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A little ukulele history... A ship named Raven's Crag arrived in Honolulu on Aug 23rd, 1879 from Madeira Portugal. On that ship was a man named Manuel Nunes who came to Hawaii with his friends to work the sugar cane fields. However, he soon developed the ukulele based on a native Portuguese instrument called the braguinha.
Native Hawaiians immediately fell in love with the little musical instrument and it became known as the ukulele. Although there is debate over the meaning and origin of the word "ukulele", most people believe it came from the Hawaiian words meaning "jumping flea". The popularity of the ukulele continued to grow in Hawaii, infecting even the Royal family of Hawaii. In 1915 the ukulele hit the mainland U.S.A with it'd the first appearance at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. It was a huge hit and a ukulele fever hit the mainland. Vaudeville quickly embraced this entertaining marvel and took it to new places. During this time the banjo-uke or banjolele made its appearance. It had the ability to carry well in a large noisy concert hall before amplification. In the 1920s numerous musical companies began making ukuleles including Martin, Regal, Harmony, and Gibson.
The 1940s and 1950s brought the second ukulele craze with servicemen from WW2 returning home with ukuleles. Arthur Godfrey, George Formby, Roy Smeck, Ukulele Ike, and others entertained the nation. Millions of ukuleles were produced and sold. In 1931 Harmony ukuleles of Chicago alone sold 500,000 ukuleles. With the radical changes in music and culture in the '60s and 70s, the ukulele was forgotten by many.
Today we are seeing a dawning of a new era in ukes. Inspiration from greats like Israel Kamakawio'ole, Jake Shimabukuro, Aldrine Guerrero, Taimane, and others are fueling the fire of the current ukulele revolution.
Youtube and other places on the web have created a new outlet for ukulele fanatics everywhere. Websites and forums such as UkuleleUnderground.com connect uke players worldwide. As never before people are picking up a ukulele and playing rock, reggae, blues, bluegrass, and punk on the ukulele. This unassuming instrument can pack a solid punch and often has a way of getting into your heart.