The origin of the Ukulele or Ukelele

by Alan Ruiz Zavala February 19

The origin of the Ukulele or Ukelele

Today, hearing the word ukulele, it is inevitable to think of Hawaii, on its beautiful white sand beaches, and surfboards, however the ukulele has its roots in another instrument that was born far away from Hawaii; it's called the cavaquinh; a four-string instrument very popular in Portugal and Madeira.

hawaii ukulele

El ukulele, ukulele, uku or uke is a stringed string instrument, usually with 4 strings, which can be double.

  • 4 sizes are mainly manufactured: Soprano, Concert, Tenor, and Baritone. There are also rare versions of the instrument: sopranino, banjolele, resonators, versions of 5 strings and recently low electro-acoustic ukuleles.

To rediscover his birth, we must take a trip back in time at the end of the 19th century, specifically to the Portuguese island of Madeira, from where the British ship SS Ravenscrag sailed to Hawaii with 423 crew members; the majority to work in sugarcane plantations.

The Ravenscrag, after four months of travel, arrived at the port of Honolulu on the island of O'ahu on August 23 of 1879. Among its crew we will remember the name of only four of them: João Fernández, Augusto Dias, Manuel Nuñez and José do Espirito Santo.

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hawaii beach

THE NAME "UKULELE"

  • It tells the story that when he arrived in Honolulu, João Fernández took his cavaquinho (also know as machete, braguinha or machete do braga) and played a song with him captivating the natives with his sound, these being the ones who called him ukulele y which literally means "Jumping flea"; uku it's flea in Hawaiian, and catfish It means jumping, although other possible etymologies of the word are mentioned as the one attributed to Queen Lili'uokalani, according to which ukulele It means “the gift that came to us” referring to its origin from the sea. Whatever the origin of the name, we can affirm that the history of ukulele Start at that moment.
  • Our other three crew members, after finishing their three-year contract in the plantations, settled in Honolulu working as carpenters. They made furniture and musical instruments: guitars, cavaquinhos y rajaos of five strings, another typical Madeira instrument. At one point in time they created a hybrid, in the shape of cavaquinho and its four strings, but with a tuning similar to rajão of 5 strings; this is how he is born ukulele.

The exact date of manufacture is unknown, although It is believed that it was around 1886. It is also unknown who of the three was the first to conceive the first ukulele as we know it, because Manuel Nuñez awarded it to himself and showed it on the labels of his ukuleles.

hawaii beach

The official presentation was in 1889, on the British yacht Nyanza in the port of Honolulu. A trio of women, among which was Princess Victoria Kaiulani, niece of King David Kalākaua who played the ukulele He did the honors.

  • Perhaps the fact that the instrument was linked to royalty to both King Kalākaua and his successor and last Hawaiian monarch, Queen Lili'uokalani author of the acquaintance Aloha 'oe, that was built with native Koa wood from Hawaii and a symbol of respect for the earth and nature, made the instrument an undisputed symbol of Hawaii, very popular among the natives kanaka 'oiwi and the fight for their cultural identity. The fervent passion of King Kalākaua for the instrument, as the main promoter of the instrument in its origins and the subsequent association of the 'ukulele With Hawaiian culture.
Ukulele water

    WHEN THE UKULELE IS POPULAR

    • It had moments of great popularity during the twentieth century. From the enormous popularity in the USA during the decades of 1920 and 1930 thanks to artists like Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards and Roy Smeck, to the great George Formby in the United Kingdom, until reaching the jazz of Lyle Ritz in the fifties.


    In the sixties and seventies, there is a revival of 'ukulele as a symbol of Hawaiian tradition. Artists such as Eddie Kamae of the group Sons of Hawaii, Peter Moon and Herb Ohta were promoters of this movement, which they subsequently took over Israel IZ Kamakawiwo´ole with the Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau and later solo and groups like Ka´au Crater Boys with Troy Fernandez at 'ukulele triumphing out of the islands.

    FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO PLAY UKULELE

    • Recently we found Hawaiian artists like Jake shimabukuro previously in the Pure Heart group or Troy Fernandez, and artists from outside the islands like Erick Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, James Hill, Eddie Vedder, Paul McCartney Tiny Tim, Vic Chesnut, Neil Armstrong, Dick Dale Jimi Hendrix, Artie Shaw, Annie B sweet Neil Young, Christofer Drew, George Harrison, George Benson, Brian May, Marilin Monroe, the ditty bops, Florence & the machine, Beirut, and Mexicans Zoe, Natalia la Fourcade, Hello Seahorse, Julieta Venegas, Syd Phi, Quique Rangel and 3 / 4 that continue to promote and promote the instrument throughout the world.
    iz ukulele singer

      IMPORTANT BRANDS OR THE BEST OF UKULELE

      • It should be mentioned that there have been different manufacturers of ukuleles during these last 200 years of history, today the brands are many and all with classic, radical, decorated, psychedelic designs, etc., within the best brands, we can find KALA, MAKALA, Mahalo, Fender, Washburn, Regal, Harmony, Yamaha, Lanikai, Ohana, and Kamaka, the latter being the first official manufacturers of Hawaii and the only ones of that time that continue to create ukuleles until now.

      ukuleleria

      • Today, in Mexico, this instrument is beginning to arouse curiosity to learn something new and share it, for this reason THE UKULELERIA the mission of having the widest catalog of ukes y accesorios KALA and MAKALA From Mexico, to be able to bring that sweet and warm sound at your fingertips, we remind you that it is here that you can solve all those concerns that this beautiful instrument generates by listening to the difference between the varied timbres of materials and sizes that we have in stock.

      "Cold? What is that?! If I can feel the sea breeze by touching my ukulele… ”

      By Alan Ruiz Zavala

      The best brands in the best store in Mexico know all our models and take advantage of great discounts and free shipping contact us! HERE => https://ukuleleria.com/



      Alan Ruiz Zavala
      Alan Ruiz Zavala

      Author

      I love the ukulele and all its world


      2 Answers

      Alice welsh
      Alice welsh

      August 21 2018

      I love it and I would like to know if you have notebooks like songs with notes and chords of ukulele ??? As are the songbooks with easy songs! And if yes, where can I get them?

      Bren
      Bren

      August 30 2016

      Hello! I loved your page. I could learn more about this wonderful instrument. Could you give me the source where this information was obtained. Cheers :)

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