Historian offers trivia on state’s beloved instrument

Jul. 20, 2012 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition

Singer James Ingram will be onstage at 1:30 p.m. Sunday during the 42nd Ukulele Festival. The event includes performers from across the globe and U.S. --Courtesy photo

Singer James Ingram will be onstage at 1:30 p.m. Sunday during the 42nd Ukulele Festival. The event includes performers from across the globe and U.S. --Courtesy photo

With Roy Sakuma’s 42nd Ukulele Festival happening Sunday at the Waikiki Shell, interest in the iconic little instrument is at peak levels here in Honolulu. Musicians from seven countries in addition to players from Hawaii and the mainland are in town for the festival.

Where: Kapiolani Park Bandstand

When: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sunday

Cost: Free

Info: ukulelefestivalhawaii.org

Note: An app for Ukulele Festival Hawaii App is available for download at itunes.apple.com. The festival will be streamed online at livestream.com/ukulelefestivalhawaii

Also: Students of the Roy Sakuma Ukulele Band play throughout the festival. Danny Kaleikini will emcee.


Author appearance and book signing

Where: Native Books/Na Mea Hawai’i, Ward Warehouse

When: 4-6 p.m. tomorrow

Cost: Free

Info: 596-8885

Also in town this weekend is ukulele historian Jim Tranquada, a former newspaper reporter and director of communications for Occidental College in Los Angeles. His book, “The ‘Ukulele: A History,” was co-written with the late John King, a widely acknowledged master of the ukulele and author of “The Hawaiian ‘Ukulele and Guitar Makers: 1884-1930″ (2003).

The book follows the history of the ukulele from its predecessor, an instrument known as the machete, in the mid-1800s through to the present day.

Tranquada will be the guest of honor at a book-signing Saturday afternoon at Native Books/Na Mea Hawai’i at Ward Warehouse and is expected to attend the Ukulele Festival on Sunday. He responded via email to questions about the book and the ukulele.

Star-Advertiser: Were there any surprising discoveries while researching the ukulele?

Tranquada: John and I were astonished to learn how quickly the Madeiran machete was adopted by Hawaiians. … Ten years after its arrival, the ukulele was on display in the Hawaiian exhibit at the international exposition in Paris, and was being identified by mainland reporters as “the national instrument of Hawaii.”

Q: What is something about the instrument and its history that most people probably don’t know?

A: In the early 1950s, Arthur Godfrey’s domination of radio and television combined with his love of the ukulele to give the instrument its second period of national popularity. … But the truth is that the biggest-selling ukulele of the 1950s was introduced in 1947 — by the Mattel toy company.

Q: Do you have a favorite story about the instrument?

A: Jesse Kalima was famous for winning the 1935 Territorial Amateur Talent Show with his ukulele rendition of (John Philip) Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” But the tradition of playing Sousa on the uke actually dates back to at least 1910, when Antonio Abreu played “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Under the Double Eagle” at a concert at the Honolulu YMCA.

John Berger / jberger@staradvertiser.com

The award-winning group ManoaDNA will perform at noon Sunday. --Courtesy photo

The award-winning group ManoaDNA will perform at noon Sunday. --Courtesy photo


9 a.m.

Sunset Strummers: seniors group from California.

Chocolele: Taiwan insrumental group.

Yuji Igarashi & Kolohe Imamura: from Japan.

Paul Tupou: quick-strum artist from New Zealand.

Keiki Ukulele: from Japan.

10 a.m.

Bambell Ukest.ra: large Korean ensemble

Hiram Bell & The HUI: former Hawaii resident brings students from Bay Area. Taiwan Ukulele Club.

Kalei Gamiao: Versatile young local virtuoso.

Lealea Ukulele Garden with Pua Malina: from Japan.

11 a.m.

2012 scholarships.

Boo Takagi: Member of Japanese comedy group The Drifters, known for its 40-seconds-long opening set at the Beatles’ 1966 Tokyo appearance.

Nick Acosta and Tamlyn Tamura: Acosta, 14, was born with one arm but has become a virtuoso.


Herb Ohta Jr.: son of legendary artist has own sweet sound

Ohta-San and Nando Suan: master performs with longtime guitarist partner.

Manoa DNA: Award-winning family trio.

1:30 p.m.

James Ingram: Grammy award-winning R ‘n’ B artist.

2 p.m.

Ukastle Ukestra: Australian uke orchestra.

Aidan James: At age 10, recorded a video of “Hey Soul Sister” that now has 15 million hits on Youtube.

Derick Sebastian: Maui artist.

Kalama Intermediate School: a Maui school.

Adrien Janiak: French artist plays on “eleuke,” an electrified uke

3 p.m.

Singto Numchok: winner of Thailand’s first ukulele contest.

3:30 p.m.

Finale performance.

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