Let the Ukulele Backlash Begin

By David Knowles

Here come the haters.

With the ukulele’s incredible rise in popularity over the past decade, it is inevitable that not everyone on the planet would be equally taken with the sudden ubiquity of the  four-stringed instrument. Indeed, as the uke is now a fixture in classrooms, the workplace, and senior centers, it can feel, to some, like there’s simply no escaping all those “jumping fleas” that have been sold in recent years.

In a piece titled, Am I the only person in the world who hates the ukulele?, Rhodri Mardsen sums up the annoyance with the ukulele that many in today’s society feel the need to express:

That playing a pop song on the ukulele, filming yourself and uploading it to YouTube may guarantee you an audience, but it’s no signifier of musical quality – in fact, it’s often the signifier of precisely the opposite. That the plink-plonk of the ukulele is being harnessed by corporations and repeatedly used to sell us everything from dating services to mortgages.

Leaving aside whether Mardsen’s argument boils down to a simple dislike of anything that has become popularized, it is undeniable that he is not alone in his disdain for the ukulele.

A scan of Twitter messages that contain the word “ukulele” reveals that approximately one out of every 50-100 tweets expresses similar dismay with the instrument.


“I have never hated the ukulele before now,” wrote Twitter user Keith Feltz.

Indeed, perhaps the most recurrent anti-uke sentiment expressed on Twitter involves the physical destruction of the instrument.

“The only advice I can give you is smash every ukulele you see,” Mark Campbell wrote at the site.

For Lu Corfield, dislike of the uke may even trump friendship.

“My oldest friend is staying with us. Known him since I was 3. Love him dearly. Still about to smash the ukulele he is strumming over his head,” Corfield wrote.

Fortunately, however, ukulele derangement syndrome seems to be a temporary condition, and even Mardsen softens his tone by the end of his piece, realizing that the do-it-yourself ease the instrument offers, as well as the community it inspires, may not (gasp!) actually be a bad thing.

If I set aside the insufferable cuteness and cynical marketing, the ukulele facilitates communal music making and can ultimately help us celebrate the joy of playing and participating.

Actually, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.