Hawaiian ukulele

The history of the Hawaiian ukulele!

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Imagine yourself vacationing in Hawaii. I bet you picture the ocean, palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze and a beautiful white sand beach…But what do you hear? The waves, maybe a few birds and of course, music played on ukulele. This miniature guitar has been an important part of Hawaiian culture and music scene since 1880s, when it was first made by Portuguese immigrants.

There are several stories about how ukulele got its name. According to the most popular one, it is called a “jumping flea” in Hawaiian, because the player’s fingers moved as fast as that little bug. Another story attributes the ukulele name to Edward William Purvis, an Englishman and one of the officers in Hawaiian king David Kalakaua’s court, who had the same nickname because of his short stature and fidgety manner, and who was also an expert ukulele player. And finally, “Ukulele” also means the gift that came here” in Hawaiian, according to Queen Lili’uokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch.


Ukuleles are made out of wood, though some cheap ukuleles can be made of plastic, laminate wood or plywood. The more expensive, classic ukuleles are made of hardwood, such as koa or mahogany.

There are four main types of ukulele: concert, soprano, tenor and baritone. They look and sound differently. The soprano ukulele is also called “standard” in Hawaii.

With only four strings, ukulele is easier to play than a regular guitar and has a unique sound. It is also very affordable and easy to carry anywhere- to the beach, to a luau or a party with friends. No wonder it became so popular, not only in Hawaii but also throughout the Pacific islands and around the world!

Go ahead, put on some ukulele music or grab your own little “jumping flea” and recreate that tropical feeling…


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