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Play Your Ukulele Day (February 2)

Check out the weird holiday Play Your Ukulele Day on February 2. Learn the history of Play Your Ukulele Day & get ideas on how to celebrate.

One weird holiday on February 2 is Play Your Ukulele Day. Check out the other weird February holidays!

History of Play Your Ukulele Day

Today’s weird holiday is known by several other names: National Play Your Ukulele Day, World Play Your Ukulele Day, and International Play Your Ukulele Day, and World Ukulele Day.

The ukulele – sometimes called a uke – is a four-stringed instument was brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants sometime in the late 1800s. It is modeled after the machete, which is also a four-stringed instrument that comes from the Madeira region of Portugal.

Ukuleles come in different sizes; the larger the instrument, the deeper the tone. The word ukulele means “jumping flea.”

Play Your Ukulele Day has been celebrated since 2011, but its history goes back much further than that.

Ukuleles became popular in Hawaii during the reign of King Kalakaua, who used the ukulele in several different formal ceremonies and official state gatherings.

In 1915, George E. K. Awai and the Royal Hawaiian Quartet came to the United States mainland and performed a concert at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Franciso, CA. This caused the instrument to become extremely popular.

During WWI, the YMCA sent several ukuleles and their music to soldiers who were serving overseas. Ukuleles became increasingly popular, especially for jazz and dancing.

In 1929, the ukulele was introduced to the Japanes when Hawaiian-born Yukihiko Haida played Hawaiian and jazz music at the Moana Glee Club in Tokyo.

For several decades, ukuleles became less popular in mainstream music. It was occasionally used by Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and Tiny Tim – whose 1968 hit “Tiptoe through the Tulips” included ukulele playing.

Then in 2004, Hawaiian native Israel Kamakawiwo’ole compsoed a medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World.” It was played with the ukulele, and quickly reached Number 14 on the Billboard Digital Tracks Chart.

Then in 2011, rock star Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jame released a collection of music tracks that only featured the ukulele called “Ukulele Songs.”

Even though the ukulele originated in Hawaii, is has had profound influence in Canda’s music programs. It’s an inexpensive away to teach music to children and foster music literacy.

For a time, the Doane program – created by J. Chalmers Doane – taught more than 50,000 students to play the ukulele and develop a love of music. While the Doane program is no longer in use, ukuleles are still being played by peopel all over the world.

Ideas for Play Your Ukulele Day

Buy a ukulele and learn how to play it! Here are some resources for you.

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