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Apr 19, 2022

Ukulele | Hawaii’s Popular String Musical Instrument

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For those visiting Hawaii, you may or may not know of the ukulele or “uke”, which is a popular string musical instrument having a similar resemblance to a guitar but only much smaller and with 4 strings. Most kids growing up on the islands have had their hands on one at least once in their lifetime and had to tune it using the phrase “my dog has fleas”. The actual translation of ukulele from Hawaiian to English is “jumping flea” (from ʽuku, “flea,” and lele, “jumping”). Hawaiian studies is a requirement in the Hawaii education system (at least when I went to school there a long time ago), and I am pretty sure that is still the case. The uke was used in music class and used to help teach about Hawaiian culture.

Jordan “playing” with his ukulele

Although most kids in Hawaii have held one and know about the uke, not all can really play it. I sure as hell can’t, but some of my cousins, nephews and nieces can play it. Some are great and others are so-so. It looks like a simple instrument, but it takes many years of practice and dedication to produce amazing sounds from this small 4-string instrument. If you are looking to hear some awesome ukulele players, check out the videos below of the world famous and Hawaii’s finest Jake Shimabukuro and the ukulele girls duo Honoka & Azita . . .

Traditional ukuleles are made out of wood, but there are modern ones out there made from polycarbonate and/or carbon fiber like the Enya Nova U and the Lava U (check out video below with Feng E on the Lava ukulele). By the way, Feng E is from Taiwan and a musical prodigy on the ukulele and guitar. He was featured on the Ellen Degeneres show a while ago. Rock on dude!

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