Ukulele » The Story of the Ukulele

The Story of the Ukulele

If you’re looking for a complete overview of the history of the ukulele, head to Wikipedia

When the ukulele was invented The origins of the ukulele are not entirely clear. Each source gives a different origin. We’re Europeans so we’ll take the European version of the story. Let’s go back to the 18th century when the stringed instruments were on the rise. Alongside the larger instruments like the guitar and the lute, a smaller cousin developed, probably in Hawaii, which retained only the shape of the guitar.

Sometime around 1870, Portuguese sailors set sail for Hawaii, with several woodworkers on board. The carpenters, originally furniture makers, had nothing to learn in Hawaii, and since Hawaiian furniture was largely poor compared to Portuguese furniture, they began to learn how to make new instruments.

Ukulele Story

Myths surrounding the ukulele Another myth surrounding the ukulele is the name of the instrument. In Hawaii, they can’t exactly agree. Ordinary Hawaiians say the ukulele means “my dog has fleas” but the Hawaiian Queen claimed it means “the gift that came here” believe what you want, it doesn’t matter. The fact remains that the uke has become more and more of a hit since its inception and has become the national musical instrument in Hawaii.

After Hawaii’s annexation to the US, the ukulele lost all exoticism due to business. The new owners were so eager that they began to sell the uke in large numbers in the Americas. Many customers bought it as a symbol of the tropical island dream. The absolute boom in the instrument’s sales came with the 1920s. The reason? One of the largest music shows in the U.S. held an exhibition that celebrated the ukulele. Visitors were treated to plenty of ukulele music and musicians, led by legendary maker Jonah Kumala.

Extending the ukulele to a wider audience By the 1930s, the uke was used in songs about Hawaiian novelty and often accompanied the piano, even creating a specific genre of music for it to be heard in better company. Then the ukulele fashion took a completely different turn. Specific ukulele tones began to appear in smoky bars and jazz clubs. Jazz players loved the uke the most.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, when the economy of the entire world collapsed, the ukulele fashion began to wane.

However, it was at this time that the uke became louder and the so-called uke-banjo or banjole was created, the sound of which is a nod to World War II. The main pioneers of the banjo-uke were Wendell Hall, Roy Smeck, led by George Formby, who had a specific style of playing that was also specific to World War II.

With the great economic boom after WW2, new cheap materials came into use in the US. Mainly plastic, which caused the mass production of the ukulele to be dispersed among the population. At the time, the uke was more likely to be found in toy stores than by creative musicians. It is said that the mass production of plastic resulted in at least one bankruptcy of a traditional manufacturer, but a boom of other new and modern manufacturers of the instrument.

The next boom came in the 1970s with the rise of television broadcasting. Acclaimed musicians began incorporating the uke into their TV appearances resulting in a boom of new musical directions and musical pioneers.

The 1990s became emblematic of an alternative music scene dominated mainly by guitar performances and interest in the ukulele waned somewhat. More and more alternative musicians emerged on the music scene who wanted to add new and varied sounds to their performances, and the uke in all its forms with unusual instrumental elements came up again.

Nowadays, the soprano ukulele is experiencing its greatest boom thanks to the ubiquitous Chinese production that is sweeping the world. Thanks to the internet, the ukulele has taken a different direction. Thanks to the internet, more people are learning the ukulele and exchanging their knowledge, experiences and sharing their musical experiments and successes with other people on the net.