The Ukulele - A Brief History - 1920's to Present Day

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    1920's to Present Day

         The Hawaiians were quick to accept the ukulele and it became an important part of the basic foundation of the "Hawaiian 'Ukulele" sound we know today. It was used primarily as a rhythm instrument. However, it did not remain a "Hawaiian" instrument in the sense that it was adopted and played in many other countries, especially North America.

         Because the ukulele had only four strings, it was easy to play. One could easily learn to strum it and sing with it with little or no prior training. People from all parts of the world quickly accepted it, especially during the Roaring 20’s period in the United States. That was the beginning of world acceptance and the recognition that the ukulele was a legitimate musical instrument, from its roots as a mere novelty to credibiliy in the hands of today's virtuoso artists.

         As an instrument to accompany singing, it is perhaps the simplest of all instruments. In a matter of some 30 minutes, one can learn 3 or 4 basic chords and strum an acceptable accompaniment for singing many, many songs.

    elvis     As a solo instrument, it required, as any musical instrument does, formal study and lots of practice. From the 1920's onwards, names such as Roy Smeck, George Formby, Cliff (Ike) Edwards to Elvis Presley (pictured on left) , Pat Boone (pictured on right), the Beatles and others helped to spread the popularity of the 'ukulele. 


         In the modern era, names such as Jim Beloff, Herb Ohta, Troy Fernandez, Chalmers Doane, and the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole have left their mark on the ukulele scene.

         The current generation of 'ukulele virtuosos includes the likes of Jake Shimabukuro, James Hill, Kimo Hussey, and their female counterparts, Brittni Paiva and Taimane Gardner. 

         These musicians, and many others to follw helped with the resurgence in popularity of the ukulele today. It was the simplicity of the instrument that first attracted the Hawaiians to the instrument and it is still drawing many people, young and old to learn to play it today.


    The content of the preceeding article are taken from various sources, and do not represent the views or opinions of the author or B.C.

    Credits and photos: Courtesy of:

    1) "Ukulele O Hawaii" by Ohta San. Published by Kamaka Hawaii, Inc. 
    2) "The Ukulele A Visual History" by Jim Beloff. Published by Miller Freeman Books


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