Ukulele – The Legendary Hawaiian InstrumentWe offer reviews of the Best Hawaii Tours & Activities, browse around and take a look!
The sight and sound of ukulele is really hard to miss when you visit Hawaii. This is pronounced as YOO-ka-LAY-lee if you are a native of Hawaii and is spelled as ukulele. This is Hawaii’s most prominent musical instrument. You can find people playing this instrument on the streets and in some local restaurants. Visiting Hawaii will never be complete without hearing any rendition from a ukulele.
Normally, ukuleles are made of wood; however, nowadays it is no longer odd to find a ukulele partially or even completely made by plastic. Cheaper ukuleles are often made of spruce or ply, while the more expensive ones are typically made from mahogany and other exotic woods.
How it all started
It was in 1880 when ukulele was developed. It is a guitar-like instrument, but is smaller in size. Macaronesian immigrants were the ones who introduced this instrument to Hawaii. The first ukulele makers were Augsuto Dias, Joao Fernandes and Manuel Nunes. It was reported in the Hawaiian Gazette that Madeira Islanders had been entertaining the Hawaiians with their concerts every night playing with their ukuleles.
Ukulele also means jumping flea. It was given that name because people who play this musical instrument have hands that look like they are dancing from the fingerboard. This had really impressed the natives and this had started their love and amusement for the instrument.
However, the last monarch of Hawaii Queen Lili’uokalani had given a different translation to the source of ukulele. She said that it simply means the gift that came here, basing it from uku which means the gift and lele which also means to come.
The Spread of Ukulele in Hawaii
The reason why there is a widespread use of ukulele in Hawaii is all because of the endorsement and zealous support of King David Kalakaua. The king’s first encounter with this popular instrument was by Fernandes. However, he learned to play the instrument with the help of Diaz.
Since King Kalakaua was very fascinated by this enthralling instrument, he suggested that this guitar-like instrument be played during important gatherings. Being the patron of arts, it was not hard for the Hawaiians to wholeheartedly accept the ukulele. In fact, many royalties had taken time to learn this musical instrument. Some of the crowned heads who trained to play the ukulele are Princess Likelike, Queen Emma, Prince Leleihoku and also the last Hawaiian monarch.
The use of ukulele was not only limited to royalties. Even the farmers and fishermen had the opportunity to enjoy the sheer bliss of just playing and listening to the ukulele. Because ukulele had been warmly accepted in Hawaii, just after a few years, ukulele’s popularity had reached other places and slowly captured the hearts of the whole world.
Your visit to Hawaii will never be complete without being serenaded with a ukulele. So do not be surprised if, all of a sudden, a group of men just sings you a song accompanied by their famous four-stringed musical instrument.