It may come as a surprise, but the term ‘hipster’ is not new. In fact, many hipsters from decades gone by could claim that they were hipsters before the term went mainstream. It was coined during the jazz age of the 1940s to ‘describe aficionados of the growing scene.’ Today, the term has changed to encompass a whole lifestyle that is typified by having a fixed gear bike, a beard, oversized glasses and a fondness for craft beer and vinyl records.
While hipsters tend to like an array of genres, the main musical styles that dominate are folk, blues, country, jazz, rock and indie. Some bands that typify ‘hipster’ music wouldn’t look out of place in a 1940s jazz bar or a Nashville honky-tonk. But what are the world’s most hipster instruments? Read on to find out.
The humble banjo is the instrument of choice for Winston Marshall from Mumford & Sons, and it has also been favoured by great musicians such as Alison Brown, Billy Connolly and Earl Scruggs (who are, of course, not hipsters). This stringed instrument is associated with country, folk and bluegrass, as well as featuring prominently in traditional African-American music. Artists like Sufjan Stevens have continued to solidify the banjo’s place in contemporary indie folk music.
The Accordion is the official instrument of San Francisco. It is famously played by Pete Townshend of The Who, Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic, Arcade Fire and the Lumineers. The accordion, as we know it today, was believed to have been invented in Berlin and is associated with folk, jazz, Brazilian b-pop and Cajun music. Needless to say, it’s unlikely we’ll hear a club banger featuring an accordion any time soon (although you never know!)
Another instrument used by so-called hipster folk band, Mumford and Sons, is the double bass. Played by Ted Dwane, this is seen as the ‘most hipster’ instrument of the string world. It is also played by Rex Horan of the Neil Cowley Trio, who has performed with Laura Marling. The double bass is believed to have originated in Europe during the 15th century, with early versions featuring in a number of renaissance paintings.
The ukulele was made famous in the UK with George Formby in his hit song ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows‘. This member of the lute family is also played by hipster queen Zooey Deschanel. Originally from Hawaii, the ukulele is believed to have been derived from the Portuguese’s Machete. The instrument has become popular in Canada, the UK, the US and Japan. In the US, it has a deep tradition in genres such as old-time music, country and bluegrass, as well as being an icon of the jazz age.
Also known as a Jaw harp, mouth harp, Ozark harp or juice harp, the Jew’s harp is played by placing the reed into the performer’s mouth and plucking the string with the finger. It is considered one of the oldest musical instruments in the world, but how its name came about is somewhat of a mystery. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the instrument was actually made, sold, or imported to England by Jewish people. In modern music, the Jew’s harp was famously used to provide the opening sounds for the beginning of The Who’s ‘Join Together’.
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