SHLOMO PESTCOE  שלמה פּסטקאָ

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Please note: This is not a commercial site. I do not sell or appraise musical instruments. Please do not contact me to request that I identify and provide background information on a specific instrument in your possession and/or evaluate its worth. That's a job for an accredited professional appraiser, which I'm not. That said, I'll be glad to answer questions and discuss any subject I present here, so long as that one proviso is respected.  

 

 

UKULELE


From left to right: ukulele, guitar, and the 5-string machete da rajao. Hawaii, circa 1900
(Collection of Shlomo Pestcoe)
 


The Hawaiian ukulele's roots can be traced half way around the world to the Portuguese island of Madeira. In 1879, four instrument makers, Gonsalves, Dias, Santos and Nunes, emigrated to Hawaii from Madeira and started building small guitar-like Madeiran instruments such as the tiny 4-string machete da braca (also known as the braga, a regional variant of the Portuguese cavaquinho, which is also found in Brazil and Cape Verde) and the larger 5-string machete da rajao.

The Hawaiian people fell in love with the diminutive braga and adapted it to suit their own music. They called their version of the braga "ukulele," which means "jumping flea" in the Hawaiian language-- a reference not just to the small size of the instrument, but also to the way a player's fingers rapidly "jumps" across the strings.

By 1914, the ukulele had reached the American Mainland. It took center stage at San Francisco's Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915, which thrust the ukulele into the international spotlight and launched a world-wide Hawaiian music craze. During the "Roaring Twenties," the ukulele and the banjo-ukulele or banjulele (a banjo-hybrid with a ukulele neck) became symbols of the flapper and the Jazz Age.

Today, there's a new craze for the ukulele and, once again, it's being strummed around the globe. Basically, the ukulele family consists of four sizes: soprano (the smallest and most common), concert, tenor and baritone. There are many different Hawaiian variations, such as the 8- string taro patch and the 6-string lili'u tenor. Close cousins of the ukulele include the Spanish/ Latin American tiple, the Andean charango, the Panamanian mejorana, the Latin American cuatro, and the Mexican requinto and jarana.

-- Shlomo Pestcoe

* Home * Bio * Shlomo Sez * Shlomo on MySpace * Sufferin' Succotash * Gillygaloo *    

* Yummie * Musical Styles * Instruments * Features * News * Contact * Links *

* Banjo Roots: Banjo Beginnings *

* Banjo Roots: West Africa *

* The Ekonting: A Link to the Banjo's West African Heritage *

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Copyright 2005 Shlomo Pestcoe. All rights reserved.
Last modified: 02/01/09