This piece explores the history of the four-stringed instrument known as the Ukulele, dating back to 1800. It originated in Portugal, contrary to popular belief. The “machete,” a small tool brought by Madeira migrants, was introduced to Hawaii. Hawaiians invented their version and called it the Ukulele. Please continue reading to learn more about how it got its name.
Augusto Dias, Jose do Espirito Sante, and Jose do Espirito Santo made the first Hawaiian Ukulele in 1879. They arrived at the Ravenscrag. Dias and Espirito Santo were the pioneers of this instrument. It is not known how the name ukulele came to be. The literal translation is “jumping flea.” One theory suggests that Joao Fernandes started playing the instrument when he reached Honolulu port as a passenger on Ravenscrag. Many people saw him hopping around the fingerboard like fleas.
Merriam Webster says the name derives from Edward Purvis’s playing of the instrument. He was King David Kalakaua’s, Assistant Chamberlain. His nickname was “ukulele” (or “jumping flea”) because he was small and lively. The name was given to the instrument.
Ukulele History Timeline
The sugar industry in Hawaii was booming in 1874. The native population was declining due to disease. Portugal was home to 25,000 migrants.
Manuel Nunes Augusto Dias and Jose, do Espirito Santo, were among these new arrivals. Portuguese immigrants played the “machete Braga,” the original name for the Ukulele.
The Hawaiian Gazette published a mention of Madeira imports in 1879. “Madeira Islanders have been entertaining the public with nightly street performances since they arrived recently. These musicians are great performers with bizarre instruments, described as a cross between a banjo and a guitar, producing beautiful music.
They were all contractually bound to work on sugar plantations. They all began to make furniture and fix instruments. The instruments were sold in just a few years all over the Hawaiian Islands and the world. No one knows who made the final version of the instrument. Nunes published advertisements for the Ukulele in newspapers.
The Ukulele was mentioned more widely in the 1900s. In his writings, the American novelist Jack London compared the instrument to a small, portable guitar. London frequently wrote about the Ukulele.
The “Merry Monarch,” Hawaii’s last monarch, King Kalakaua, was a crucial figure in developing these string instruments. He was known for hosting large parties and banquets. After the party, more people wanted to purchase a ukulele.
The Ukulele was a popular instrument that gained many famous players in the 1900s. The popularity of the Ukulele grew further until the modern age. The uke can now be heard all over the globe.
The Ukulele: Important Facts
- George Harrison helped the Ukulele to grow in popularity
The Beatles influenced music in many ways. George Harrison and Paul McCartney love ukuleles, but George is the most passionate. He believed that everyone should own a uke. Many people claim that he had many ukes in his collection at his death. He also gave them as gifts to his friends.
- There are many types of ukuleles
There are many variations to the Ukulele apart from the four sizes. Manufacturers are creating new styles, including soprano and concert ukuleles, as well as tenor and tenor ukuleles. In addition, a guitar hybrid called a U-bass, or a suitable is available to purchase. This type of bass ukulele has a deeper sound. You can also find electric ukuleles and plastic ukuleles.
- Ukuleles are hot cakes
There have been many surges of popularity for the instrument. C.F. was the first to sell the instrument in the 1920s when it experienced its first boom. Martin sold more ukes than guitars in the 1920s. Martin is one of the most well-known guitar manufacturers in the world. Ukuleles are still made by them today. Ukes are inexpensive, making them even more popular in times of economic turmoil.
- Ukulele strings were made of animal guts
You will most likely get nylon strings if you buy a ukulele now. The strings were originally made from animal intestines in the early days. It was common to use sheep gut or cat guts. Modern-day gut strings can be purchased at specialty music shops. If you are interested in their sound, we don’t recommend it.
- A Ukulele Orchestra is available
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain was founded in 1985. It continues to thrive. Because of the variety of ukuleles, the ensemble works well. They have a large online fan base and play at festivals. They also release albums. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain primarily covers Nirvana’s song “Smells like Teen Spirit” as well as David Bowie’s song “Life on Mars?”
- It’s big in Japan
The uke was introduced to Japan during World War II. Japanese were the first to experience the Ukulele thanks to American influence. Many Japanese companies began making the instrument after the war. Japan was poor at the time, and the inexpensive design made it an ideal solution.
- It uses an unusual tuning
If you are a uke player, you will already have this experience. It uses “reentrant” tuning. The strings do not change from low to high to high or low to high. The pitch of the third string on the Ukulele has a lower pitch than that of the fourth. This is a different style than most string instruments. You can tune some ukes to use a standard, guitar-style tuning. However, this will reduce the Ukulele’s charm.
- Over The Rainbow, Over The Moon
Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, used the instrument. After the Apollo crew returned from the moon, they were required to quarantine for 21 consecutive days. Armstrong was a frequent player of his uke during this period. Many photos show him strumming away in quarantine. As a result, NASA has given the Ukulele its seal of approval.
- The popularity of the Ukulele
It is expected that there will be 1.6 million ukuleles in the U.S. by 2019. What makes the uke so beloved today? The price is one reason. A good ukulele can be purchased for between $50 and 100 dollars. This is a lot cheaper than buying a guitar. This means that even those with little money can afford the investment. This also means that parents are more likely to purchase a ukulele than their children. The Ukulele can play the most famous pop and rock songs, even though it is pretty expensive. You don’t need to teach ukulele songs only. The popularity of the Ukulele is also because many famous and well-known musicians use it.
Popular Ukulele Players
Taylor Swift is a worldwide star with platinum albums. Although she has a long history in country music, she also enjoys playing the Ukulele. She has performed “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz in concert. This is one of the most well-known ukulele songs. Eddie Vedder
Eddie Vedder, the lead singer of Pearl Jam, enjoys playing the uke. So he released an album in 2011 with songs recorded on the instrument. It was cleverly titled “Ukulele Songs.” Vedder can play many instruments, but the uke seems his favorite instrument.
Elvis Presley :
Elvis Presley, the King of Pop, was a massive fan of the Ukulele. During his career, he played the Ukulele in many concerts. For example, Elvis is playing the instrument in “Blue Hawaii.” Elvis loved Hawaiian culture. Steven Tyler
Steven Tyler is well-known for many things. He is Liv Tyler’s father and a judge on American Idol. He is also the frontman for Aerosmith. He is a talented singer, but he also plays instruments. Tyler loves the harmonica and Ukulele. Tyler can be heard acoustic performing with his uke.
Billie Eilish began her journey learning the Ukulele. She is now a pop superstar and plays many musical instruments. However, she uses the uke and keeps her roots. Fender even made her a signature range of ukuleles.
Shimabukuro is known for his virtuosity on the Ukulele. His videos have been viewed millions of times. Although he is of Japanese descent, he was born in Honolulu (Hawaii). Perhaps this is what led to his love for the uke. He’s so well-known because he can play in many styles, including bluegrass, folk, jazz, and flamenco. In addition, Jake’s fingerwork is fantastic. You might not have heard of Jake, but you could easily spend hours watching his videos on YouTube.
Another famous ukulele player was Herbert Buckingham Khoury. He was also known as Tiny Tim. He performed songs such as “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” or “Livin’ in the Sunlight and Lovin’ in the Moonlight.” His unique voice combined Ukulele and falsetto to create a unique sound. Jim Beloff
Beloff is a significant figure in the history and evolution of the Ukulele. Jim spent many years in the music business and discovered the Ukulele. He is the author of “Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Songbooks,” an excellent resource for beginners and professionals. He is also a great musician.