When a person thinks of a ukulele, they often link this excellent instrument with Hawaii and its culture. While it is an adequate and correct pairing, considering the fact that the ukulele was in fact created in Hawaii, its ancestors and inspiration trace back to European colonialism.
Ukuleles came to Hawaii in the 19th century when the Portuguese immigrants came to work in sugar cane fields. Their European culture was merged with Hawaii, especially their music. Their stringed-instruments, called rajao and braguinha were merged into one to and the ukulele was born.
The Portuguese immigrants and carpenters named Manuel Nunes, Jose de Espirito Santo, and Augusto Dias created the first ukulele in Hawaii. After creating the new instrument, they played it every night and it became a popular sound. It was the Hawaiian King David Kalakaua in 1886 that called it taro patch fiddles. He was amazed by the instrument and began playing with it and his chamberlain, Edward Purvis excelled in playing the instrument. Purvis was nicknamed ukulele which means “jumping flea” because as he played the instrument his fingers jumped like fleas and from then on the instrument was branded ukulele.
There are debates on how the name ukulele first emerged. But historians are certain that ukulele means jumping fleas, though some say its popularity had nothing to do with Edward Purvis. However, it can be traced from the Portuguese who initially played the instruments.
Due to the popularity of the ukulele, one of its inventors, Manual Nunes, decided to start his own ukulele production company, better-known as M. Nunes and Sons. In the mid-20th century, ukuleles maintained their popularity, with lots of other companies starting to produce them. However, the ’70s saw a decrease in demand and a huge shutdown in ukulele workshops.
The great news about ukuleles is that their sales are once again rising. Due to some top musical innovators, such as musician Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and distinguished music teacher Michael Carolin, the ukulele is being respected for all of the advantages it can give to a cultured and cohesive society. The truly unique sound created by a ukulele makes it an instrument that is being incorporated into the music of numerous performers, such as notable American musicians like Jason Mraz and Taylor Swift! What’s more, the ukulele’s vibrant history and message of cultural integration makes it the best instrument for a music teacher who wants his students to not simply learn to make great music, but also to be accepting and open-minded people.
It seems that a massive number of people are catching the bug – the jumping bug! In the current era, the ukulele has once again recaptured people’s hearts and ideas.