The Jumping Flea
For those of you who have been following my blog the last few weeks, you know I have been bitten by the ukulele bug. Since “ukulele” roughly translates to “jumping flea,” that kinda makes sense. 🙂
The ukulele was developed in the late 1800s and based on the small Portuguese guitars of the time. Introduced by immigrants to the Hawaiian islands, the fun little instrument was endorsed by none other than King Kalakaua, who introduced their performances at his royal gatherings.
In 1915, the ukulele was introduced to mainland US, after which Hawaiian-themed songs began appearing in the popular music scene. Many mainland-based stringed instrument makers, like Martin, introduced these instruments shortly thereafter. Their relative ease of playability and portability made them very popular.
After 1940, 9 million plastic ukes hit the US market and their popularity skyrocketed, only to decline after 1960.
In the 1990s, Jim Beloff created a few dozen ukulele songbooks with popular music as well as classic ukulele tunes. Hawaiian artists such as Israel Kamakawiwo’ole re-popularized the instrument.
Strung with four strings, and available in a variety of sizes, the ukulele has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. Youtube has helped with this craze as many uke videos, including those by Jake Shimabukuro, have gone viral!
It seems it is impossible to play this happy instrument without smiling!
Here is a video of a professional playing my ukulele! 🙂