The ukulele is a four-stringed instrument that has its origins in Portugal, but was adapted by Hawaiians in the 19th Century. Its size can vary, with the larger instruments producing deeper tones. The ukulele became particularly popular in Hawaii during the reign of King Kalākaua, who incorporated the instrument into performances at official state gatherings. It was later used in recordings by artists such as Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley. National Ukulele Day takes place on February 2, when ukulele players from around the country will strum their favorite tunes to celebrate.
National Ukulele Day - History
Rock star Eddie Vedder played the ukulele
Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam released "Ukulele Songs," a collection of tracks solely featuring the ukulele.
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
Hawaii native Israel Kamakawiwo'ole released his medley, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World," which reached No. 14 on the Billboard Digital Tracks Chart.
Tiny Tim tiptoed through the tulips
Singer Tiny Tim released his hit "Tiptoe through the Tulips," which features his signature voice and ukulele playing.
A first for the Japanese
Hawaiian-born Yukihiko Haida gave the Japanese their first taste of the ukulele, playing Hawaiian and jazz music at the Moana Glee Club in Tokyo.
Ukulele came to the mainland
George E. K. Awai and his Royal Hawaiian Quartet introduced the ukulele to the mainland at a concert in San Francisco.
National Ukulele Day Activities
1. Listen to some ukulele music
Pick up some compilations of ukulele music or albums that feature the instrument. Elvis Presley's "Blue Hawaii"and, more recently, Eddie Vedder's "Ukulele Songs" are a great place to start. There's even a Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain that features ukuleles of various sizes. Hit the play button!
2. Learn to play
Ukuleles are relatively cheap to purchase and to learn how to play. Celebrate National Ukulele Day by heading to your local music store and picking one up, along with some music books too!
3. Go to Hawaii
The ukulele has a storied history in Hawaii, not just in Hawaiian music, but also in Hawaiian culture. A trip to Hawaii doesn't have to be all sand and surf. There's sure to be some live music featuring the ukulele, and plenty of opportunities to learn more about the role of the instrument in the local culture.
5 Easy Ukulele Songs You Can Learn
1. "Tears in Heaven"
Eric Clapton's tribute to his late son is a perfect first song when learning to play the ukulele.
Vance Joy's song features simple chords that can be mastered quickly.
3. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
This "Wizard of Oz" classic includes a basic melody perfect for beginners.
4. "Upside Down"
This song, found on Jack Johnson's soundtrack to the film "Curious George," was just about created for the ukulele.
5. "Hey Soul Sister"
Train's popular "Hey Soul Sister" is a great way to get started.
Why We Love National Ukulele Day
A. It's played on some of our favorite songs
From Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters' "Mele Kalikimaka," to Elvis Presley's "Blue Hawaii," to the widely acclaimed medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, the ukulele has helped shape the pop music landscape.
B. It's contributed much to cultural history
Portuguese immigrants from Madeira and Cape Verde introduced the ukulele to Hawaiians in 1880. The immigrants held nightly street concerts for the locals, and the ukulele soon became a staple of Hawaiian music. It first made its way to the mainland in 1915 via performances by George E. K. Awai and his Royal Hawaiian Quartet.
C. It's easy to play
The ukulele is one of the easiest instruments to learn how to play. Learning just a few chords can put you well on your way to playing a few simple pop songs. It's a great instrument to use when introducing younger children to playing music.