On February 2 bring out your ‘ukulele and strum it all day long because it is Play Your ‘Ukulele Day. The holiday is also known by several other names including International Play Your Ukulele Day, World Play Your Ukulele Day and World Ukulele Day. It is sometimes also celebrated on May 2. The holiday was first celebrated in 2011 under the slogan bring the world together, four strings at a time.
Hawai’i’s Official Instrument
Hawaii lawmakers passed a bill on April 21, 2015 naming the ‘ukulele the official state “modern” musical instrument and the pahu, the Hawaiian drum, as the “traditional” musical instrument. The ‘ukulele evolved from a 4-string instrument brought by Portuguese immigrants to Hawai’i in 1879. Learn more >>
In 1915, people on the United States mainland heard the ‘ukulele and Hawaiian music played for the first time at the Hawaii Pavilion of the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The popular song “On The Beach at Waikiki” by Henry Kailimai ushered in the new genre of hapa haole music (Hawaiian style with English words). Later, many rock and pop stars and jazz musicians played the ukulele showing its versatility of different genres and giving it worldwide popularity.
In Canada, J. Chalmers Doane created the Doane program and during its time taught nearly 50,000 children to love and play ‘the ukulele. James Hill in coordination with the original Doane continues the programs legacy to teach and foster musical literacy using the ‘ukulele.
Today, ‘ukulele festivals are popular across the United States all over the world especially the United Kingdom and Japan. On Oahu at Kapiolani Park in Waikiki, Roy and Kathy Sakuma organized the 1st Annual Ukulele Festival in 1971 which continues to draw international players today (visit Ukulele Festivals Hawaii). On Oahu at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park, Kazujuki Sekiguchi produced the 1st Annual Ukulele Picnic in Hawaii in 2009 which continues to draw Japanese and local Hawaiians together (visit Ukulele Picnic in Hawaii).
On Maui, I have led my ‘ukulele students in performing at the Annual Maui Ukulele Festival at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center and at the Maui Ukulele Guild Exhibition. I have also attended and participated in the Annual Ukulele Festivals on Oahu. My husband and I are professional musicians who enjoy singing and playing our ‘ukulele and ‘ukulele-bass as we entertain audiences.
You can learn to play Hawai’i’s official instrument, the ‘ukulele, from a Native Hawaiian as you Watch Listen Play the Ukulele Mele Way.
Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele