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In 1879, Portuguese immigrants from the island of Madeira arrived in Honolulu to work in the sugar cane fields. To celebrate their arrival, they played folk songs on small four-stringed instruments called machete de bragas, more commonly known as machetes. The instrument was immediately popular with the Hawaiians. In response to demand, Portuguese cabinet makers who had traveled to Hawaii with the group opened up instrument shops and were producing machetes for sale by 1886.

Cabinet makers Augusto Dias, Manuel Nunes, and Jose de Espirito Santo redesigned the machete for the Hawaiians to make it easier to play. They also constructed the instruments from koa wood, which is native to Hawaii. The Hawaiians renamed the instrument "ukulele" which means jumping flea. Hawaiian King David Kalakaua... Read more

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