The sound of the tiny but mighty ukulele plays a big role in the folk music and dance of Hawaii. But, did you know that it was originally modeled after a Portuguese instrument called the machete, brought to the islands in the 1800’s? From there is evolved into the ukelele we recognize now, with a guitar-shaped body and 4 nylon or gut strings.
An Unusual Name
How did the ukulele (or oo-koo-le-le) get it’s name? Some people translate the name from the Hawaiian to mean “jumping flea” and say that it describes the “fidgety” movements of the musician’s hands when the instrument is being played. Others translate it a bit differently. One of the last Hawaiian queens, Queen Lili’uoklani, said the name stood for “the gift that came here” by combining the Hawaiian words: uku (gift or reward) and lele (to come).
Like many stringed instruments, there are several different types of ukuleles that vary in size and tone. Most commonly, you can find these four different types: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone. The instrument pictured here is a smaller-sized soprano ukulele.
Traditional Ukulele Songs
Here’s a short video that shows two ukulele players talking about how they began playing their instruments and performing a duet of a traditional Hawaiian song called “Noho Paipai” as part of a Hawaiian music festival.
Color A Ukulele
You can find a ukulele coloring page on DARIA’s world music for kids site at:
You can also find a full color uke poster plus coloring page at her TeachersPayTeachers store (.99) here: