The ‘Ukulele: A History (University of Hawai’i Press, 2012 : ML1015 U5 T73 2012) was clearly a labour of love for authors Jim Tranquada and influential performer, the late, lamented John King. To date, it is the best presentation of the instrument’s Portuguese-Hawaiian origins, early history, and undulating fortunes in the wake of the initial mania generated by its appearance at the 1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exposition. Included is a generous selection of historical photographs and advertisements supporting the authors’ positions on ukulele history and reception. Collectors and performers will be interested in the two appendices that conclude the main text: Chronological List of Early Hawaiian Luthiers, and Annotated Checklist of Selected ‘Ukulele Methods and Songbooks, 1894-1920. Informative, entertaining and wonderfully documented, the book is only marred by an occasional defensiveness in tone, most pronounced when the text addresses negative public and journalistic perceptions. The modern ukulele revival, now two decades old, is not covered extensively, but the section does introduce several of the movement’s central figures. Here are a few YouTube performances to illustrate the ukulele in a variety of modern stylistic contexts:
- Jake Shimabukuro’s virtuosic take on Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody
- The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain version of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly by Ennio Morricone
- Polka Dots and Moonbeams + Moonlight in Vermont (jazz from Lyle Ritz)
- Gaspar Sanz: Spanish Baroque Suite. From France, this is one of Valéry Sauvage’s many early music adaptations for ukulele
Aloha, malama pono!!