The Ukulele: Made Famous by Tiki

Photo by Nadya Chetah

Originally, the ukulele was brought to Hawaii from the West. However, it was Hawaii and Tiki music that actually made the ukulele a mainstream instrument, and an instrument synonymous with Tiki music.

When we think back of Hawaiian music, it is hard to imagine this music without the cheerful sound of the ukulele. This is the sound we recognize and there are so many people who have made this sound famous over the years. Even moving into modern music, the ukulele is transcending various genres from tiki music to pop to country music and even more. Even still, one cannot deny, without the Tiki influence we would probably not have had the strong influence of the ukulele, it’s fun to look back and forward to some of the people who have made this instrument famous over the years.

Ukulele Players Yesterday and Today

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole was popular at home and abroad. He was able to reflect his social and political views using his voice and the ukulele and had a successful career.

Jake Shimabukuro became famous on You Tube with his ukulele. He plays all varieties of jazz, rock, blues and other genres.

Taylor Swift plays the ukulele in many of her on stage songs.

Daniel Ho has won several Grammys using his ukulele, composing and singing. He takes an inventive approach to the ukulele.

George Harrison – The guitarist of the Beatles was influenced by Hawaiian music and Hawaiian chords which he combined with Indian melodies.

Don Ho engaged in ukulele playing and was influenced by his Polynesian and Hawaiian background. He performed American music with ukulele chords.

These are just a few of the many people who have used the ukulele are who are still using the ukulele to perform currently. It’s amazing this instrument began from Hawaiian and Polynesian roots to what the instrument is today. The ukulele is an instrument that is fun to learn.

How to Learn to Play the Ukulele

1. Buy a Ukulele

This does not have to be expensive.

2. Learn to Hold Your Ukulele

You Tube is a great source for this. Just hold it so you can strum with one hand and then your other hand will be free for the chords.

3. Practice Strumming

Practice strumming until you get a clear sound. This does take some practice. Walk around with your ukulele. It’s light. Have fun. This is a very easy instrument to learn! Again, You Tube is your friend!  

4. Learn the Basic Chords

Learn the basic chords using the UkuChords chords chart .This is a list of all the major chords. Once you practice strumming those, and can switch between one chord to another, you are on your way.

5. Get a Book of Ukulele Songs

Purchase a book of chords to learn and practice, and you have become a ukulele player!

When you play your ukulele, please remember to think about the history of the ukulele and think about Hawaii or Polynesia. I think I might put learning to play a ukulele on my bucket list. And maybe I will expand that list to include playing my ukulele on a beach in Hawaii. My daughter is going to Hawaii next Spring with her husband’s family. I think I just figured out what to give her for her birthday! I’m going to pass the love of the ukulele down to her. She has a year to learn to play on the beach of Hawaii and pay homage to the history of this great Tiki tradition.