The ukulele isn't a native or ancient instrument: it started with Portuguese immigrants to Hawaii in the late 19th century. The largest wave of Portuguese immigration lasted about 30 years, and 11,000 Portuguese immigrants would arrive in its first decade.
The ukulele is not a direct descendant of any particular instrument; rather it is a hybrid, most likely of the machete and the five-string rajão. These instruments are all in a family of small guitar-like instruments dating from the 18th century. These and similar forms are still popular throughout Latin America, Spain and Portugal. These and other European instruments were originally imported into Hawaii by the immigrants, and continued to be imported through the late 19th century, even after local makers started building their own.
Manuel NunesManuel Nunes, Joao Fernandes, Augusto Dias and Jose do Espirito Santo all arrived from Portugal in Hawaii on the Ravenscrag, in 1879, along with 400-plus other immigrants, to work the sugar cane fields.
Fernandes allegedly surprised and delighted the dockside natives by playing tunes on a small stringed instrument. This has been variously identified as a Portuguese braguinha (a nickname for a Portuguese instrument also known as the cavaquinho), or a small four-stringed Madeiran guitar called a machete (from the Portuguese-owned Madeira islands, sometimes called a machete de Braga after the city and district in northern Portugal where the instrument originated), and even described as both a rajão, a small, five-stringed Portuguese instrument.
Keep an eye out for the next installment of Ukulele History Part 2
Thank you geocities.com/ukulele