"The Gift that Came Here" - the Ukulele

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You’ve seen it before - the instrument that looks like a small, portable guitar with four strings instead of six - and you’ve probably heard it being played in the background of lots of Hawaiian music – including my favorites: the renditions of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World by the late Bruddah Iz’s (aka Israel Kamakawiwo'ole). But I’m guessing there’s a lot you don’t know about the ‘ukulele. Brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants in the 1880s, the instrument has its roots in the cavaquinto and the rajao.

While ‘ukulele translates into English as “jumping flea” - probably referring to the way the hands move quickly when playing it, Queen Liliuokalani said that the word meant “the gift that came here,” originating from the Hawaiian word uku meaning “gift” and lele meaning “to come.” But whatever the true meanings and origins of the name, there is no question that the ‘ukulele has played a major role in Hawaiian music over the years.

A favorite of King Kalakaua, Queen Emma and Queen Liliuokalani, the uke was first introduced to the U.S. Mainland in the 1900s at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago as part of an exhibit including Hawaiian singers. Soon, special woodcutting machines were created specifically for making the instrument and ‘ukulele were being sold for $5.00 apiece. Those who could not afford to buy them, creatively fashioned uke any way they could – with some even using coconut shells. Today, the ‘ukulele remains as popular as ever in Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian music alike. There are even great ‘ukulele apps on your iPhone – including one that turns the iPhone into a uke: Ukulele! App

If you're looking for a great gift for friends or family on the mainland, we've recently added the same great Aloha Ukulele we sell in our shops to our Online Shop. Be sure to take one home and bring the gift of Aloha wherever you go!

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