Hawaii ukulele makers to celebrate the instrument’s roots in Portugal

Hawaii ukulele makers to celebrate the instrument’s roots in Portugal
Joe and Kristen Souza, and their three sons Kaimana, Iokepa and Kahiau have been invited to perform in Portugal. The ukulele festival in Madeira will celebrate the first wave of Portuguese citizens to immigrate to Hawaii.

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Joe Souza and his wife, Kristen, own Kanile’a Ukulele.

The sound of Hawaii will be heard in Portugal at an upcoming Ukulele festival
Joe Souza started Kanile'a Ukulele 21 years ago. His instruments are played by musicians all over the world.
Joe Souza started Kanile'a Ukulele 21 years ago. His instruments are played by musicians all over the world.

The family’s relatives were some of the first Portuguese to immigrate to Hawaii 140 years ago.

“What they brought with them was this mini guitar or as my grandmother from Portugal called it a machete de braga, which basically translates to a small guitar from Braga,” Souza said.

The instrument provided inspiration for the crafting of the ukulele.

Because of his Portuguese-Hawaiian heritage and the family’s ukulele expertise, the Souzas have been invited by the government of Portugal to perform in an ukulele festival on the island of Madeira next month.

They’ll also take part in a week-long cultural celebration there that recognizes that country’s ties to Hawaii.

“They’re focused on how the instruments from Portugal ― the rahul and the machete braga ― influenced the creation of the ukulele,” Kristen Souza said.

Joe Souza has been designing and building ukulele for 21 years.

The Kanile'a brand is known worldwide and is the instrument of choice for many musicians.

“That’s what we’re building ― these one-of-a-kind playable masterpieces that will be appreciated for years to come,” Joe Souza said.

He's anxious to swap stories with instrument makers in Portugal.

While preparing for the trip, the Souzas have learned a lot about their family tree, and how their relatives made the long journey to Hawaii.

“They’re going to arrange, when we’re in Portugal, to meet many of our family members while we’re there, and see the sites of birth and burial. They’re going to take us on a full tour. It’s going to be amazing!” Kristen Souza said.

“To know who our cousins are, to know my geneology and what’s taking place there in Portugal is really exciting for me,” added Joe Souza.

After Portugal, the Souzas will also perform at ukulele festivals in Brussels, Berlin and London.

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