The origin of Ukulele is greatly attributed to Hawaii although it was initially developed and in Madeira Island, Portugal, here it was called a machete. Once the machete was used in Hawaii, it was designed again to make learning and playing easier.
The citizens of Hawaii began making the apparatus out of traditional wood, Koa and adjusted the finishing, tuning and transformed the machete it to the current Ukulele we know. The instrument is still considerably connected with music in Hawaii today where the name Ukulele is translated as “jumping flea”, probably due to the movement of fingers of the player. Portuguese immigrants who went to Hawaii to work on sugarcane plantations would celebrate when they arrived safely. Their celebration was marked by Portuguese traditional songs played on the machete.
On August 1879, few weeks following their arrival, the Hawaiian Gazette reported of a Portuguese musical group who were entertaining people with a street concert at night using a bizarre instrument that resembled a cross connecting a banjo and a guitar.
After the gazette-news, the newly made Ukulele rose to fame amid the native population and finally became Hawaii’s national instrument.
Two Portuguese immigrants Jose do Santo and Augusto Dias opened the first instrument store in Honolulu; this boosted the increasing interest.
In 1836-1891 King David Kalakaua member of the then royal family, a songwriter and a talented musician adored the instrument, and he started learning how to play it as well as promoting it. Being a regular performer at Iolani Palace, King David and Dias developed a strong relationship.
The Modern Ukulele
Ukulele became a sign of love of the country and support for Hawaiian’s sovereignty during the period of political mayhem with the monarchy trying to uphold the country’s freedom. The instrument spread to other nations when Hawaii received visitors and immigrants.
Ukulele came to be known in Japan in 1929; it was introduced by Yukihiko Haida when he returned from the Island. With his brother Katsuhiko, they enjoyed the great success in Western music whereas promoting the instrument, especially with Jazz mode music and Hawaiian. Today in Japan, Ukulele is considered a subsequent home for Ukulele professionals and Hawaiian artists.
In the UK demand for Ukulele also arose in the 20th century. Fans of the instrument said that its popularity increased due to its simplicity to play and ease to carry. Tessie O’Shea and George Formby, comedians, are the most famous Ukulele players in the state.
Ukulele became popular in the United States between 1915-1920. The Hawaiian Island became the favorite topic among writers and musicians and Ukulele came to be known by the whole land.
Ukulele manufacturers realized the popularity as an excellent opportunity to make and vend some Ukuleles in the U.S, which made the Hawaiian Ukulele makers file a copyright on the uke.
Throughout the Great Depression, Ukulele’s popularity got a set back because of the cruel realities of the period. It was not long before Ukulele resurfaced; it made a significant comeback after World War II into the 1960’s. Tiny Tim and author Godfrey played Ukulele on television and theater revealing the uke to the audience, therefore, building a better relationship with it.
In the late 1940’s and 1960’s, Mario Maccaferri, plastic producer produced nine million affordable Ukuleles to promote its growth. Although plastic was cheaper, wood has remained the ideal material when constructing Ukulele. In 1970 and 1980’s Ukulele’s fame stuck due to music going “electric” until 1990’s when artists such as Jake Shimabukuro and Israel popularized the instrument again by large ad hits.
Nowadays Ukulele is found everywhere since it often appears in movies, television, and radios. You can also find it on YouTube.