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