6 Best Ukulele Albums You Must Check Out

There is no doubt that the ukulele sounds put smiles on many people’s faces. The instrument is synonymous with Hawaiian music, and when you hear a uke, you can almost hear the waves crashing and the birds chirping.

Ukulele songs first gained popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, and it has continued to capture the hearts of millions of people ever since, evoking many smiles and good memories.

So whether you’re a die-hard ukulele enthusiast or just getting started with the instrument, there are some essential albums and performers to check out to get a feel for this vital cultural sound.

Here on this list is six albums necessary for a ukulele-driven sonic journey!

1. “Facing Future” by Israel Kamakawino’ole

Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwoole was a Hawaiian singer and activist who personified the phrase “gentle giant,” and no ukulele music collection is complete without this record.

“Facing Future” is a journey from beginning to end about the beauty of Hawaii and how to look to the future and evolve without losing what makes the past and cultural history so beautiful.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” one of his most famous and well-known ukulele songs, has become one of the most popular and well-known ukulele songs of all time.

So it’s no surprise that this song has stood the test of time, cementing Kamakawiwole’s status as a musical icon and legend, thanks to his soothing voice, soothing melodies, and happy lyrics.

This record is a lot more than just a house for a one-hit-wonder. It’s one of the most well-known and successful Hawaiian records of all time. There are other beautiful songs on the record, such as the “Ka Put U’i,” “Ama’ama,” and “Hawai’i ’78.”

Then, of course, if you want to keep listening, there’s always the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” medley to bring even more smiles to your face.

2. “The Greatest Day” by Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro is, without a doubt, the best ukulele player in the world. He performs a broad repertoire of jazz, blues, funk, classical, bluegrass, folk, flamenco, rock, and traditional Hawaiian music.

Shimabukuro is also known for his lightning-fast fingers and groundbreaking playing skills. His musicality has helped the ukulele reach mainstream acclaim, and he shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

In 2018, the maestro followed up his “Nashville Sessions” with “The Greatest Day,” which features the same producer and rhythm section as his previous record. This is considered a good step forward for the 45-year-old Hawaiian megastar.

Shimabukuro demonstrates his versatility and originality on the ukulele once again on his 2018 widely acclaimed album “The Greatest Day.” He sings harmonic melodies with jazzy rock elements and excellent chords.

On the Billboard world music charts, the album reached number six. The tracks are all unique and well-crafted. His mastery of the ukulele is unrivaled. It’s worth more than a cursory glance, mainly because it has something for everyone.

Here’s a video of Jake playing some music from this album:

3. “Hawaiian String Virtuoso” by King Bennie Nawahi

Benny Nawahi was a virtuoso on steel guitar and ukulele, bold and unrivaled. “Tickling the Strings,” “Hawaiian Capers,” and “Honolulu Bound,” among the highlights of Hawaiian String Virtuoso, are unrivaled for sheer picking fury. And his album “Hawaiian String Virtuoso” is an absolute classic.

“Hawaiian String Virtuoso” is an excellent introduction to the world of ukulele music for newcomers. This record is still relevant and a must-have for anyone wishing to listen to the best ukulele music, even after nearly a century.

Nawahi represents how Hawaiian musicians attempted to capitalize on the mainland’s interest in Island music by incorporating swing elements into their piece. He’s also known for his work as an accompaniment in country music and the wacky “novelty jazz” style of the late 1920s.

On a few songs, his furious ukulele is featured on crazily swinging numbers. His presence is akin to that of a genuine blue vaudeville performer.

4. “Ukulele Songs” by Eddie Vedder

Few people have the courage or boldness to create an album that comprises mainly their voice and a ukulele. But since Eddie Vader has helped shape the grunge movement of the ’90s, he has courage and boldness to spare.

“Ukulele songs” nicely highlight his vocals and reveal a side of the songwriter not typically seen in Pearl Jam’s musical repertoire. Vedder removes his harsh, aggressive persona on “Ukulele Songs,” revealing a more romantic side of himself.

The Pearl Jam frontman sings and records love songs in a very stripped-down selection. The announcement of this album might have raised a few eyebrows, but Vedder’s vocals backed by the simple melody of the ukulele works like a charm.

As the title suggests, the CD has 16 tracks of Vedder pawing the little four-stringed Hawaiian instrument and warbling love melodies. These songs are armed with a sweet charm and come off as casual and disarmingly unaffected. Despite this, it retains its unique identity among the other titans in the uke world.

5. “Guava Jam” by The Sunday Manoa

“Guava Jam” is the epitome of the resurgence of Hawaiian folk music. It’s considered one of the landmark records of Hawaii’s second Renaissance in the 1970s. Moreover, it aided in the revival of Hawaiian pride, especially in the face of a profound, systemic history based on colonization that the islands are still unraveling today.

Certainly, The Sunday Manoa’s trio knew the impact of “Guava Jam,” though it wasn’t quite known at the time of its release. Peter Moon once described their 1969 record as “enhancing the flavor of old with the influences of today.”

Sunday Manoa’s harmonies merged so beautifully, but the stark difference of musicianship, song selection, and the manner Sunday Manoa’s harmonies mixed so well were not quite an instant smash at the time of its release. It was believed that this was a too daring step in creating these tunes at the time.

The Sunday Manoa launched Moon’s career, and he went on to form the Peter Moon Band, which was also a commercial success. Moon’s knowledge of the importance and adaptability of this small instrument began with this record.

Its prowess is exemplified through the song “Kawika.” Overall, Guava Jam is an excellent ukulele album and certainly one of Moon’s greatest legacies.

6. “Sons of Hawaii” by The Folk Music of Hawaii

“Sons of Hawaii” revolutionized traditional Hawaiian folk music when it first burst into the scene in 1959. The record brought cutting-edge music that helped define the music of the 1960s and beyond. It compounds the traditional Hawaiian sound with swing, jazz, and Latin elements.

The significance of this album, this group, and its leader, artist Eddie Kamae, cannot be overstated. Kamae’s celebration of Hawaiian traditional music was nothing short of revolutionary, thanks to his acclaimed bandmates, including ukulele legend Moe Keale and slack-key guitar legend Gabby Pahinui.

Kamae, a skilled and famous musician, went to the countryside in the mid-’60s to acquire the songs and language of Island old-timers, then released this record in 1971 to a wider audience. A ukulele-fueled revolution has never sounded so lovely, harmonious, and proud of its island roots, and the record continues to have a big influence today.

Wrapping Up

Though there is ample space in the ukulele album market, it is undoubtedly a treasure trove of gems. These artists’ records have blessed the industry with are infallible, specific classics that have something for everybody. Truly, each track in each album highlights the versatility and class of the ukulele, a gift that needs to be shared with the world.