The ukulele comes from the island of Hawaii and was invented after Portuguese sailors brought stringed instruments to the island in 1879. The local Hawaiians saw these instruments and made their own version which they called the ukulele.
The ukulele was played by the royal family of Hawaii and is an important part of their culture. ‘Ukulele’ is Hawaiian for jumping flea and describes the movement of your fingers when you play.
In 1915, a great exposition was held in San Francisco to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal. Hawaii hosted a pavilion and many Hawaiian musicians, such as the Royal Hawaiian Quartet, played there. The music was so popular that it created a craze for ukulele music that swept across America.
At the height of the ukulele craze, tens of thousands of ukuleles were sold and many songs were written for the instrument. The craze soon spread to Britain and stars like George Formby played ukulele songs. In Britain, the banjo ukulele was the most popular style.
Perhaps the most famous ukulele was owned by Richard Konter, who took his ukulele to the North Pole. It was the first musical instrument to be taken there.
The ukulele is ever popular today and is played in many countries around the world.