When the world ukulele comes up, gentle string music comes to mind accompanied by soothing and slow singing. Most people don’t know that the ukulele is can be a stand alone instrument as some players have expertly demonstrated. While playing melody and chords on an ukulele is basic, the following pieces validate the ukulele’s stance as a stand alone instrument.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Jake Shimabukuro
Midnight Ukulele Disco hosted the rendition of The Beatles’ While my Guitar Gently Weeps of then-unknown Jake Shimabukuro. This rendition quickly became a viral sensation, as it spread through YouTube. From Hawaii, this ukulele player has become the most well known ukulele player in the world, and has played on the shows of Conan O’Brian and Carson Daily. Conan O’Brian enjoyed his performance so much, calling it his favorite performance ever.
Down Rideau Canal – James Hill
Without doubt, James Hill of Canada is the best ukulele player in the world. Many are unaware that Canada has a large ukulele following, rivaled only by Hawaii. Down Rideau Canal is a song Hill wrote about skating in the eponymous canal, and it is a brilliant show of ukulele strumming and unique and difficult techniques.
William Tell Overture – Andy Eastwood
Andy Eastwood is not the traditional ukulele player. His playing is part of the British tradition of ukulele playing, including George Formby. The instrument he uses is a banjolele, an ukulele and banjo hybrid. His solo ukulele version of Rossini’s William Tell Overture is a breathtaking journey through the tune with one of the most embellished outros ever created.
Stars and Stripes Forever – Jesse Kalima
In the mid-30s, while Hawaii was bidding to become part of the United States of America, Jesse Kalima began performing Stars and Stripes Forever. Using this tuen, Kalima won the Hawaii Amateur Ukulele Championship in 1935 and became an innovator of solo ukulele playing. He was one of the first to demonstrate the amazing power of the solo ukulele.