- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Though they sound like something that might spawn a “sharknado,” all Kris Hensler and Kenny Taylor are fishing for is giving kids a good time.

Atomic Sharks is what the Fort Wayne duo call their new ukulele act aimed squarely at the 3-to-13 set.

“It’s a huge trend for performers to put out music for kids that doesn’t sound like ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ but sounds more like adult music,” Hensler, a 51-year-old veteran of area bar bands, told The Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1niXnTT ).

“Technically, we’re aimed at kids, but the music is not designed to be strictly for kids,” he explains. “It has kid-friendly lyrics and that sort of thing, but we want also to play toward adults, so they can be there and tap their feet and sing along and such.”

Hensler considers the act part of a burgeoning “kindie movement” - a combination of “kids” and “indie” - music for children that’s not corporately homogenized, such as you get with Disney tunes.

For the Sharks, he says, that means an island vibe that’s beachy, not preachy.

One number, “Catch That Wave,” is about surfing. “Sail Away” is about running away and joining a band - of pirates, not punk rockers. “Chicken Chimichanga” tells the tale of a shark who gets tired of eating the same fish for dinner every day.

“Zombie Hula” is - well, use your imagination, Hensler says. Kids do, at the drop of a (beach) hat.

“I thought there are a lot of songs to teach kids to count to 10 and do the alphabet. I don’t have to cover that again,” Hensler says, “and there are a lot of songs that try to teach little life lessons.

“Ours are more low key. They’re just about having fun.”

But there’s also a serious side to the duo, both parents themselves.

The Sharks try to add a bit of music education to their shows as ambassadors for the sometimes scorned and oft-misunderstood ukulele.

Early on, they approached the Hala brand of ukuleles as a potential sponsor. The company now provides several ukuleles designed for children so Hensler and Taylor can teach lessons with the instruments after shows.

“We do these ukulele sessions, and one thing I tell parents is that I can get them playing something in 10 minutes, and that’s hard to say with any other instruments,” Hensler says.

“The unfortunate thing about a lot of kids when they try to learn an instrument is they get discouraged and frustrated early on. The ukulele gives them a sense of accomplishment, and they’ll go on. It’s a good bridge instrument.”

Story Continues →