What Is The History Of This Wonderful Instrument?
The word Ukulele itself is a Hawaiian word with a rough translation of “Jumping Flea”. Around 1879, a Portuguese immigrant master craftsman and instrument maker Manuel Nunes arrived in the Hawaiian Islands with Joao Fernandes and Augustine Dias to work in the Sugar Kane fields.
The instrument was developed and based on two Portuguese guitar like instruments the Cavaquinho and the Rajao by these men. As they developed and played, the Hawaiian people took an instant like to it’s enriched beautiful sound and were mesmerized by the speed of the fingers creating the sound.
From there it took of, becoming the native sound of Hawaii. The ukulele received royal acclaim with nobles such as King Kalakaua, Queen Emma and Queen Lili’uokalani playing this wonderful instrument. One of the most important factors in establishing the ukulele in Hawaiian music and culture was the ardent support and promotion of the instrument by King David Kalakaua. A patron of the arts, he incorporated it into performances at royal gatherings.
Eventually around 1915 it made its way to the mainland of America and a huge Hawaiian music craze started in San Francisco making its way across the US and over to the UK. In the 20’s it became the icon of the Jazz age due to it been highly portable and relatively inexpensive and from there up into the 60’s, grew to be a very popular and easy instrument to learn with musicians like George Harrison and Greg Hawkes been keen admirers and players.
It’s popularity dwindled a little in the 70’s but thankfully today it is fast becoming the most sought out instrument to learn to play, a huge celebrity fad, and thanks to the genius delicious sounds of Jake Shimabukuro and the amazing Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole‘ have made this fantastic instrument once again a pleasure to listen to and learn to play.