Sunday, February 19

The Origins of the Ukulele

For a very long time, the ukulele have been strongly associated with Hawaiian music and culture. What most people may not know yet is that this small-sized musical instrument was originally the favored stringed instrument of the Portuguese sailors in the late 19th century. The ukulele's Portuguese ancestor was called the braguinha. Another Portuguese musical instrument, the cavaquinho, also looks similar to both the braguinha and the ukulele. However, the current design of the ukulele is believed to be a hybrid between the original Portuguese instruments and the modern guitar.

It was during one of their trips to an archipelago in the Pacific that the Portuguese became the instrument in establishing this four-stringed guitar as a cultural and musical icon in Hawaii. The Hawaiian natives were very impressed with the uke's sound and the level of skill that the sailors played the strings. Thereafter, they re-christened the musical instrument as "ukulele," which means "jumping flea," describing the way a musician's nimble fingers moved fast over the strings.

Ukuleles come in four types: the soprano, the tenor, the baritone, and the concert. These may also vary in size and shape. For instance, most ukuleles look like smaller versions of a guitar, but there are ukuleles with an oblong body that looks like a pineapple. Some manufacturers of the ukulele, or "uke" in short, have also created a 6-stringed type and an 8-stringed version.

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