Kumalea, when tired of talking, would sing her pretty native songs to the accompaniment of her ukelele bringing out all the sad, weird charm, of which they are capable, with her musical voice, to which the balmy air of the tropics seemed to have lent some of its softness.
Camden owned a ukulele; her singing voice was only fair, no matter how we loved to hear her speak; when she sang, her tunes were faulty. But not to Benjy's ears.
One night I worked with Benjy by the barn, helping him bolt a dog-box on a truck. Suddenly I saw that he was rigid, listening, and from the darkened porch (then being wide rebuilt, beyond a heap of shavings and sawbucks standing) we heard the flat soft song which Camden made.
He whispered, „She bought that ukulele when she was a little kid.“
The melody rose thin and wavery but it had a hauntingness. Benjy crossed the yard halfway, to stand in gloom and call to her, „Camden. Sing that one you sang the other night.“ „'Nita, Juanita'?“ I heard her querying. „That's the one.“
|Jack London (1876–1916)||1912|
|Evening Post Jg. LXXXIII, Nr. 148, 22.6.1912, S. 10|
|1893 wehrten sich die Bewohner einer Lepra-Kolonie auf der hawaiianischen Insel Kau'ai mit Waffengewalt gegen ihre von der Polizei angeordnete Deportation. Jack London, der Hawaii 1910 besucht und die Ukulele dabei kennengelernt hatte, griff ihren Kampf in dieser Kurzgeschichte auf. Die Ukulele erscheint hier als das Instrument eigensinniger Wilder.|
From one of the locky lairs calabashes were produced and passed around. The calabashes were filled with the fierce distillation of the root of the ti-plant; and as the liquid fire coursed through them and mounted to their brains they thought themselves men and women once more. The woman who wept scalding tears from open eye-pits was indeed a woman apulse with life as she plucked the strings of an ukulele and lifted her voice in a barbaric love-call such as might have come from the dark forest-depths of the primeval world. The air tingled with her cry, softly imperious and seductive. Upon a mat, timing his rhythm to the woman's song, Kiloliana danced. It was unmistakable. Love danced in all his movements, and next, dancing with him on the mat, was a woman, whose heavy hips and generous breast gave the lie to her disease-corroded face. It was a dance of the living dead, for in their disintegrating bodies life still loved and longed.
London schreibt „an ukulele“, nicht, wie im Englischen heute allgemein üblich, „a ukulele“. Dazu merkt 1929 ein Sprachwissenschaftler an:
In this connection, too, the word „ukulele“ is interesting. Pronounced with an initial „oo“ sound, it ought to take „an“ before it; and it does so in A. Hamilton Gibbs's Soundings (Boston: Little-Brown, 1925). But the contraction „uke“ has a long „u“ sound, and therefore calls for „a.“
|Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940)|
|F. Scott Fitzgerald; James L. W. West (Hg.): Spires and Gargoyles: Early Writings, 1909-1919. Cambridge University Press 2010, S. 70–71|
William Jones to Honolulu went and on the beach
Spied a slender
Hula Honolulu peach.
Tho' he knew no
Honolulu talk, her heart knew best;
She kept strumming, softly humming things he guessed.
Bye and bye they married by the sea and care defied;
She was alsway by his side.
His fiancée back in Mangor, Maine, could vainly call.
Tho' he missed her like a sister, that was all.
Oh upon her Eukalali
She'd chatter to him gaily;
He could almost guess the things she meant,
She was from the Orient.
She knew that he was saying,
„My boat has gone, I'm staying.“
She smiled and just kept playing;
And they managed to find a way.
|F. Scott Fitzgerald; James L. W. West (Hg.): Spires and Gargoyles: Early Writings, 1909-1919. Cambridge University Press 2010, S. 95–96|
Now'days from giddy Piccadilly
Back to the snores of sleepy Philly,
You can hear the strum of the eukalali,
Mingled with the sliding guitar;
I'm not too strong for Claude Debussy,
Or for this Russian Charlotte „Russey,“
But now they push Hawaii too far;
I'm tired of hearing:
Once all the world was growing dippy
For Alabam' and Mississippi,
Franz Lehár once kept us in time with him,
With his waltzes dreamy and loud;
Next ev'ry debutante was whirling
Round at the will of Irving Berlin,
Lately he's joined the popular crowd
And now he writes like:
Oo-ley Boo-ley woo-ley-ing
By the Coo-ley oo-ley-ing
On her Eu-ki-wak-i-wee,
She would ick-y ick to me
This is all they sing about,
Stuff like this they fling about,
When will they shift to a new locality?
Iona Bologna is her name,
Each Hula dame
Is named the same
As the others.
Honolulu go away,
You have more than had your day!
Take those Hawaiian songs away,
|Sarah Lee Brown Fleming (1876–1963)||1920|
|Honey, Maureen (Hg.): Shadowed Dreams: Women's Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance. Piscataway: Rutgers University Press. 2006, S. 112|
|Fleming war eine schwarze Schriftstellerin. Hier fordert sie die Schwarzen auf, die Ukulele als Symbol der Weißen (insbesondere der weißen Studenten) aufzugeben und zum Instrument ihrer eigenen Kultur, dem Banjo, zurückzukehren.|
Don't you hear old Orpheus calling to you, Alexander Poe?
He says just quit that ukelele and play on the old banjo,
Those Honolulu jingles, like the dog, has had its day,
Go put the faithful banjo down, put the ukelele away.
Way down upon the, — I'm coming, yes, I hear that music, oh,
Put away that ukelele, man, and play on the old banjo.
Put away that ukelele, bring me down the old banjo,
Sing again for me the tunes I love, Swanee River and Old Black Joe,
Then play for me those melodies my mother used to hum,
That between each syncopating note, the banjo went „Tum, tum.“
Way down upon the, — I'm coming, yes, I hear that music, oh,
Put away that ukelele, man, and play on the old banjo.
I'll tell you the tale of the Nancy Lee,
The ship that got shipwrecked at sea
The bravest man was Captain Brown,
'Cause he played his ukulele as the ship went down.
All the crew was in despair,
Some rushed here and some rushed there,
But the Captain sat in the Captain's chair,
And he played his ukulele as the ship went down.
The Captain said to Seaman Jones:
„You'd best put on your working clothes
While you stand and spray your hose
I can play me ukulele as the ship goes down.“
The owners signalled to the crew, saying:
„Do the best that you can do.
We're only insured for half-a-crown,
We'll be out of pocket if the ship goes down.“
The Captain's wife was on board ship,
And he was very glad of it
But she could swim and she might not drown
So we tied her to the anchor as the ship went down.
The crow's nest fell and killed the crow,
The starboard watch was two hours slow
But the Captain sang fal-oh-de-oh-doh
And he played his ukulele as the ship went down.
Gilbert: I'm going on to a party, and I must have my ukulele. … (Looks about for it. He sees it on the dresser. To ukulele.) Oh … there you are! (Takes it down.) You funny little thing! (Kisses it.)
Millie sat in a chair nearby practicing with a ukelele and singing: „My dog has fleas — fleas — fleas,“ but always the word fleas was off key.
Dorothy flopped into the chair beside her to rest. „This sea air certainly gives you an appetite. Let's have some ham and eggs.“
Millie plunked away at the ukelele. „My dog has fleas — fleas.“
„Well, some jellied pancakes then.“
„I don't like jellied pancakes. My dog has —“
„Waffles?“ pursued Dorothy.
„I don't like waffles. My dog has —“
„Well, what do you like?“
„Brooks Mason.1) My dog has fleas — fleas —“
„Well, you are doing better with that ukelele than you do with Brooks Mason.“
„I'll get his autograph if I have to write it myself. My dog has fleas — fleas — This is the way to tune up a ukelele, you know. My dog has fleas. There, I've got it!“
And Millie began to play …
|Dazai Osamu (1909-1948)||1939|
|Die Novelle Die Schülerin schildert in Form eines inneren Monologes einen Tag im Leben einer japanischen Schülerin aus den 1930er Jahren, die an der Schwelle zum Erwachsenwerden steht — ein Backfisch, wie man damals gesagt hätte.|
Ich mag zwar ziemlich selbstsüchtig sein, aber ich mache bestimmt nichts, um mich zum Gespött der Leute zu machen. Auch wenn es weht tut, auch wenn es traurig ist: auf das Wichtige habe ich sorgsam Acht. Und weil ich meine Mutter und meine Familie wirklich, wirklich, wirklich liebe, kann Mutter mir unbedingt vertrauen … Doch Mutter vertraut mir überhaupt nicht, sondern behandelt mich immer noch wie ein Kind. Mutter freut sich, wenn ich etwas Kindliches sage. Neulich habe ich, idiotisch, extra meine Ukulele hervorgeholt und vor ihr zum Spaß ein bißchen darauf herumgeklimpert. Meine Mutter, freudestrahlend, sagte wie geistesabwesend: „Nanu, regnet es etwa? Es hört sich doch an wie Regentropfen“, und machte sich über mich lustig. Da ich wirklich den Eindruck erweckte, als sei ich ernsthaft an der Ukulele interessiert, war dies niederträchtig, und mir kamen die Tränen. Mutter, ich bin schon erwachsen. Ich weiß schon alles über die Welt.
Mick knelt down on the floor and quickly lifted the top of the big hatbox. Inside was a cracked ukulele strung with two violin strings, a guitar string and a banjo string. The crack on the back of the ukulele had been neatly mended with sticking plaster and the round hole in the middle was covered by a piece of wood. The bridge of a violin held up the strings at the end and some sound-holes had been carved on either side.
￼Mick was making herself a violin. She held the violin in her lap. She had the feeling she had never really looked at it before. Some time ago she made Bubber a little play mandolin out of a cigar box with rubber bands, and that put the idea into her head. Since that she had hunted all over everywhere for the different parts and added a little to the job every day. It seemed to her she had done everything except use her head.
'Bill, this don't look like any real violin I ever saw.' He was still reading – 'Yeah –?'
'It just don’t look right. It just don't –' She had planned to tune the fiddle that day by screwing the pegs. But since she had suddenly realized how all the work had turned out she didn't want to look at it. Slowly she plucked one string after another. They all made the same little hollow-sounding ping.
'How anyway will I ever get a bow? Are you sure they have to be made out of just horses' hair?'
'Yeah,' said Bill impatiently.
'Nothing like thin wire or human hair strung on a limber stick would do?'
Bill rubbed his feet against each other and didn't answer.
Anger made beads of sweat come out on her forehead.
Her voice was hoarse. 'It's not even a bad violin. It's only a cross between a mandolin and a ukulele. And I hate them. I hate them –' Bill turned around.
'It's all turned out wrong. It won't do. It's no good.' 'Pipe down,' said Bill. 'Are you just carrying on about that old broken ukulele you've been fooling with? I could have told you at first it was crazy to think you could make any violin. That's one thing you don't sit down and make – you got to buy them. I thought anybody would know a thing like that. But I figured it wouldn't hurt you if you found out for yourself.'
Sometimes she hated Bill more than anyone else in the world.
He was different entirely from what he used to be. She started to slam the violin down on the floor and stomp on it, but instead she put it back roughly into the hatbox. The tears were hot in her eyes as fire. She gave the box a kick and ran from the room without looking at Bill.
|Kriminalroman, erschienen in der Edition de la Baconnière in Neuchâtel, in dem es um eine internationale Verbrecherbande geht, die 1934 einen großangelegten Erpressungsversuch unternimmt. Die hier unternommene Assoziation der Ukulele mit dem Geräusch einer Maschinenpistolengarbe ist nicht unbedingt schmeichelhaft, aber doch aufschlußreich.|
Le cerveau et le chef des quatre est Biermann Paul, 42, ancien professeur, coupable de plus de dix assassinats, recherché par la police australienne, surnommé UKULÉLÉ, qui est, en argot de gangster américaine et par analogie avec la guitare de ce nom, le bruit de la rafale du pistolet automatique avec lequel on se débarrasse des gêneurs. (53)
… le chef actuel de la bande à combattre porte le surnom évocateur d'Ukulélé — Ukulélé, guitare aux notes grêles que rappelle un chargeur de pistolet automatique tiré en rafale. (59)
Der Folkmusik-Sänger und Friedensaktivist Pete Seeger, der selbst als Kind die Ukulele gemeistert hatte,2) greift in dieser „song story“ ein südafrikanisches Märchen und das Wiegendlied Abiyoyo auf. Den zeithistorischen Hintergrund bildete die Verfolgung der Linken in der amerikanischen McCarthy-Ära.3)
If you've got any small kids at your home, you might try telling them this story.
Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo. Abiyoyo yo yoyo yo yoyo. Abiyoyo yo yoyo yo yoyo.
Once upon a time, there was a little boy who played the ukulele. He'd go around town –
„Ploop ploop ploop ploop, ploop ploop ploop ploop, ploop ploop ploop ploop, ploop ploop ploop ploop.“
The grownups said, „Get that thing out of here.“
Not only that, the boy's father was getting in trouble. He was a magician. He had a magic wand. He'd go, „Zoop, zoop,“ and make things disappear.
But the father played too many tricks on people.
Somebody would be doing a hard job of work with a saw – „Zzzz, zzz, zzz, zzz.“ Up comes the father with his magic wand, and – „Zoop!“ no saw.
He'd go up to somebody about to drink a nice, cold glass of something – „Zoop!“ the glass disappears.
He'd come up to someone about to sit down after a hard day's work – „Zoop,“ no chair.
People said to the father, „You get out of here too! Take your magic wand, and you and your son …“ The boy and his father were ostracized. (It means they made them live on the edge of town.)
Now in this town, they used to tell stories. The old people used to tell stories about the giants that lived in the old days. They used to tell a story about a giant called Abiyoyo. They said he was as tall as a house… and could eat people up! Of course, nobody believed them, but they told the story anyway.
One day… one day, the sun rose blood-red over the hill. The first people got up and looked out of their windows. They saw a great big shadow over the sun. They could feel the whole ground shake. Women screamed! Strong men fainted! „Run for your lives, Abiyoyo's coming!“
He comes to the sheep pasture, grabs a whole sheep… „CHOMP!“
He comes to the cow pasture, grabs a whole cow… „CHOMP!“
The men yell, „Grab your most precious possessions and run, run!“
Just then, the boy and his father woke up.
„Hey, pa! What's coming over the field?“
„Oh, son, that's Abiyoyo. Oh, if I could only get him to lie down, I could make him disappear!“
The boy says, „Come with me, father.“ He grabs his father by one hand, his father gets the magic wand, the boy gets the ukulele, they run across the field… people yell, „Don't go near him! He'll eat you alive!“
There was Abiyoyo. He had long fingernails because he never cut them, slobbery teeth because he never brushed them, stinking feet because he didn't wash them… he raised his claws… and the boy whips out his ukulele, and starts to sing:
Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo. Abiyoyo yo yoyo yo yoyo. Abiyoyo yo yoyo yo yoyo.
Well, you know the giant had never heard a song about himself before. And a foolish grin spread over the giant's face. And the giant started to dance.
Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo.
The boy went faster.
Abiyoyo yo yoyo yo yoyo. Abiyoyo yo yoyo yo yoyo.
Huh huh huh huh huh huh huh huh… the giant got out of breath. He staggered. He fell down flat on the ground.
People looked out their windows. Abiyoyo had disappeared! They ran across the fields. They lifted the boy and his father up on their shoulders. They said, „Come back to town. Bring your damn ukulele, we don't care anymore!“ And they all sang,
Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo. Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo, Abiyoyo
|Pete Seeger: Abiyoyo|
Der Schriftsteller Malcolm Lowry soll für seinen eigenen Grabstein folgende Inschrift gedichtet haben:
|Donivee Martin Laird (Text), Carol Jossem (Illustrationen) : The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and the Magic Shark. Barnaby Books 1981|
|Johannes Schenk (1941–2006)||1969|
|Johannes Schenk: Die Genossin Utopie|
Für Wolf Biermann, 1969
Wenn wir sonntags über die Grenze gehen
stecke ich meine linke Hosentasche
neben den Pfennig
neben die Schnapsflasche
oder in die Jacke einen Friedrichstadtpalast
mit 7000 Menschen für dich
den bauen wir auf bei dir
Deine Mutter macht Tee aus China
und die Leute aus meiner Hosentasche
setzen sich in deine Radleier
ein oder zwei auf die Ukulele
und deine Freundin in den Gitarrenbauch
wenn du singst
Wir freuen uns schon drauf Natascha
ich und die andern 7000
Hoffentlich wenn ich am Grenzer vorbeigeh
beult die Tasche nicht so
Mach schon mal die Tür auf für uns
Harrison entstammt der britischen Arbeiterklasse und beschreibt in diesem Gedicht, wie sein Vater davon vergeblich träumte, diesem Milieu durch den Kauf einer gebrauchten Ukulele zu entkommen.5)
No! Revolution never crossed your mind!
For the kids who never made it through the schools
the Northern working class escaped the grind
as boxers or comedians, or won the pools.
Not lucky, no physique, to shy to joke,
you scraped together almost three weeks' pay
to buy a cast-off uke that left you broke.
You mastered only two chords, G and A!
That's why when I've heard George Formby that I've wept.
I'd always wondered what that thing was for,
I now know was a plectrum that you'd kept,
but kept hidden, in your secret condom drawer.
The day of your cremation which I missed
I saw an old man strum a uke he'll never play,
cap spattered with tossed dimes. I made a fist
round my small change, your son, and looked away.
Harrison, Tony: Selected Poems. Penguin UK 2006 o.S.
|Peter Reading (1946–2011)||1985|
|„The sequence 'Ukulele Music' forms Book I of Peter Reading's longest book, also called Ukulele Music, published in 1985.  … Throughout the sequence, giving it its title, the absurdly encouraging instructions from a beginner's manual for the ukulele cut across the pathos, terror, violence and squalor of the narratives being recited. Deriving from a George Formby song played by one of Viv's children, the trivial, out-of-tune 'plinka-plinka-plong' of the ukulele comes to represent this poetry's own judgment upon itself: that it is a footling and trivial performance …|
|Formby's permanently grinning, happy-go-lucky, music-hall, idealised Lancashire working-class Englishness, accommodating and malleable, is jammed up against the kind of brutalised underclass world that also figures in Edward Bond's play Saved; and the buoyant Formby ukulele suffers a hollow and tinny diminuendo …|
|In 'Ukulele Music' the imperial maritime tradition of 'Great Britain' is set over against its present seedily avaricious commercialism … These sea shanties … compose a richer and potentially more humane music than the tinklings of the ukulele; but the poem leaves it entirely open which music is more appropriate to our own present and future.“6)|
well I have hooverd and wax polish the desk so I will collect money tomorrow. There is trouble on our block since my Tom plays the bones to tunes of George Formby and was due to give a TURN at the club tonight but was paralitic last night and WOULD try to practise and of course one of them. the bones. went over next door and the woman there that has the bitch that MARLD the child well her bitch grabs the bone but my Tom shouts abuse and, of course the outcome is there is a window broke. Which the man next door have only just mended after the last trouble. so we will see how it goes tonight at the Club he does that one he played his Youkerlayli as the Ship Went down. and I know how He felt, because it is the same with my eldest Trevor who is REPRIMANDED IN CUSTARDY as the policeman put it who is a nice man but I know my lad is innercent of that awful thing they say he done. But these things are sent to TRY US as my Man says and I hope he plays his bones well tonight. 
smiling beside a bottle of gin.
I hold the grey wrapping paper
from her gift. A cardboard
violin and ukulele are packed in a shoe box
with thinly shredded newspaper.
Surprisingly, the neck of the violin
doesn't bend in my hand.
I draw the paper bow across it.
Sounds escape. Not the sounds
of a violin.
I rummage through boxes for the real violin –
she must be teasing.
In the dining room,
bright wool yarmulke on his head,
Peter plays the ukulele.
The strings intersect over the sound box.
Each string he plays plays all the other strings.
|Stephin Merritt (1965–)||2001|
|Aus dem Soundtrack von Eban and Charley.|
|„The combination of Merritt's low, vaguely misanthropic, Ian Curtis-like voice and his high-pitched, wonky ukulele casts the song as tongue-in-cheek. Indeed, the act of self-consciously claiming that the music is 'authentic' immediately undermines that claim, inviting us to view the song as parodic. Infused with an insipient intellectualism, it reiterates the importance of 'authenticity' while also hinting at authenticity's constructed nature.“7)|
I wish I had an orchestra behind me
To show you how I feel
Well, the orchestra remains imaginary
But this little ukulele's real
I wish I had an orchestra behind me
When you lose faith, an orchestra gives proof
Well, an orchestra can tell you pretty stories
But this little ukulele tells the truth
|Helen Garner (1942–)||2003|
|Garner, Helen: „Against Embarrassment“. In: Craven, Peter (Hg.): The best Australian essays 2003. Melbourne: Black 2003, S. 212–216.|
Whenever I was home alone I would rush upstairs and take the ukelele out of its cardboard box. It was so intimate, so unawe-inspiring, with its curvaceous waist and pretty metal frets and creamy tuning pegs. And it was small — unlike the hulking, ominous piano which years earlier had brought me to my knees in guilt and shame. No one could possibly be afraid of this instrument. I fell in love with it: I spent hours sitting on the bed, strumming my way through elementary chord progressions. (…)
The best thing about playing an instrument as humble as a ukelele is the complete absence from the process of duty or guilt. It's so lowly that the gloomy and forbidding super-ego can't touch it. I play it only when I feel like it, and only for pleasure. (…)
The 'great' music I revered before still moves me, and it always will. But since I've been playing the ukelele, since it relaxed in me a certain self-contempt about making music, I've come to realise what we've lost, in our lifetime, in the second half of the twentieth century — what we gradually and even unconsciously gave up, as recorded music took over our world.
|Helen Garner (1942–)||2007|
|The Ukulele Club. Aus: Garner, Helen: The Feel of Steel. Picador Australia 2007, S. 180–183.|
Dieser Roman beginnt im Jahr 1963, als der Ich-Erzähler mit Schulfreunden eine Band namens „The Sumerian Kynges“ gründet. Andere Instrumente als die schuleigenen Ukulelen, mit denen sie üben dürfen, können sie sich jedoch nicht leisten. Als sie bei einem Schulkonzert ihren ersten großen Auftritt haben wollen, stiehlt ihnen plötzlich eine andere Band die Show …
The Rolling Stones weren't that bad, I suppose. Because, after all, it was their first ever gig. The one that never gets a mention in biographies, authorised or otherwise. The one with the original lineup. With Wild Man Fosby on tea-chest bass and Mick Jagger's sister on uke. And Bill Wyman on uke. And Mick Jagger on uke and vocals.
My uke. And my microphone.
In case the reader is experiencing some degree of confusion here, allow me to explain, for it was my intention to create this confusion in the hope that it would in some way mirror the confusion that I and my fellow members of The Sumerian Kynges found ourselves in at the time.
We thought that Mr Jenner had simply got the name of our band wrong when he was introducing us. But not a bit of that. He wasn't introducing us at all. He was introducing The Rolling Stones. A band that he had himself been coaching in the evenings. With the ukuleles that we rehearsed with during school time.
And Mick and Keith and Brian and Mick's sister pushed right past us on the lefthand stage steps (looking from the audience), snatching our ukes from our hands as they did so.
We were not pleased about this at all. Toby was in a blue funk!
'I'll kill one of them,' he said. And he pointed to one of The Stones at random. Brian Jones, I believe it was. 'I'll kill him!' said Toby.
Rob made calming gestures with his ukeless fingers. 'It will all be all right,' he told Toby. 'They can be our warmup act. Get the crowd going. Remember, they're on before us. They are our support band.'
Toby thought about this. And so did Neil and so did I. I don't know exactly what conclusions the others drew, but I was happy enough to have The Rolling Stones as my support act.
And so we stood and we waited. In the shadows beside the brightly lit stage. And we watched The Rolling Stones.
They were an R & B band then. In the days when R & B meant R & B. As opposed to whatever it is that R & B means nowadays. Which is not the same thing at all. So to speak. So The Rolling Stones did quite a lot of the blues.
They did 'Love in Vain', the Robert Johnson classic. And they did some Chuck Berry.
They did 'Johnny B. Goode'. And that is a classic.
They didn't do any George Formby at all. Which I personally felt was a shame. I thought they missed a golden opportunity there, what with such an abundance of ukes and everything. But I didn't really care. We had plenty of George Formby numbers in our repertoire. In fact, we were almost exclusively a Formby-orientated rock 'n' roll band.
|In: Spiritus 9 (2009), S. 241|
A ukulele band strums by the grave
of an old woman I never knew.
I lead the prayers, alb flapping,
helping to lay the body to rest,
and as the family lingers,
quietly walk away, down the hill
to another grave I remember from before.
It was winter then, and the oak was bare,
and the one we buried was a boy.
I keep thinking he'll be cold,
the father said. He'll need his coat.
But it's summer now, and the farmers
are haying in the yellow fields.
The dust of the harvest is softening the air.
And as I stand at the marker, looking out,
a feeling starts to come over me,
a kind of peace, almost like the peace
I prayed for up the hill, the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding.8)
It spreads through my body like warmth.
I know. I'm just saying what happened.
I'm just saying that it surprised me, too.
The farmers, and the yellow fields,
and the warm, summer wind.
The ukulele band, strumming still.
— after Mahmoud Darwish
No love, I love the ancient
love poem that guards
the sick moon from smoke —
a white towel knotted
behind the neck protects
a man's chest from the pock
of shorn locks. In a world
where horses fall over
the sides of poems and die,
angels wait in the bell of a horn
to commit suicide. Blessed
be the love a ukulele has
for a father's dead hands.
The vessel is simple, a rowboat among yachts.
No one hides a Tommy gun in its case.
No bluesman runs over his uke in a whiskey rage.
The last of the Hawai'ian queens translated the name
gift that came here, while Portuguese historians translate
jumping flea, the way a player's fingers pick and fly.
If you have a cigar box, it'll do.9) If you have fishing line,10)
it'll sing. If there is to be one instrument of love —
not love vanished or imagined, but love — it's this one.
Fit a melody in the crook of your arm, and strum.
In diesem Roman geht es um die Liebesbeziehung zwischen zwei chinesischen Rockmusikern, deren Musik sie in Konflikt mit der Staatsgewalt bringt. Die weibliche Heldin, Mu, kann zwar nicht singen, trägt aber zu ihrer (wie sie selbst sagt) „albernen Ukulele“ Gedichte vor. Ihr „stilvolles Geschrei und das schrille Fiepen der Ukulele“ fallen einem chinesisch-amerikanischen Agenten auf, der sie für eine Punkband engagiert. Ihre Auftritte mit einer elektrischen Ukulele provozieren durchaus unterschiedliche Reaktionen.
Es ist schwierig, irgendetwas zu finden, das nicht schon auf ein Geschlecht abgestimmt ist, aber schließlich finde ich, was ich suche, fast ganz hinten, in der Abteilung, die als LERNECKE ausgeschildert ist. An der Kasse frage ich, ob sie es mir einpacken können, aber sie haben bloß Plastiktüten. Ich trage es nach draußen zu Ewan, der uns beiden neue Getränke besorgt hat.
„Ein Spielzeug“, sagt er. Er nimmt es aus der Tüte. „Eine Ukulele.“
„Ich habe mir gedacht, dass es eine Schande ist, dass du gar keine Gitarre mehr hast. Das hier ist der Anfang einer neuen Sammlung. Ein kleiner Anfang, aber ein Anfang.“
„Tja, ich habe noch ein paar Gitarren eingelagert. Die habe ich noch nicht aus dem Fenster geworfen.“ Er klimpert darauf herum, dreht an den Wirbeln und klimpert dann noch ein bisschen herum. „Ich glaube nicht, dass ich jemals Ukulele gespielt habe.“
Er lächelt. Das Instrument wirkt zu klein für ihn, aber er entlockt ihm eine Melodie. Etwas Beschwingtes — wahrscheinlich lassen sich auf einem solchen Instrument nur beschwingte Melodien spielen. Sie ist zu klein und niedlich, um darauf den Blues zu spielen, was einer der Gründe ist, weswegen ich sie gekauft habe. Passanten hören ihn und lächeln. Wie Eis zum Frühstück scheint eine beschwingte Melodie auf einer Ukulele genau das Richtige für einen Londoner Sommertag zu sein.