ORIGINS: The Tahitian 8 string Ukulele is a variation of the Hawaiian ukulele, which was adapted from the portugese cavaquinho or braguinha. Tahitian ukuleles or banjos were developed in Tahiti and gradually spread to other parts of Polynesia. In different parts of the Pacific they also go by different names such as "Polynesian" ukes, "Island" ukes or just "Ukarere"
MUSIC: With 8 strings and slightly different tuning from Hawaiian ukes, the sound produced is higher and usually played with faster strumming patterns to suit the rhythms of eastern polynesian music. Just as there is some variation in the music and culture of Polynesia, there is also some variation in the way the uke is played from island to island. For example in the Cook Islands, uke strumming patterns are similar to traditional drumming patterns where you get a kind of a layering or echoing effect especially when 2 or more ukes are played together in a string band.
The uke has become an icon of pacific island music, culture and life. Whenever friends and family get together it's always a good excuse to break out the ukes or guitars and start singing and partying. You can also see Tahitian ukes being played at cultural festivals, resorts and restaurants all around the pacific.
CONSTRUCTION: Ukes are hand-crafted from different types of local timber and fishing line gauges producing differences in sound and resonance quality. The body—including the head and neck—is usually carved from a single piece of wood. A wide conical hole is bored through the middle to form the soundbox. The hole at the front is covered with a thin piece of wood to form the soundboard, on which the bridge sits. The main sound hole is on the back. Strings are made from nylon fishing line. Anything from 10-30kg gauge line will do the damage depending on your uke, sound and playing preference. (click here for more details on construction).
They are built generally around 75cm or 30" in length and take on a variety of shapes ranging from simple coconut shells to marine life symbols like fish, sharks, rays, turtles etc. They can also come with traditional designs etched in and may include paua or mother of pearl inlay dots on the frets. Not only do they sound mean but theyre also precious works of art, which is why a lot of them end up as souvenirs just hanging on peoples walls. Check out some photos.