Jake Shimabukuro, Eddie Kamae, Braddah IZ — there’s one thing all of these artists have in common — they play a mean ukulele! The ukulele is a mini guitar-like instrument that was inspired by the Portuguese machete. Derived in the 19th century it has become one of the most nostalgic and loved instruments in Hawai‘i. The infatuation with ukulele’s dates back to the 1870’s when a ship called “Rachenscrag” arrived in Honolulu. One of the passengers of the ship began playing his instrument which was similar to what is now known as the ukulele. Legend has it that the locals were so moved by his music that they nicknamed the instrument the “jumping flea” because of the way his fingers moved across the instrument. Another meaning of for the ukulele came from Queen Lili'uokalani who explained that the term 'ukulele' means 'the gift that came here' — 'uku' translating to 'gift or reward' and 'lele' translating to 'to come'.
The rise in popularity of the ukulele can be attributed to the royal family. King David Kalakaua loved the ukulele and often incorporated it into many dances and songs. As the Hawaiian culture continued to develop, the ukulele became a big part of it. It allowed for a fusion of modern art and traditional aspects of the Native Hawaiian culture, allowing our music to become more progressive and popular.
Today, the ukulele is played all around the world, but nothing compares to the tunes of the locals here in Hawaii! Interested in learning how to play Hawai‘i’s beloved instrument? Look no further! Hilo Hattie has a beautiful selection of Made in Hawaii Ukulele’s perfect for beginners! Now go make some music!
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