The Wonderful World of Ukuleles
March 27, 2012
Music is a universal language. Every culture around the globe celebrates music that is meaningful and unique. Regardless of the culture, music and instruments go hand in hand. Instruments from all over the world have played an integral part in the creation of music since the beginning of time.
One instrument that has made a roaring comeback within the last 20 years is the Hawaiian ukulele. Ukulele is a Hawaiian word which means "jumping flea." It is a member of the guitar family and has 4 strings, either made of gut or nylon. The ukulele typically comes in four different sizes. Starting with the smallest size; there is the soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. Each size offers differences in tone and varying volume levels. Ukuleles are constructed from everything, including plastic, laminated wood, and even highly prized, solid Tonewood. Prices can range from $100 dollars to over $5,000 dollars.
Music store owners used to sell around 4-5 ukuleles a year, now they are selling 4-5 a week. All across the USA and Europe, music stores are having a hard time keeping them on the shelves. The ukulele’s resurgence can be traced to the early 1990s when Hawaiian musician named Israel Kamakawiwo'ole did a cover of Over the Rainbow, which was featured in several popular movies. He also did his own rendition of What a Wonderful World, which became very popular as well.
Originally, the ukulele or Cavaquinho was brought to Hawaii via Portuguese immigrants. From there, the instrument’s use and popularity migrated to the mainland. The ukulele’s appeal boomed in the United States when it made its debut at the San Francisco World’s Fair in 1915, which quickly launched a massive Hawaiian music craze. People such as Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards, who would later become the voice of Walt Disney's Jiminy Cricket, would literally go on to sell over 74 million records of his ukulele themed music, and the love of the ukulele quickly spread internationally.
More recently, popular musicians such as Jimmy Buffet have recorded albums using the ukulele. Eddie Vedder of the group Pearl Jam recently recorded his album entitled Ukulele Songs. The pop rock band Train even won a Grammy for their song Hey Soul Sister, which also features the ukulele. The ukulele is no longer the outcast like it was in the mid 1900s. It’s back, and roaring to life all around the globe.
MCPL has several ukulele instruction and song books available for checkout!
Colbern Road Branch