by Laurie Van der Hart
Ever heard of a ukelele?
Reminds me of the word 'kalele'
The former's a small guitar with a big voice
The latter means an awful lot of noise
In a language they call Kiswahili
Jumping Flea *
An instrument known as ukelele
You pronounce it yoo-ka-LAY-lee
Is fun to play and easy to learn
- I think now it's my turn -
To get my fingers on 'the jumping flea'
Town of good beer and cheer
It's where they make very good beer
And a grand music show once a year
In a town that's called 'Únětice'
You pronounce it 'Oo-nye-tee-seh'
The Ukelele Festival is here!
To this tiny village in Czechia
From far and wide people come here
To make music on four strings
That joy to our heart brings
And fills our lives with good cheer
The ukulele [yoo-kə-LAY-lee] from Hawaiian: ʻukulele (oo-koo-leh-leh) is a member of the lute family of instruments; it generally employs four nylon or gut strings or four courses of strings. Some strings may be paired in courses, giving the instrument a total of six or eight strings.
The ukulele originated in the 19th century as a Hawaiian adaptation of the Portuguese machete, a small guitar-like instrument, which was introduced to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants, mainly from Madeira and the Azores. It gained great popularity elsewhere in the United States during the early 20th century and from there spread internationally.
The tone and volume of the instrument vary with size and construction. Ukuleles commonly come in four sizes: soprano, concert, tenor, and baritone.
* The ukulele is commonly associated with music from Hawaii where the name roughly translates as 'jumping flea', perhaps because of the movement of the player's fingers. Legend attributes it to the nickname of the Englishman Edward William Purvis, one of King Kalākaua's officers, because of his small size, fidgety manner, and playing expertise. According to Queen Liliʻuokalani, the last Hawaiian monarch, the name means 'the gift that came here', from the Hawaiian words uku (gift or reward) and lele (to come) .