In 1879, Joao Fernandez (a Portuguese immigrant) introduced Hawaii’s first musical instrument to the Islands called “braginho,” the Portuguese name for the four-string instrument. The Hawaiians renamed it “ukulele,” the Hawaiian word for flea suggested by the jumping motion of the hand in strumming. The ukulele is a member of the lute family of instruments; it generally employs four nylon or gut strings or four courses of strings.
It gained great popularity elsewhere in the United States during the early 20th century and, from there, spread internationally. Since then, the ukulele and the hula have been inseparable, and they have become the symbols of Hawaii to people all over the world. The tone and volume of the instrument varies with size and construction. Ukuleles commonly come in four sizes: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.
Ernest Ka’ai is the Hawaiian ukulelist who set the groundwork for all ukulele soloists. He was the first person to establish the ukulele as a solo instrument and was massively influential in the Hawaiian music scene in the first decade of the 20th Century.
James Hill is a Canadian virtuoso ukulele player who has released 4 albums since his debut in 2002. He’s the best ukulele soloist in the world today.
Jake Shimabukuro is a Hawaiian ukulele superstar whose phenomenal playing and flawless technique proved to be an inspiration to a generation of aspiring soloists. He is easily the most influential and well-known ukulele soloist today.
John King is an American classical guitarist who fell in love with the ukulele and Hawaiian culture and became the leading writer on the ukulele. He resurrected the campanella style of playing (playing one note per string) and adapted it for the ukulele.