The Ukulele ... said to mean "jumping flea" in Hawaiian.
The instrument, introduced to the Hawaiian islands by Portuguese immigrants in the 19th century, is undergoing a renaissance. According to a Time Magazine article Hohner Inc., which manufactures the Lanikai brand of ukuleles, saw sales shoot up 300% in 2010.
Why the sudden popularity? Well Hohner's research shows that during the Great Depression, only two instruments showed year-on-year increases in sales: the harmonica and the ukulele, both cheap, compact and easy to learn. History is repeating itself!
Forget everything you know about the ukulele — there, that was easy — and go do a quick Google search. The first video that pops up won't be some grainy clip of Tiny Tim or George Formby but a performance by a hair-gelled 34-year-old Hawaiian named Jake Shimabukuro. In 2006, the ukulele virtuoso's jaw-dropping rendition of the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" hit YouTube and went viral, pulling in more than 7 million viewers.
I even noticed a poster for a Ukulele Orchestra in my local stationery store! I don't have one but one of the savages here on the Island does ... maybe I should give it a go!