“What shall we call ourselves?”
Until recently, there was no need to give ourselves a name. Then, we gave our first gig. The audience was thrilled and appreciative, but they didn’t know how to address us.
Not long afterwards, some of us played in another ukulele group’s gig, for which we bought and wore T-shirts bearing their name. I felt like an imposter at that moment.
Our next gig is coming up soon. What name shall we use to play in porchfests and farmer’s markets?
Because we meet each week in the Walter Baker building, it’s tempting to use that name. Who was Walter Baker? He was the grandson of Dr James Baker who founded the Baker Chocolate Factory, the first successful chocolate factory in America. The building at 1231 Adams Street was their administrative offices. One member of our group suggested “Baker Chocoleles” or “Baker Chocaleles” a catchy name, delicious to pronounce and easy to remember. Will there be a copyright issue, someone asked. It’s certainly food for conversation. Aside from this, will we always meet at the Walter Baker building?
This area of Boston, on the edge of Dorchester and Milton, is known as “Historic Lower Mills” for the factories and mills built next to the Neponset River, naturally at a lower elevation.
As we are part of the Ukulele Union of Boston (UUoB), we could name ourselves “UUoB” at Historic Lower Mills. It’s a mouthful to pronounce. Abbreviating it to UUoB@HLM doesn’t lead to an easier acronym to pronounce or remember. But it does give a lot of information about who and where we are, if we are to continue to meet and remain here.
Other than where we regularly meet, who are we really? What differentiates us from other ukulele groups? What sorts of music do we play now? What do we intend to do? If we don’t have an identity yet, what do we want to do or become? These are questions that will help determine our name, which ultimately is a branding activity. Our name will help us become what we want to be and do.
Unlike other ukulele groups, our age range is wide, not confined to any generation. Our ethnic and cultural make-up is also diverse: White, Asian, Black, Mixed, Hispanic, ….
We organise our jam sessions and gigs according to theme. Our first gig was at sunset, one day before the summer solstice. It was specifically a singalong for the residents, guests, and staff of a well-established senior assisted living centre with a memory care unit. The songs we selected for the singalong met the criteria of songs that people could sing to without having to read from a lyric sheet. The tunes are familiar. The choruses are repetitive. The words are easy to pronounce and sing.
Our second gig is another singalong, at the other end of the spectrum. We are currently selecting songs to sing to kindergarteners and their parents. Again, these songs don’t require lyric sheets.
We play the authentic stuff of Hawaiian hula such as “Tiny Bubbles” and songs originally sung and accompanied by ukuleles, such as “Tonight You Belong To Me” from the movie “The Jerk.” We also do interesting transcriptions like classic Beatles songs and arrangements that fit well with ukulele accompaniment. We are adventurous to try the energetic songs of the eighties as well as music of our time, i.e. the songs of the 21st century that we hear on the radio and headphones of teenagers and other young adults.
Perhaps we need to look at what other ukulele groups and clubs call themselves. The list is vast. An overwhelming majority have named themselves according to location. The names end with any of the following words:
- uke club
- uke community
- uke group
- ukulele jam
Some clubs chose words whose abbreviations amount to acronyms that are easy and fun to remember, e.g. FUN, HUG, SNUG.
Others have names that make you wonder and ponder, for instance, In Bed By Ten.
If I were to dictate, it would be “Ku and the Uleles” or “Ku and the Phantom Ukes” — but we are a democracy, not the Ku Plucks Clan.
So what are we going to call ourselves?