Article: 5 Famous Ukulele Players You Should Know


Many people know that the ukulele is a popular instrument in the Hawaiian culture. However, this humble instrument has become increasingly popular with other global cultures. Although it is mainly used as an accompanying instrument, its resurgence has allowed players to stretch the possibilities, with many now using the uke as a solo instrument.

The ukulele has great musical appeal because compared to other instruments such as guitars; it is possible to get a decent and quality ukulele for a decent price. As a four-stringed instrument, it is also relatively easier to learn how to play the ukulele, especially with continued time and effort.

Playing the ukulele is fast becoming a global trend, and although it is now on the radar for the public audience, it has a long history in Europe that dates back to the 18th century. Hawaiian communities started reproducing these small instruments after the Portuguese introduced them in the islands. By the start of the 20th century, the ukulele had become firmly established as their main instrument.

The uke started to move from a Hawaiian novelty at the start of the 30s, and thanks to ukulele players like Cliff Edwards, aka Ukulele Ike, the instrument started to gain considerable popularity. Musicians started playing the uke in indie and rock music, helping to contribute to its growth. To help you appreciate the growth of the ukulele, here are the best 5 famous ukulele players of all time (in no particular order):

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, the late Hawaiian musical legend is best known for his world famous ukulele backed version of Over the Rainbow. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole passed away at a young age in 1997 but as the decades pass, his legacy continues to grow stronger. His recordings, many of which feature the ukulele, are featured regularly in countless TV series and films.

Jesse Kaleihia Andre Kalima

Jesse Kaleihia was born and lived in Honolulu for most of his life where he learned how to dance the hula, as well as play ukulele at the age of 6. By the time he was 15; Jesse had become popular with the locals, which allowed him to form a group known as the Kalima Brothers. Jesse and the group made a significant contribution to the ukulele movement at a time when the instrument had not yet been fully recognized for its capacity to serve as a solo instrument.

Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro is a ukulele player and sensation who gained fame years ago after his performance went viral on YouTube. Best known for his impressive capability and innovative approach to the ukulele, he is often compared to musical geniuses such as Miles Davis. His ability to play the ukulele with super fast speed has allowed him to put unique twists to well-known classics such as Bohemian Rhapsody. While he is mainly known for his renditions and covers, he is also an accomplished composer and collaborator that is revered by both young and veteran players.

Eddie Kamae

Eddie Kamae is a famous ukulele player, composer, singer, and popular film producer. He is also a founding member of the group Sons of Hawaii and was one of Hawaii’s greatest ukulele players. He experimented on a regular basis with many ukulele techniques, which stretched the ukulele to its highest potential. Classified as a true ukulele expert, Kamae’s playing ranged from tender finger picking to fast strumming. His performances, all through, were simply captivating helping to usher in a new breed of ukulele players.

Aidan James

Aidan James hails from the Aloha State – Hawaii; a place steeped in the traditions of its culture, dance, and music. Although the ukulele is most known for its Hawaiian tradition, Aidan has taken it to a different level, streamlining its unique sound into pop, rock and folk music. Add in his warm vocals, a loop station, and effect pedals, this young phenom has created his own artistry taking it beyond the islands, inspiring audiences of all ages around the world.

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