The sweet strum of the ukulele has become synonymous with Hawaii and the spirit of Aloha. The sound alone can induce the sort of relaxation associated with a long awaited tropical vacation to paradise. Like many elements of Hawaii’s melting pot culture, the instrument originated elsewhere and made its way to the islands during plantation days when workers came from afar to toil the fields of sugarcane and pineapple. Originally called the ‘machete‘, the word ‘ukulele‘ is Hawaiian and translates to ‘jumping flea’ in English. Small enough to carry to any of Maui’s beautiful beaches and easier to learn than a six string guitar, the four strings of the ukulele can produce a pleasing array of rhythms.
Famous ukulele musicians
Hawaiian music is famously associated with the sound of the ukulele. ‘Over the Rainbow’ was recorded by Oahu born Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (Bruddah Iz) in 1993 became one of the most recognizable Hawaiian songs in history. Today, the fast fingers of another Oahu born ukulele virtuoso is taking the instrument to new levels. Jake Shimabukuro impresses audiences worldwide and often performs live ukulele on Maui.
Learning to play the ukulele
With less strings than a guitar and a smaller body, the ukulele is a perfect instrument for the traveling musician. Pretty to look at and comfortable to hold, the ‘uke’ is a great first instrument and often taught in elementary schools, opening the door to a lifetime of musical exploration. The cords on a ukulele are easier to reach with small fingers, lessons are widely available online and tuning is simple in comparison to more complex instruments.
Visit the Maui Ocean Center on Wednesdays at 11am or 1pm and you’ll have the chance to take FREE ukulele lessons in the courtyard.
Where to purchase a ukulele on Maui
If you’re serious about learning to play the ukulele or enhance your existing musical skills, a souvenir shop is not the place to purchase your ukulele on Maui. For genuine craftsmanship and some of the prettiest ukulele on Maui, visit one of Mele Ukulele’s three locations. World-renowned luthier Michael Rock has been constructing ukulele’s from the world’s finest tone woods on Maui for over thirty years. Made with gorgeous hard woods such as mango, koa and mahogany, the shiny abalone inlays on many of the Mele ukuleles are exceptionally appealing. To purchase a ukulele, you need to see, feel and hear it in person. The helpful staff at Mele Ukulele in Wailuku, Paia or Wailea can help you to select the best fit.
Where to hear live ukulele on Maui
Many excellent musicians play live ukulele on Maui. Check out Da Ukulele Boyz at the ‘Slack Key Show’ on Wednesday and Thursdays at Napili Kai Beach Resort near historic Lahaina town on the West side of Maui. The Ukulele Festival tours the Hawaiian islands annually and is an obvious choice for all things ukulele on Maui. If you’re spending your next vacation in the area of Kihei or Wailea, Nalu’s South Shore Grill is a great place for live ukulele music on Maui and excellent food in a casual setting. You’ll also hear live ukulele on Maui at any of the best luas, teamed with gorgeous hula dancing and delicious island cuisine.
Ukulele fun facts
A maker of stringed instruments is called a ‘luthier’
Ukulele is correctly pronounced oo-koo-lay-lay rather than you-ka-lay-lay
High quality ukulele are made from hard woods