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- Origin: 19th Portugese imigrants
- History: Macaronesian (p+s) immigrants. Machete.
[August 23, 1879]. 1st uke makers.
- Types: g,c,e,a or d,g,b,e. (53,58,66,76)
- Influence: Jazz, economical.
-Songs, composers: Tiny Tim/ over the rainbow. John lennon.
-Actually: Manel, Jack Johnson (banana), Jason Mraz
The History of the Ukulele

The Ukulele is actually the descendant of afour-stringed musical instrument known as the machête or, less accurately, the braguinha from the Portuguese island of Madeira. The collision of cultures that created the ukulele (or uke) can be traced to the very specific date of August 23, 1879. This was the day that the Ravenscrag, a British Ship filled with 423 men, women and children from Madiera, arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii. After adifficult four month voyage, the weary travelers were understandably thrilled to have finally reached their destination. According to the legend, upon arriving in Honolulu Harbor, a musician-passenger by the name of João Fernandes hopped onto the wharf and then began singing Portuguese folk songs of thanksgiving for their safe arrival. Although he was playing chiefly for the benefit of his fellowpassengers, the assembled Hawaiians couldn’t help but be moved by his performance. They also couldn’t help but notice the curious instrument on which he was accompanying himself – a machête.
As fate would have it, three of the men on board the Ravenscrag, Augusto Dias, Manuel Nunes, and Jose De Espirito Santo were talented craftsmen. All three were cabinet makers and Santos and Dias were both talentedmusicians. These three men would soon play a role, in the development and popularization of the modern-day ukulele.


There are many theories about how the ukulele got its name. The two most-circulated stories include one about an English army officer, Edward Purvis, who arrived in Hawaii in 1879. Purvis was a talented musician who became quite adept at playing the machête, andafter being appointed Assistant Chamberlain to the court of King David Kalakaua, often entertained the court with his expert playing. Because he was small and sprightly (as opposed to the markedly larger frames of the Hawaiians), he was nicknamed “Ukulele”, which in Hawaiian means “jumping flea” (also translated as “bouncing Flea” or “leaping flea”). One theory suggests the Purvis’ nickname simplyspread to the instrument he loved to play.

A more literal theory likens the fingers of an accomplished player flying nimbly up and down the fretboard of the machête to the movement of “jumping fleas”. Queen Lili’uokalani didn’t care for this interpretation. She preferred a more poetic translation of the Hawaiian word uku as “the gift” and lele “to come”, referring to the way in which thisnow-cherished instrument had come from Portugal to Hawaii (obviously the Hawaiian word “uku” has multiple meanings}. While there are many possible explanations as to the genesis of the ukulele’s name, it is important to note that there is only one correct pronunciation in Hawaii: “oo-koo-le-le” which is in marked contrast to the way the “yoo-koo-le-le” is commonly pronounced on the mainland.
Although responding to a call for workers in Hawaii’s sugar plantations, Augusto Dias expected to find employment in the woodworking industry. Like Fernandes, Dias was also a fine musician and reportedly passed the time on the Ravenscrag playing guitar and singing. When Dias arrived in Honolulu in August of 1879, he was crushed to learn that most of the men from the shipwere engaged as laborers in the fields. At ten dollars per month, Dias worked hard enough to pay off the year long contract three months early.
With local interest growing in the machete, Dias, Nunes, and Santo eventually opened their own instrument shops in Honolulu. Dias is listed in the 1884 City Directory and both he and Nunes advertised themselves as “machete” makers in an 1885 edition of...
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