Mustaches, Thunder Cats and bikinis are inspirational fodder for Kitchener’s Zoe Janzen, aka @ukulelezo, a talented ukulele-playing songwriter who has developed a cult-like following on the internet.
Always musical, Zoe picked up a ukulele in 2008 saying, “I was immediately drawn to its stripped-down, joyful sound.” She started playing pop songs and on a whim, filmed herself playing “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls and posted it on YouTube. At the time, there was a growing online ukulele community and she was curious to see if people would notice her video. They did; and they liked it.
Quietly recording covers and quirky original songs in front of her computer, the Ukulele Zoe Vanity YouTube channel was born. To generate some traffic to her site, she entered online contests – often proudly coming in second – and built a dedicated following. Musicians from Sweden and the USA reached out to her, asking her to collaborate and soon the requests to appear at ukulele festivals and conferences arrived.
The ukulele has a bit of an eccentric reputation, often pigeonholed as a child’s toy or a simplistic, beach-party instrument made famous by Elvis Presley’s island movies. But Zoe was inspired by its quirkiness and forgiving nature and wrote some funny songs that reflected the spirit of the ukulele. Her mustache song, officially entitled Optional Accessory, has become a fan favourite. People from around the world regularly send her moustache paraphernalia, including a racy pair of mustache underpants.
Zoe is also the founder and president of GIGAPUS: the Girls in Glasses Playing Ukulele Society. Needing a catchy Twitter profile, Zoe devised this fictitious group but GIGAPUS quickly took on a life of its own. As the ukulele-playing world is predominately men, the idea of GIGAPUS resonated for many female players and there are GIGAPUS members all across North America, Europe and Australia. It delights her that her once mock society has inspired an underground movement of proud ukulele-playing women, which now offers a t-shirt and sticker merchandizing option.
If you would like to pledge your allegiance to GIGAPUS, you can contact Zoe to get a free GIGAPUS sticker.
P.S. Zoe’s favourite topic of conversations: music.