The ukulele is the quintessential Hawaiian musical instrument. This is a traditional model that looks a lot like the guitar. Now, we can say that the ukulele has clearly exceeded its original borders to conquer the whole world, especially in the United States, France and particularly in Tahiti where it is fully part of the local culture. But what are the actual origins of the ukulele? And above all, how do the Tahitian and Hawaiian ukuleles differ? Discover in this article the answer to all your questions.
the differences between the tahitian and hawaiian ukulele
Unlike the Hawaiian ukulele with four strings which is the most common and which we see almost every day, the Tahitian ukulele is still little known to the general public. Simply put, it's a short-necked fretted lute with four or eight nylon strings. Having originated in Tahiti, this instrument is generally played in almost all regions of Polynesia. It is a variation of the Hawaiian ukulele, so to speak, except that the latter has a higher sound with a slimmer shape and an open back. The strings of the Tahitian ukulele notably agree on a higher octave than the Hawaiian ukulele. Its strings are made of fishing line, mostly green in color. Whereas the Hawaiian ukulele is designed with nylon strings to give lower tones.
Compared to the Hawaiian ukulele, the Tahitian model also does not have a sound box. Its body is carved from a single wood, with a large conical hole drilled in the middle. This is more particularly surmounted by a thin piece of wood where the bridge is located. The Tahitian ukulele is thus used as a wooden banjo, hence its nickname: Tahitian banjo. On the other hand, the Hawaiian ukulele is made using a koa wood to keep both their originality and their culture.
From a historical point of view, the Tahitian ukulele is a more recent variant than the Hawaiian ukulele. The Tahitian ukulele is popular in the 5 archipelagos of French Polynesia (Austral Islands, Marquesas, Tuamotu-Gambier, the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands including Tahiti of course!). They are also found in Samoa, Easter Island and the Cook Islands.