I've been writing a lot of heavy material, so I figured it was time to drop in something a bit more upbeat. Unsure of where to start for today's post, my eye caught my little Cordoba concert ukulele, comfortably perched on its A-stand (thanks, John)! It's beautiful, sort of milk chocolate-bar brown and silvery strings and frets compliment the black fretboard.
I named the ukulele Lejana after the Federico Garcia Lorca poem (1924), Canción de Jinete. It goes like this:
Córdoba. Lejana y sola.
Jaca negra, luna grande,
y aceitunas en mi alforja.
I hyperlinked the full poem above for those of you who enjoy dabbling in Spanish, but the basic translation of the opening lines is:
Córdoba. Distant and alone.
Black horse, large moon,
and olives in my saddlebag.
I remember memorizing that poem in high school for my Spanish II class. It's a lovely, sad, lonely poem, and those of who know me know how much I enjoy lovely, sad things.
This brings me to my pondering of the day: why are so many people drawn to the ukulele. I know older players, people my age, and little kids who light up when they see the instrument in any of its various shapes and forms. Sure, it's easy to learn and play because of its design and size. That's what most people I've asked seem to think. But Recorders and Kazoos are also easy to play. Not the same.
For many years I was primarily attracted to big sounds: romantic piano pieces, thrashing punk bands, bass-booming rap acts. I still am. I've just found a new place to enjoy music in the introverted, simple sound of the ukulele. It doesn't boast, it doesn't demand attention, and it doesn't carry the gravitas of, in my case, 23 years of music education that was primarily for one thing: success. (Whatever that means.) I don't imagine anyone will burst into my condo shouting, "You've played it wrong!" when I'm strumming a few simple chords, singing softly, in the same way expectations have been held in my classical studies or even my pop/rock gig work. In that way, it feels like a really safe instrument.
Maybe this is all just a strange way of saying that I'm enjoying learning something new, and that I appreciate it for what it is. I've found myself needing more quiet time, especially as things seem to be opening up and there's a serious uptick of social invites (that I will likely decline until I am fully vaccinated).
There is a time and a place for my favorite rock and rap groups as well as my favorite Chopin Ballade. But on quiet, grey afternoons such as this one, I might just need the simple, soothing sound of this modest string instrument. I'm no expert at it. I don't want to be. I've spent almost my whole life trying to achieve musical excellence at the expense of the joy. I had largely given up on trying to rekindle my relationship to sound until recently. So...thanks, little uke.
And if you happen to be walking through my building and you hear someone fumbling around with a hushed four-stringed wood-bodied instrument, you'll know it was this: Córdoba. Lejana y sola.
Until tomorrow, stay well, stay safe, and stay kind.