A very brief History of the Ukulele.
While the Ukulele is traditionally thought of as a Hawaiian instrument, it actually has its roots in Portugal. The "Machete" Or "Machete de braga" is a small four stringed traditional Portuguese instrument which closely resembles the Ukulele. As the story goes, when the Ship Ravenscrag landed in Hawaii in 1879, one of the many Portuguese immigrants was a musician named Joao Fernandez who is said to have been overjoyed upon landing, and leapt on to the dock, strumming his braguinha and singing Portuguese folk songs. The Islanders were intrigued by this new instrument, Which they later named The "Ukulele" or "Jumping Flea" due to the way the hands "jumped" about like a flea while playing. This "new" instrument was a hit. Three other Portuguese immigrants were Augusto Dias, Jose do Espirito Santo and Manuel Nunes, all three were excellent craftsman, and soon began producing Ukuleles, much to the delight of not only the islanders, but also with nobles such as King Kalakaua, Queen Emma and Queen Lili'uokalani, who became accomplished Ukulele players and composers, (Queen Lili'uokalani is credited with writing "Aloha Oe") and made the Uke even more popular to the people of Hawaii. One of the biggest boosts the Ukulele popularity on the mainland was the Panama Pacific international Exposition in 1915. where a Ukulele builder named Johnah Kumalae won an award for his Ukulele design. He went on to become the most prolific builders of Ukuleles in the Islands. He built until about l930-40. He was most famous for making Ukes for other manufacturers and dealers. His Ukes were well built and he used very good wood. He made a quality instrument for a reasonable price. It is said that at the height of his business , he was making about 600 Ukes a month. By the 1920's Ukuleles were all the rage, and many musicians and song writers began including the Ukulele in their work. The term "Tin Pan Alley" is almost synonymous with "Ukulele". The Uke craze subsided a bit in the 30's, but had a revival in the mid 40's Due to many GI's returning from the Exotic South pacific with souvenir Uke's. This, along with Hawaii becoming a state caused a craze for all things Hawaiian. Another boon to Ukulele popularity was a Luthier by the name of Mario Maccaferri, who in the 50's began producing a line of quality inexpensive plastic Ukuleles. It is said that Maccaferri's Maestro Plastics produced over nine million of his plastic Ukes, due in part to a personal endorsement by popular television host Arthur Godfrey on his weekly show. The Ukulele once again enjoyed a surge in popularity, but, with the exception of The Late Great Tiny Tim, Uke popularity waned in the sixties and seventies. The 1990's saw the third wave of Ukulele interest begin, one of the biggest forces being "Jumpin" Jim Beloff and Fleamarket Music. Jim found an Ukulele at a fleamarket in 1992, and by the late nineties had published several Ukulele method and song books, as well as introducing the popular "Fluke" and "Flea" Ukuleles, developed by his brother in law, Dale Webb, who formed "the Magic Fluke" company. At the time of this writing in 2007, Most Major cites have Ukulele clubs, there are several annual Ukulele festivals across the globe, literally hundreds of new Ukulele Luthiers, and most established Musical instrument companies have reintroduced Ukuleles into their lines.
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