machete (de rajão)

taro patch (fiddle)



Guitar-like musical instrument from the island of Madeira with five steel strings and reentrant tuning in D4-G4-C4-E4-A4. Dropping the D string results in exactly the standard tuning of the Hawaiian ukulele, which is why the Rajão is one of the two direct precursors of the ukulele next to the braguinha. However, the Rajão is larger than the soprano; its scale length is 42–44 cm, which is within the range of the tenor.

Taro patch

The name taro patch given to this instrument on Hawaii is derogatory. Taro ( kalo) is a starchy Southeast Asian crop that is used in Hawaii to make the traditional staple poi paste. It was grown on small-scale wet patches that lay on hills and included a sophisticated irrigation system. The native name for these fields is lo'i. In the 19th century, white visitors described the Hawaiians contemptuously as lazy and decadent:

The natives are lazy, shiftless fellows, content with taro patch, mat, and poi. 1)

Thus, the name taro patch fiddle came up as a generic term for those instruments (especially the Rajão), which the (male) Hawaiians played while „doing nothing“ (from the perspective of the whites) on their taro patches.


Ukulele Friend: Rajao (ca. 1890)

„The Last of the Hawaiians.“ In: The Globe 12.8.1879 – 11 days before the arrival of the Portuguese from Madeira with Rajão and Braguinha in Hawaii.