Hardback: $45.00
ISBN-13: 9780824835446
Published: May 2012
Paperback: $20.99
ISBN-13: 9780824836344
Published: May 2012
296 pages | 62 illus.

The ‘Ukulele: A History

  • About the Book
  • Since its introduction to Hawai‘i in 1879, the ‘ukulele has been many things: a symbol of an island paradise; a tool of political protest; an instrument central to a rich musical culture; a musical joke; a highly sought-after collectible; a cheap airport souvenir; a lucrative industry; and the product of a remarkable synthesis of western and Pacific cultures. The ‘Ukulele: A History explores all of these facets, placing the instrument for the first time in a broad historical, cultural, and musical context.

    Drawing on a wealth of previously untapped sources, Jim Tranquada and John King tell the surprising story of how an obscure four-string folk guitar from Portugal became the national instrument of Hawai’i, of its subsequent rise and fall from international cultural phenomenon to “the Dangerfield of instruments,” and of the resurgence in popularity (and respect) it is currently enjoying among musicians from Thailand to Finland. The book shows how the technologies of successive generations (recorded music, radio, television, the Internet) have played critical roles in popularizing the ‘ukulele. Famous composers and entertainers (Queen Liliuokalani, Irving Berlin, Arthur Godfrey, Paul McCartney, SpongeBob SquarePants) and writers (Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, P. G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie) wind their way through its history—as well as a host of outstanding Hawaiian musicians (Ernest Kaai, George Kia Nahaolelua, Samuel K. Kamakaia, Henry A. Peelua Bishaw). In telling the story of the ‘ukulele, Tranquada and King also present a sweeping history of modern Hawaiian music that spans more than two centuries, beginning with the introduction of western melody and harmony by missionaries to the Hawaiian music renaissance of the 1970s and 1980s.

  • About the Authors
    • A former newspaper reporter, Jim Tranquada is director of communications for Occidental College in Los Angeles. He is a great-great grandson of ‘ukulele pioneer Augusto Dias.
    • The late John King was widely acknowledged as one of the modern masters of the ‘ukulele. He taught guitar at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, was a contributor to Soundboard, the journal of the Guitar Foundation of America, and is the author of The Hawaiian ‘Ukulele and Guitar Makers: 1884–1930.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • If any recent work is a labor of love, this is it. The authors clearly have a great fondness for the ‘ukulele, and they have written a cultural history of an instrument of which probably few historians. . .had previous knowledge. They demonstrate decisively that there is a lot more to the 'ukulele than one could possibly have imagined, and an inquiry into its past reveals much about political, economic, and cultural trends in Hawai'i and its often troubled relationship with the mainland. . . .[T]here is much to admire in a book that gives the ‘ukulele its proper due and thereby makes a fine contribution to cultural history.
      Pacific Historical Review
    • [T]he ‘ukulele is presented in its many historical and social contexts, and given unprecedented historical depth that is by turns both wryly amusing and genuinely inspiring. . . . This book is a remarkable tribute to the scholarship and musicological drive of the two authors, and to the determination of Tranquada in ensuring the book reached publication.
      Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies
    • This is the outstanding scholarly work on the history of the ukulele. The result of seven years' research and study, it is painstakingly notated and sourced.
      The Ukulele Handbook by Gavin Pretor-Pinney and Tom Hodgkinson
    • For ‘ukulele enthusiasts, [this book] is a must read.
    • A fascinating muscial and social history that not only supports Tranquada and King’s argument for a rehabilitation of the instrument’s image, but also sets the stage for a full-scale ‘ukulele revival.
    • Those unfamiliar with the history of the instrument will learn a tremendous amount here. . . . Though neither author is an academic, their scholarship is impressive. They include 85 pages of appendixes and footnotes to satisfy more ambitious fans. Verdict: The book’s chapters make for quick, enjoyable reading for a general audience. Recommended for any comprehensive music collection (and, really, for any popular music collection).
      Library Journal Xpress Reviews
    • A finely crafted, academically researched history of the ‘ukulele. . . . Tranquada and King succeed in providing further proof that the ‘ukulele’s place in music and pop culture history will stand the test of time.
    • Context Finally! . . . Thought Provoking . . . Great Pictures . . . Well Researched. . . If you care about the history of the ukulele you have to buy [this book]. It’s the definitive book on the subject. There’s no other book that comes close to it.
      Uke Hunt
    • Here, at last, is the complete story of the ‘ukulele. Thanks to the authors’ years of tireless research, the instrument’s incredible journey is brought vividly to life. This book is a labor of love and a gift of enduring scholarship.
      Jim Beloff, author of The ‘Ukulele: A Visual History
    • The ‘ukulele has a rich and lively history, and this book tells it all. For ‘ukulele fans—and fans of popular Hawaiian music in general—this is a must-read.
      Roy Sakuma, founder of Roy Sakuma Studios and ‘Ukulele Festival Hawai‘i
    • The ‘ukulele has served as one of Hawai‘i's pop culture icons for decades and with this history, Tranquada and King finally give it the academic and intellectual attention it so justly deserves.
      Aaron J. Salā, musician and song writer, Nā Hōkū Hanohano award winner
    • The authors have produced the most thoroughly documented history of the ‘ukulele.
      Byron K. Yasui, professor emeritus, Department of Music, University of Hawai‘i
  • Subject Areas