Portuguese Immigrants in the United States

Portuguese Instruments in the United States

A group of men from Madeira arrived in Hawaii in 1879 and brought with them their instruments, among them the braguinha, also known as the machete or cavaquinho, a small four-stringed guitar, which gained the name ukelele, meaning "jumping flea" in Hawaiian. It was manufactured by Augusto Dias, Manuel Nunes, and José de Espírito Santo, also known as Zé Santos. It was either Nunes or his son who later manufactured ukeleles in California, thus spreading their popularity in the continental United States. The steel guitar was also the result of these men's importation: according to Pap, the Portuguese six-stringed guitar, called the viola, strummed by a boy with a pocketknife, was the origin of the steel guitar. The five-stringed rajão also became popular in Hawaii, where it would be played by workers in taro patches when they were allowed breaks from work. Thus it became known as the taro patch fiddle.


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Comments: Ask a Librarian ( July 15, 2010 )
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