The history of the Ukulele in Hawaii is recent and has roots in Portugal. In 1779, workers from Portugal landed on the shores of the islands, and were employed in the nearby plantations. When they arrived the shores, the employees played their Portuguese instruments and the machete as appreciation for their safe arrival. The machete is a cross between the guitar and the banjo. The machete is known for its sweet music. The workers and musicians played their songs in the streets at night and locals fell in love with the music.
Aboard the same group of ships that brought the Machete, there were some Portuguese carpenters who were skilled carpenters. The carpenters had worked in Koa wood, native to Hawaii, which allowed them to craft a model of the machete from local wood. The word machete means bouncing flea, which comes from the high and low notes. The duality of the instrument allows for the music to be very different from note to note. By 1786, there was a local version of the machete known as the ukulele which was in shops for sale.
The Adoption of the Ukulele by Local Hawaiians:
The music of the ukulele is instantly identified as something of Hawaiian origin. The ukulele became one of the most popular instruments overnight as it was instantly made popular by the endorsement of the king of the island. Children were taught how to play the ukulele as a part of their education. Parties used the playing of local songs with the ukulele to tell stories of the history of the island.
The ukulele became a very popular instrument and became an overnight sensation for music education. The breadth of sound that it was able to bring to local folk songs added a level of fable to the ukulele.
The instrument has become one that is played in local schools. The ukulele is an incredible asset to spreading and creating a culture of music, inclusion, and culture in the islands. The ukulele is known all over the world as a symbol of the islands and will continue to spread the stories, history, and the culture of the islands for years to come.
The popularity of the ukulele is synonymous with the art and the culture of the islands. There are entire schools that are dedicated to the playing of the ukulele and education programs that focus on nothing but it. Although the days of the islands royal past are behind it, the palaces and the folk songs, and music remain. A part of the education of the children is teaching the ukulele to ensure that the rich past is preserved.
No matter where you are in the world when you hear the sound of the ukulele, you are instantly transported to Hawaii. The interpretive dances, the music of the ukulele, and the culture of inclusion and hospitality are known by this single sound. The islands continue to celebrate their rich heritage with the music of the ukulele.