November 2, 2009

People in Uke History: A short discourse on King Kalakaua

In a formation of an idea or the creation of an object there are different ways to observe the progression. Oftentimes people observe formation/creation in a linear fashion, which is understandable when considering our concept of time is often thought of as linear. Other times people observe formation/creation in a tree like fashion (one idea branches off into additional ideas). I am no historian, nor am I any philosopher, but I like to think of ideas as both root and tree diagrams (especially when isolating a single idea/object as the trunk). Certain person have an integral part in legitimizing an idea/object (roots) and then others have an integral part in then advancing that idea/object (branches).

What I am hoping to do here is start an new occasional blog topic, People in Uke History. These posts will not worry about presenting persons or events in chronological order. Moreover these posts will not include all original research done by myself. I will be quoting more often than giving my own dialogue . All I intend with these posts is to bring up different important persons in the history of the ukulele. Another possibility with these posts is some fodder for good conversations.

Now to our subject, King Kalakaua whose reign over the Hawaiian Islands was from 1874-1891 (16 years, 342 days). Many say that his great love of the ukulele made it the symbol of Hawaii and Hawaiian culture. Here is the legacy segment from the page for King Kalakaua.

King Kalākaua earned the nickname "the Merrie Monarch," because of his love of joyful elements of life. This was a reference to the nickname of the pleasure-loving Charles II of England. Under his reign, hula was revived, which had been banned by Queen Ka'ahumanu in the 1830 after converting to Christianity. Today, his name lives on in the Merrie Monarch Festival, a hula festival named in his honor. He is also known to have revived Lua, the Hawaiian martial art, music, and surfing. He commissioning the statue of Kamehameha the Great in front of Aliʻiolani Hale and one that was shipwrecked near the Falkland Islands (eventually recover). Politically he tried to restore the old monarch system in giving more power to the Hawaiian Nobles. He and his brother and sisters were known as the "Royal Fours" for their musical talents. He wrote Hawaii Ponoi, which is the state song of Hawaii today.

In Waikiki, an avenue is named after him, "Kalākaua Avenue"; this is in fact the main avenue of Waikiki taking people from the Ala Wai Canal to the famous Waikiki beach as it continues almost until the Diamond Head crater.

It is said that it was King Kalākaua's ardent support of the then newly-introduced ukulele as a Hawaiian instrument that led to its becoming so symbolic of Hawaii and Hawaiian culture.

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