Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.6
Country: Hawaii, USA.
Region: Oceania & North America.
Description: The ukulele is small guitar-like chordophone, it is a member of the lute family. The ukulele was introduced by Portuguese settlers in Hawaii during 1879 when they arrived from Madeira. They brought with them the the braguinha. Included in those who settled were three men, Manuel Nunes, Augusto Dias and Jose do Espirito Santo who knew how to make braguinha.
The Name ‘Ukulele’: There are several accounts of how the ‘ukulele got its name, which means “jumping flea.” Edward Purvis, a small, lively musician popular in Kalakaua’s court was reportedly nicknamed ” ‘uku lele” and the instrument may be named after him. Alternatively, the rapid action of the musician’s figures when playing possibly reminded Hawaiians of jumping fleas. The name may also represent a modified version of ‘ukeke, the term for the mouth bow, previously the only string instrument in Hawaii.
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History: The small guitar quickly became popular with Hawaiians and by 1888 Nunes, Dias and Espirito Santo were all producing ukuleles for the local market. The instrument was modified to suit local musical tastes and the Hawaiian ‘ukulele was born. The ‘ukulele found favour in the court of the Hawaiian King David Kalakaua, a champion both of customary Hawaiian music and musical innovation.
Under Kalakaua’s patronage, the ‘ukulele was adapted to accompany hula dance performances, transforming the more sedate tempo of earlier types of hula into the more lively rhythm characteristic of many hula performances today.
Construction: Very early on in its history it became associated with the nascent tourism industry in Hawaii, and this association was largely responsible for the rapid dissemination of the instrument to the Mainland U.S. and beyond around the turn of the 20th century. In addition to Hawaiian makers of the ‘ukulele whose instruments, by the 1910s. Ukulele’s were being sold both in Hawaii and through instrument dealers on the Mainland.
Several Mainland companies started manufacturing large numbers of the instrument. This includes the C. F. Martin company of Pennsylvania, who produced thousands of high quality ‘ukuleles between 1915 and 1971. The choice of material for the body of the instrument, including metal 1928-1941. The National and Dobro companies and plastic first made by Mastro Industries in 1949 and subsequently by other operations.
Citations: Bibliography: Jim Beloff, 1997 – The Ukulele: A Visual History. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books ; Kanahele, George S. 1979. “Ukulele,” in George S. Kanahele, Hawaiian Music and Musicians. Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii, pp. 394-407 ; McLean, Mervyn, 1999 ; Weavers of Song: Polynesian Music and Dance. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press ; Jay Scott Jay Odell 1984 “Ukulele [ukelele].” NGDMI v.3: 696-697 ; Helen H. Roberts 1967. Ancient Hawaiian Music. New York: Dover Publications, Inc ; Websites: Bibliography: Websites: The met Timeline of Art History / Ukulele ; Grinnell College Musical Instrument Collection ~ Ukulele ;