BY BLAIR JACKSON
OK, now that we’re well into December, there’s really no excuse for moping around and complaining, “Gee, I’m having a little trouble getting into the holiday spirit this year.” Lucky for you, we’re here to help—by serving up the second installment of our much-loved (if occasionally irreverent) holiday video series! So break out those Christmas cookies you bought over the weekend (they weren’t going to make it to Christmas anyway), add a shot of brandy to the cocoa, and lift your voice in song!
Mele Kalikimaka/Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Billed as “Cynthia Lin’s Ukulele Friends Holiday Jam,” this delightful romp features a loose sextet of well-known players, including Cynthia Lin, Craig Chee, Sarah Maisel, and Aldrine Guerrero on ukuleles and vocals; Ukulenny on U-Bass and vocals; and Abe Lagrimas Jr. on percussion and uke. First they tackle the Hawaiian Christmas standard “Mele Kalikimaka,” and then put a reggae spin on the 1963 Darlene Love hit (produced and co-written by Phil Spector), “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”
Holidays Ain’t the Same (Without You)
A long-time fixture in Tennessee, the super-talented and eclectic Memphis Ukulele Band has performed many holiday concerts through the years. This video from 2018 finds the group playing a beautiful and affecting song about holiday loneliness and loss written (and sung here) by Memphis singer-songwriter Mark Edgar Stuart.
Here’s a cool twist on a classic: Popular Hawaiian singers Kimié Miner, Paula Fuga, and Ana Vee join forces with Jake Shimabukuro for a bubbly reggae take on “Jingle Bells,” with the three women trading lines on the venerable tune while Jake provides uke strums and a brief solo. The song was originally recorded for Miner’s fine Christmas in Hawaii EP/album, released in 2021.
Good King Wenceslas
You can always count on the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain for a slightly anarchic good time, and this pandemic-era version of the 19th century English carol (the melody of which dates back to a 13th century) is right in the group’s wheelhouse. Even in Zoom isolation, they sing and play divinely, with irrepressible leader George Hinchliffe leading nine UOGB stalwarts—decked out in a crazy range of tuxedos, kitschy hats and headbands, big sweaters, and other seasonally appropriate winterwear—through a version that starts traditionally and then morphs into a swingin’ number that’s sure to have you tappin’ your holiday elf shoes.