Everyone has ever heard Hawaiian music, made wave-shaped movements with their hands, and smiled joyfully at the sight of Hawaiian colored shirts, which in any weather remind us of sunny and carefree summer. And the first association that comes out of the word “Hawaii” is a Hawaiian ukulele guitar whose story will immerse you in memories of the sea, golden sand, flexible waves and joyful laughter. The instrument, when strings or keys are touched, comes to life. With his incredible motifs, melodic sounds and subtle sounds, he would like to tell his story, what he went through to make people enjoy this incredible music. The ukulele is a miniature four-stringed guitar that has been deservedly associated with the Hawaiian Islands, but in fact the instrument is more of a Portuguese than a Hawaiian invention. Unfortunately, the exact date of birth is unknown, but based on a variety of historical sources, it happened in 1886. But how could a European instrument get to Hawaii?
Now any historian will be knocked down if he is asked to provide reliable facts, but he will never find anything, because they have not been preserved. At times like this, legends usually come to the rescue. As it all started, the Instrument, which entered the hearts of many as originally Hawaiian, actually has its roots in Portugal, or rather its four natives. Between 1878 and 1913, many people in mainland Portugal decided to go in search of a better life, and their choice fell on Hawaii. Naturally, people went there not empty-handed, but with their belongings, among which was an instrument called braggyna – a small five-stringed guitar, which can safely be called the ancestor of the ukulele. Having moved to a new habitat, many began to try themselves in various activities to somehow earn a living and food. Four friends Augusto Diaz, José do Esperito Santo, Manuelo Nunez and Joao Fernandez began to produce Portuguese furniture, which was not to the local taste and to somehow stay afloat, the friends retrained to produce musical instruments. Their experiments led to the birth in 1886 of an unusual instrument with a very interesting, lively and bright sound. The instrument had only four strings, which was 1 string less than that of his ancestor braginga.
Who of the four came up with it officially remains unknown, but on the early models you can find the name of M. Nunez, although a recognized craftsman playing this unusual instrument was considered to be G. Fernandez. Initially the invention of the Portuguese was not approved by the locals, but everything changed after a small feast, which was attended by Princess Victoria Caiulani and her uncle King David Calacaua, who first played the Hawaiian guitar. A fan of the instrument, he decided to include it in the royal orchestra so that other people could enjoy it. It is not known what made people change their minds, whether the king’s love of unusual music or the ukulele was made of Hawaiian acacia, which was a symbol of gratitude to nature. Since then, no holiday has been without the sound of a four-stringed guitar. The name that the Hawaiian guitar bears – ukulele – can be translated in many ways. The most famous variant is the “jumping flea” because of the characteristic movements of the fingers, which are more like chaotic jumps. Among the wide masses interested in this instrument, there are several versions of why the instrument got this unusual name.
According to the first version, the instrument was so nicknamed by the locals for the artist who played the music so quickly to finger the strings that it looked like fleas were jumping. According to the second version, the reigning king at the time had an extraordinary love for the instrument, and the former Englishman in his service, so crooked when playing it, that he was like a jumping flea. Well, one last option, more noble. It is believed that the Queen of Hawaii Liliuokalani, when she saw the overseas instrument, called it a ukulele, which means “come thanks”. The Hawaiian guitar owes its world fame to the Royal Hawaiian Quartet’s performance at the Panamo Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915, after which everyone started talking about it. Until then, the instrument was only known in Hawaii, where it was played by almost everyone, filling the streets and beaches with charming sounds. Our modern Hawaiian guitar – ukulele or uke – is becoming more and more popular now. This small instrument can now be seen practiced in every apartment, its sounds can be heard not only in Hawaiian movies, but also on our streets, played by street and pop musicians. The unusual shape and small size of the instrument, compared to other acoustic brethren, make the audience delighted and enthralled.