“I started playing the ukulele when I was 12,” John Puttrich (’17) said. He explained that he liked how the instrument was direct—what you are thinking travels through your hands into what you’re playing.
Puttrich may have picked up the ukulele for its directness, but others are purchasing the four-string instrument for its popularity with indie-folk artists, who are also becoming popular. In fact, according to the National Association of Music Merchants, ukulele sales saw a rise from $581,000 to over $1 million between 2010 and 2012.
It was in 2010 when indie-folk band, Mumford and Sons, were nominated for two Grammy Awards. Even though they did not win either award, it was undeniable what the band had accomplished; they had paved the way for other indie-folk groups to hit the mainstream scene.
“Mumford and Sons album “Sigh No More,” and Fleet Foxes with their stuff, they were kind of the pioneers of this kind of new indie-folk sound that brought us back to that kind of classic acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo sound,” Jack Miller (’18), general manager of WTHS 89.9, The Voice of Hope College, said. “So that’s impacted music playing on pop radio…that’s obviously affected the concerts that are becoming big based on artists that are doing well in pop and online.”
Hope College’s Concert Series (HCCS) has picked up on the popularization of this genre. This semester alone Hope welcomes four headlining artists that can be classified as indie-folk: Wild Child, All Sons and Daughters (Oct. 17), Ra Ra Riot (Nov. 5) and Judah and the Lion (Nov. 12).
Puttrich, who is also a part of the concert series, explained that one of the things HCCS takes into account is how much they think the artist will resonate with the community. The sounds the campus is listening to are a great factor, and that sound is indie-folk.
Not only has HCCS brought bands to the community, but WTHS plays indie-folk bands throughout the day. It is Puttrich’s job, as the music director, to cultivate the sound of the station.
However, Puttrich explained that the playlist is not a reflection of Hope’s mission statement, but of music at large, specifically the music Hope’s student body likes to listen to.
“I think our generation as a whole is tired of the overproduced and over-processed media and music, and so when you hear something as raw and real as folk music, especially in the live scenario, that’s a lot more genuine and a lot more real,” Miller said.
However, some people do believe that HCCS is not diverse enough, failing to provide something for a variety of tastes. Amber Carnahan (’18) even pointed out that some bands have been here multiple times. She thinks that surveying the students would be beneficial for bringing diversity to the series.
“I think the concert series should…try to bring in some new personalities and genres,” Carnahan said.
The true cause of the ukulele surge in popularity is unsure, but what is undeniable is the popularization of indie-folk music.