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bsfloyd
02-16-2018, 05:25 AM
The way I understand it, the ukulele roots come from the Machete (also know as the Braquinha) and the Rajao. The Machete is a linear tuned 4 string instrument tuned DGBD. The Rajao is a re-entrant tuned 5 string instrument tuned DgCEA. So, the ukulele gets the smaller size and 4 strings from the Machete and the re-entrant tuning and pitches from the Rajao dropping the one D string. Is this correct?

Uke Don
02-16-2018, 06:48 AM
Essentially yes. I'm just reading "The "Ukulele A History" by Jim Tranquada and John King. They start out by saying that the 'ukulele was not invented in Hawaii and then seem to spend the rest of the book proving themselves wrong. The machete and the rajao came to the islands with the Portuguese Madeirans but neither one is an 'ukulele. It seems that the uke got its size and number of strings from the machete and its tuning from the rajao (sometimes referred to as a cavaquinho).

One thing that makes this pretty muddy is that these were basically folk instruments and varied in size, number of strings and tuning depending on who built it. Most makers were also furniture makers and sort of invented this instrument stuff as they went along. There was simply no real standardization, and that included what the instruments were called.

Once the newly named (and invented in Hawai'i) 'ukulele found popularity the sizing and tuning was more or less fixed. One thing I can't yet figure out is at what point the 'ukulele adopted gut strings. It seems that both the machete and rajao had metal strings. Maybe this was true of the first models of ukes too.

bsfloyd
02-16-2018, 07:07 AM
Thanks for confirming and adding information, Uke Don. I thought I read that the machete was found with either steel or gut strings. The rajao I have read was mainly steel strings.

Rllink
02-16-2018, 07:33 AM
Essentially yes. I'm just reading "The "Ukulele A History" by Jim Tranquada and John King. They start out by saying that the 'ukulele was not invented in Hawaii and then seem to spend the rest of the book proving themselves wrong. The machete and the rajao came to the islands with the Portuguese Madeirans but neither one is an 'ukulele. It seems that the uke got its size and number of strings from the machete and its tuning from the rajao (sometimes referred to as a cavaquinho).
I think that in beginning of the the book Tranquada and King are trying to explain that the roots of the ukulele are not with the indigenous people of Hawaii, but that the roots of the ukulele come from the Madeirans in the late 1870s. I believe that they are trying to dispel the image of Hawaiians sitting on the beach playing ukuleles and doing the hula when Captain James Cook happened upon the islands in the 1700s. Anyway, that is how I interpreted it. I believe the rest of the book is about how and why it became popular on the mainland and the growth of it there.

Croaky Keith
02-16-2018, 07:52 AM
Immigrants brought their musical instruments with them when they came to work on Hawaii, as stated in that book, & it is from these instruments that the 'ukulele arose.

Jarmo_S
02-16-2018, 07:53 AM
Ukulele is a quite new invention. According to my read a Ravenscrag ship from Madeira came to Honolulu in 1879 and with it the immigrants had instruments that from them the ukulele was developed and sort of standardized. Main thing is that locals adopted that new little guitar into their music making.

Think that ukulele is less than 140 years old, though of course a lots longer prehistory existing with stringed instruments :)

Uke Don
02-16-2018, 09:29 AM
I think that in beginning of the the book Tranquada and King are trying to explain that the roots of the ukulele are not with the indigenous people of Hawaii, but that the roots of the ukulele come from the Madeirans in the late 1870s. I believe that they are trying to dispel the image of Hawaiians sitting on the beach playing ukuleles and doing the hula when Captain James Cook happened upon the islands in the 1700s. Anyway, that is how I interpreted it. I believe the rest of the book is about how and why it became popular on the mainland and the growth of it there.

Not to be argumentative, but --

From the Introduction on page 1, where they are talking about Nunes' obituary: "The story reported as fact the myth that the 'ukulele was invented in Hawaii..." So to me they are clearly stating that they don't believe that the 'ukulele was invented there.

And from page 2: "Since the ukulele's introduction to Hawaii by Madeiran contract workers ...". Which implies that the 'ukulele existed outside the islands before it was "introduced". Otherwise I think they would have said something like created by Madeiran contract workers. I have yet to find anywhere in the book where they say the 'ukulele was invented or created in the islands.

Rllink
02-16-2018, 09:42 AM
Not to be argumentative, but --

From the Introduction on page 1, where they are talking about Nunes' obituary: "The story reported as fact the myth that the 'ukulele was invented in Hawaii..." So to me they are clearly stating that they don't believe that the 'ukulele was invented there.

And from page 2: "Since the ukulele's introduction to Hawaii by Madeiran contract workers ...". Which implies that the 'ukulele existed outside the islands before it was "introduced". Otherwise I think they would have said something like created by Madeiran contract workers. I have yet to find anywhere in the book where they say the 'ukulele was invented or created in the islands.I guess it is all subject to interpretation Anyway, I just read the book, that's all. So I just commented. Honestly, the history of the ukulele is not particularly important to me. So you won't find an argument from this corner.

acmespaceship
02-16-2018, 01:38 PM
The history of the 'ukulele is fascinating. It flows across oceans and back through time as far as you want to take it. Some people want to pin it down to absolute statements like "the 'ukulele is a Hawaiian instrument" or "the 'ukulele is not a Hawaiian instrument." I think this misses the whole point. The invention of the 'ukulele was not an event; it is a process (which continues today).

Musical instruments do not often spring to life fully-formed like Venus on the half-shell. For the most part they evolve gradually. They may pass through many different cultures on the way. The Hawaiian 'ukulele has antecedents in Madeira. Those instruments had antecedents on the Iberian peninsula. Which in turn had antecedents in the Middle East.

You could say the 'ukulele is a small 4-stringed oud invented in Arabia. That would be, historically, correct. But it loses any sense of what the 'ukulele actually exists to do in its cultural context. People get caught up asking "what is this?" when the real question is "why is it this and not that?"

An instrument is more than simply its characteristics as a physical object. How is it tuned, who plays it, how do they play it, what kind of music do they play on it, and on what occasions? What role does this instrument fulfill in society? A church organ and a harmonica use similar mechanisms for producing sound, but they are not the same instrument.

A fiddle and a violin are not the same instrument, either.

Madeira did not have 'ukuleles. Madeira had other instruments, brought some of them to Hawaii, and started (or I should say continued...) a process that lead to the 'ukulele. Isn't that great?

Nickie
02-16-2018, 03:57 PM
The history of the 'ukulele is fascinating. It flows across oceans and back through time as far as you want to take it. Some people want to pin it down to absolute statements like "the 'ukulele is a Hawaiian instrument" or "the 'ukulele is not a Hawaiian instrument." I think this misses the whole point. The invention of the 'ukulele was not an event; it is a process (which continues today).

Musical instruments do not often spring to life fully-formed like Venus on the half-shell. For the most part they evolve gradually. They may pass through many different cultures on the way. The Hawaiian 'ukulele has antecedents in Madeira. Those instruments had antecedents on the Iberian peninsula. Which in turn had antecedents in the Middle East.

You could say the 'ukulele is a small 4-stringed oud invented in Arabia. That would be, historically, correct. But it loses any sense of what the 'ukulele actually exists to do in its cultural context. People get caught up asking "what is this?" when the real question is "why is it this and not that?"

An instrument is more than simply its characteristics as a physical object. How is it tuned, who plays it, how do they play it, what kind of music do they play on it, and on what occasions? What role does this instrument fulfill in society? A church organ and a harmonica use similar mechanisms for producing sound, but they are not the same instrument.

A fiddle and a violin are not the same instrument, either.

Madeira did not have 'ukuleles. Madeira had other instruments, brought some of them to Hawaii, and started (or I should say continued...) a process that lead to the 'ukulele. Isn't that great?

Very well written.
But, I played fiddle on a violin, actually.

Croaky Keith
02-16-2018, 11:48 PM
......But, I played fiddle on a violin, actually.

I thought a fiddle was just a cheap violin....... ;)

bsfloyd
02-17-2018, 01:29 AM
I thought a fiddle was just a cheap violin....... ;)

I thought a violin was just an overpriced fiddle... :)

bsfloyd
02-17-2018, 01:30 AM
The history of the 'ukulele is fascinating. It flows across oceans and back through time as far as you want to take it. Some people want to pin it down to absolute statements like "the 'ukulele is a Hawaiian instrument" or "the 'ukulele is not a Hawaiian instrument." I think this misses the whole point. The invention of the 'ukulele was not an event; it is a process (which continues today).

Musical instruments do not often spring to life fully-formed like Venus on the half-shell. For the most part they evolve gradually. They may pass through many different cultures on the way. The Hawaiian 'ukulele has antecedents in Madeira. Those instruments had antecedents on the Iberian peninsula. Which in turn had antecedents in the Middle East.

You could say the 'ukulele is a small 4-stringed oud invented in Arabia. That would be, historically, correct. But it loses any sense of what the 'ukulele actually exists to do in its cultural context. People get caught up asking "what is this?" when the real question is "why is it this and not that?"

An instrument is more than simply its characteristics as a physical object. How is it tuned, who plays it, how do they play it, what kind of music do they play on it, and on what occasions? What role does this instrument fulfill in society? A church organ and a harmonica use similar mechanisms for producing sound, but they are not the same instrument.

A fiddle and a violin are not the same instrument, either.

Madeira did not have 'ukuleles. Madeira had other instruments, brought some of them to Hawaii, and started (or I should say continued...) a process that lead to the 'ukulele. Isn't that great?

Great post, acmespaceship!!

AndrewKuker
02-17-2018, 10:23 AM
One thing I can't yet figure out is at what point the 'ukulele adopted gut strings. It seems that both the machete and rajao had metal strings. Maybe this was true of the first models of ukes too.

The first model ukuleles were gut strings. I tried to figure this out too because the accounts of the machete being steel are mixed. But the way I imagine it, it was a collaboration of ideas. Classical guitars were popular and King Kalākaua played a lot. He loved the few machete players that came over and maybe influenced the guitar based tuning, strings, production. He was all about the ukulele right from the first ones and that's basically all he played for the rest of his life. I think Santos was working for him. Vague recollections from when I was studying this..

bsfloyd
02-17-2018, 11:54 AM
Very interesting points, Andrew. Makes one wonder.

AndrewKuker
02-17-2018, 10:23 PM
Yeah I thought I had something of a grasp on it for little while. Bu the more I read the less certain I became. Somewhat recently I wrote a little on something I still believe- the-connection-to-our-past (http://www.theukulelereview.com/2017/10/15/the-connection-to-our-past/) ...basically we’ll never know how far back, how deep, how many cultures, and who these luthiers and musicians are that brought us here. But it goes so far... most likely they’re related to you. I’d say we all have some of it in our DNA.

bsfloyd
02-18-2018, 01:13 AM
Nice read, Andrew. Thanks for linking it here! The photos are great.