time at all, you’ll be as big a fan of this multi-talented group as I am.