I have always liked ukuleles. I personally own three, including a ukulele sized banjo that is tuned like a ukulele; a banjolele, if you will. On the back of it is a sticker for the company, the Magic Fluke. I looked into the company , and they make 3 different types of ukuleles (and most recently a violin): the Firefly, the banjo, the Fluke, a uke with a triangular body, and the Flea, very similar to a classic pineapple uke but with a flat bottom. Another thing I found out was that their headquarters and factory were in Sheffield, Massachusetts. I had to go there.
A few years after I got my banjolele, my family was going through New England on our way to Maine. Before the trip I had realized what was in New England and asked to stop at The Magic Fluke. On the outside it looked like just a big farm mansion, common in Massachusetts. Before we go in let me explain a bit about ukuleles. Ukuleles (yook-oo-ley-lee), (ook-oo-la-ley) are Hawaiian instrument, similar to a small guitar. Unlike a guitar they have only 4 strings, strung G C E A. Ukes are fairly easy to play, leaving most people thinking you can only play simple chords on them. Of course, this is completely wrong and anyone who’s ever heard Jake Shimubukuro, the best ukulelist in the world, knows it.
Anyway, back to the Magic Fluke, as you enter the house you immediately notice the giant 10 foot tall ukulele in the corner. The front room is covered in ukulele posters and flyers for music festivals. It’s kind of like a bulletin board at the back of a coffee shop; cluttered with flyers and posters but somehow neat, except it’s all ukulele themed.
Along the walls of a long, wide hallway there are Flukes, Fleas, and Fireflies with every design on them from moons to spider webs, from tikis to cogs and gears, from pineapples to cowboys. There are even a few Cricket violins. The best part about it is the people there let you play any instrument you like. They also have all kinds of ukulele accessories, like shakers, stands, straps, tuning pegs, tuners, kazoos, and all sorts of other things. They have posters telling the history of ukuleles, which is surprisingly interesting.
This is not only a store but also the factory. We asked the extremely nice staff to give us a tour around the factory. It looked like if Santa’s workshop specialized in ukuleles. A guy showed us all the printing machines and laser inscribers for the designs. The crew of about three were hand making everything and it did not feel at all like a factory. There were racks of unfinished ukuleles and all kinds of prototypes. They seem very satisfied with their jobs, since they’re allowed to make pretty much any ukuleles they want. They even let us try out their attempts at an electric banjolele. It was a good place for a uker.
(At age 12, Jacques is our youngest guest blogger to date. Besides playing ukulele, he enjoys riding his bike, swimming, rock-climbing, and making claymation videos featuring a pickle named Dill).
The Magic Fluke is located in Sheffield, MA, and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Stop by to see the factory at work and browse the retail hallway. They have several instruments available to play and purchase (firsts and seconds), as well as an extensive selection of ukulele songbooks and accessories.