Hawaii falls short of ukulele world record


1,296 ukulele players showed up in “Go For Da Record … Hana Hou,” but was unable to break the world record set at 1,547 in Sweden last year.


About 1,560 chairs were laid across the Blaisdell Arena floor. Each one of them was needed to be filled in order to break the world record for the largest ukulele ensemble.  When the event volunteers ushered the crowd to their seats, it was clear that the empty chairs would hurt the ensemble’s chances in achieving its goal.

This proved to be true when an official count by a representative of the Guinness World Records listed down only 1,296 ukelele players. It was 252 people short as the second attempt of the Music Foundation to beat the record through a fundraising event fell short once again.

Aptly named “Go For Da Record … Hana Hou,” the event aimed to gather at least 1,548 ukulele players last Saturday, April 28. The current record was set when 1,547 ukulele players gathered in Helsingborg, Sweden, on Aug. 20, 2011. To beat the record, not only are the ukulele players counted, but they also have to play a song for five minutes in unison.

“Although this was disappointing, I told all my volunteers that it really is truly about what we are doing,” Music Foundation founder Leo Daquioag told the audience after the announcement that they were not able to break the record. “We’re getting together, playing ukulele, we’re having a good time.”

By 7:30 p.m., all 1296 ukulele players  strummed to the tune of “1-2-3 Hana Hou.”  The song originally had no lyrics but the students of Iliahi Elementary School took initiative in providing words to it. This was the same song they used last year during their first attempt at the record.

In October, the Music Foundation held the first “Go For Da Record” fundraising event to raise funds for the affected people of Japan during the natural disasters that occurred last year. Only about 1,000 ukulele players came to that event and failed to break Sweden’s achievement two months prior.

Both years featured performances from different well-known ukulele players. Oahu native and famous ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro not only performed for the audience, he was the composer of “1-2-3 Hana Hou.” Shimabukuro taught the song to those unfamiliar with it before the official attempt at the record.

This year, he was joined by fellow ukulele sensations Aldrine Guerrero and Sungha Jung. Jung flew from Korea to Honolulu for this particular occasion. The three of them were the last performers of the day, which included Chris Salvador, Kalei Gamiao and Taimani Gardnet who are well-known ukulele players.

“There are so many talented musicians who graced the stage, each with their own style and virtuosity and it was a pleasure to see each one of them perform,” said CUH freshman Joshua Tom, 18, who has been playing the ukulele for five years. “All of the musicians brought their own flavor to the stage, and showed the versatility of the ukulele. Everyone had fun, and they all expressed their love for the ukulele in their musical talent.”

A third attempt is inevitable. Before the host handed the mic over to the performers, he asked the audience who among them would come back again to a third “Go For Da Record” event. Many of the ukulele players raised their instruments and made it known that they will try until they succeed in breaking the world record.

“Although we weren’t successful this time, Jake and I are going to go back to huddle and we are going to talk about doing this a third time,” Daquioag said.

Daquioag told the audience to bring a friend or two so that the next time, the people of Hawaii will surely own the record.

“I will definitely go to the next “Go For Da Record” event,” Tom said. “Hopefully next time, we will accomplish our goal to have the largest ukulele ensemble in the world. Even if we don’t, we know that it was all in good fun and that truly, the ukulele can change the world, one person at a time.”