Ukulele History and Facts by Kainoa Louis

Palm trees swaying on the beach, tropical breezes, luaus, and hula girls are the immediate images that pop into people's mind when they hear the word ukulele. Because this instrument is so much a part of Hawaiian history and culture that image is certainly understandable, however, the Ukulele's history begins before it's arrival in that island paradise and has long since spanned the world wherever music can be found.

While no one knows exactly where the Ukulele originated, most accept that it was first made in Broga, Portugal and was called the Braginlio in that country. It is known that a Portuguese immigrant by the name Joao Fernandez arrived in Hawaii in 1879 and enthralled the Hawaiians with his ability to play this very musical tiny guitar like instrument. It quickly became popular in Hawaii and the Hawaiians renamed the instrument the Ukulele which meant jumping flea because that is what the hands of a Ukulele player looked liked as they strummed this unique instrument.

There were many homemade ukuleles in existence in the years following its introduction into Hawaiian culture but it was Manuel Nunes who made the first commercial Ukulele in Hawaii in 1916. It sold quickly and other manufactures soon followed suit. As the instruments popularity spread, manufacturers in the continental United States began mass producing this instrument and nearly wiped out all of the Hawaiian manufacturers of this instrument. During WWI, the instruments popularity boomed only to die out in the late 1920s. 

With no consumers to buy this product the manufacturers in the continental United States quit manufacturing the ukulele and business for the manufacturing of this small instrument returned to Hawaii. In recent years, the popularity of this instrument has begun making a comeback but, it remains an "Hawaiian " original. 

While the Ukulele can be manufactured from a number of different woods, the most common is from the koa tree. Ukuleles are used not only to make Hawaiian music, but also classical, jazz, country, reggae, and rock. This instrument is versatile and can be played as a solo instrument or in combination with other instruments.

Ukuleles have between 4-10 strings. The smallest Ukulele is called a standard or Soprano but there is also the concert, tenor, baritone, cut away and the 10 string steel string triple Ukulele. 

While there are many fine professional ukulele players, this instrument is also a popular choice of people who simply enjoy learning a musical instrument for their own enjoyment and entertainment. Actor William H. Macy and the late Marilyn Monroe both enjoyed playing this instrument, as does the investment banker Warren Buffet.

With the renewed interest and popularity of the Ukulele, people are anxious to not only learn how to play this instrument but to learn more about it. This has lead to the opening of several museums dedicated to this instrument around the world and a booming business for people who can and are willing to give ukulele lessons to interested pupils. 

Though the interest in this tiny instrument is encompassing the globe, it will always remain in the hearts and the souls of the Hawaiian people, the essence of Hawaiian music.

About Author

Kainoa Louis has been playing the ukulele for 25 years and shares his passion for the ukulele Learn more about the different types of ukuleles by visiting his Web site.
"Ukulele History and Facts"