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French Polynesia Ukelele World Record

In 1951 when the then Chairman of Guinness Brewery, Sir Hugh Beaver, was out hunting game birds, he wondered if the golden plover could be the fastest-moving game bird in Europe.

Unable to find any reference in any book to answer his question Sir Hugh was so intrigued that in 1954 he asked Norris & Ross McWhirter, two well-known sports journalists, to start providing him with facts and figures covering all sorts of activities and endeavors.

It is history that this ultimately led to the compilation of the Guinness Book of Records, the first edition of which appeared in 1955. It went on to become the biggest-selling copyrighted title of all time. By 2003 more than 100,000,000 copies had been sold!

Here’s a salute from a section of those who broke the World Record playing ukuleles, an instrument that comes from the state of Hawaii.


Guinness World Records is compiled to inspire ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Amongst such endeavors is the record of the greatest number of people playing the same song on ukuleles at one time.

In 2011 the record was established in Sweden with 1,547 people playing. In 2012 the record moved to Japan with 2,134 players & prior to yesterday, the record was established in the UK in 2014 with 2,370 players.

The ukulele originated in Hawaii as an adaptation of the Portuguese machete brought to the islands by Portuguese immigrants in the late 1870s. The usually 4 stringed Hawaiian instrument was, in turn adapted by the Tahitians into their version, which differs from the Hawaiian instrument in that it has no sound box.

Instead, it has an open back, a higher-pitched sound, and up to 8 strings made from fishing lines. The instruments are hand-carved to perfection from local woods and the instruments on display at yesterday’s World Record would please any connoisseur. This world record truly belonged to French Polynesia!

Late yesterday afternoon in Tahiti 4792 people, including the county’s President, joined forces with their ukuleles and played Eddie Lund’s famous “Bora Bora” to create a new World Record.

The actual participation approached 7,000 players as around 2,000 players were unable to gain entry to Toata and ultimately played from outside the confines of the site.

The only area taken into consideration in determining the number of participants. It is said that the 3 makers of ukuleles associated with the event sold over $45,000 worth of ukuleles in the 3 weeks leading up to the gathering.

The news spread through the world’s press like a bushfire. The event received substantial coverage in the international press not only in Australian, New Zealand, Fiji & other of Tahiti’s pacific neighbors but also in press as far afield as the United Kingdom & Russia.

Here’s a shot from a Radio NZ report showing Tahiti’s President, a couple of government ministers, one of the country’s deputies in the French Parliament & the Mayor of Papeete all strumming along/

Breaking Ukelele world record

Eddie Lund’s ‘Bora Bora’ follows in it’s original “Tahitian” format, followed by Bora Bora Insider’s translation into English:

Bora Bora Ta’u ‘Ai’a Herehia

‘Una ‘Una Mai Te Poe Rava E

Motu Tapu E ‘Ua Mihi Au Ia ‘Oe

E Te Vahi O Te Anuanua E

Ia Tahiri Mai To ‘Oe Hupe Haumaru E

Na Ni’a Te Moana Ninamu (Te Moana E)

E Hau ‘A Tura Vau To Oe No’ano’a

Bora Bora Ta’u ‘Ai’a Here E

Bora Bora Ta’u ‘Ai’a Here E

Bora Bora, my place, the one I love,

As beautiful as the most precious pearl

Motu Tapu I miss you

The place of the rainbow where the world meets

The freshness of your breeze that gently caresses

Above the gentle wave of blue waters

I smell your perfumed scent

Bora bora, my land, the one I love

Bora Bora, my land, the one I love.

A shot of Motu Tapu – where the rainbow meets the world (a reference for Tahitians to the ability of the world’s people to live harmoniously together irrespective of color, race or creed). Also, another of the gentle wave of blue waters of Bora Bora for those who don’t ‘understand’:


Eddie Lund was himself an interesting character – born in the USA, he first came to Tahiti as a 27 yr old. He would fall immediately in love with the island’s charm & return two years later on a permanent basis. 

Eddie immediately set about learning to read & write both French & Tahitian. A talented & prolific composer his music & band met with immediate success & indeed became legendary.

It is said that at the time, Eddie Lund’s music was the only Tahitian music played in NYC. The Billboard magazine of 30 June 1958 records that Eddie tried to stop the American distribution of his music on the basis that he wanted his music to retain its status as a unique tourist attraction!

That this would be a BIG event was clear, well in advance. Sales of ukuleles had boomed and a one could feel the power of the upcoming gathering in witnessing the explosion in the numbers of people casually carrying their ukuleles around the streets of Papeete.

The ukulele strumming brangues spontaneously broke out across the township days in advance of the get-together. And a ‘get-together’ it truly was – a Polynesian bonding in its truest sense, the bringing together of a country’s people of all ages.

There were players ranging from under 8 to over 80 year of age, from every background, from every corner of French Polynesia, coming together to celebrate as one. Magic!

What an absolutely fabulous event it was – To’ata was packed to the rafters.  A maximum of perhaps 5,000 people can squeeze into To’ata before it bursts at the seams.

All places were taken 24 hrs before the event started & with almost 5,000 inside, another 2,000 with ukuleles in hand waiting outside in case a seat became vacant.

Magnificent floral head & shoulder leis, beautiful mumus & pareos, hand-crafted taupo’o (hats) weaved from pandanus, or those more casually made from niau (coconut leaves). And who could forget the ‘Mexican Waves’ with ukuleles in hand!

A Ukelele Festival had been held in Papeete in the days leading up to the World Record attempt. Two virtuosos from Hawaii – Kris Fuchigami & Aidan James, had been invited to the Festival and they would thrill the crowd in jamming on-stage before the event.

Kris plays Santana like no one else (except Carlos). Aidan at only 13 years of age was a veteran performer since the 20 million views he had on youtube for his interpretation of “Hey Soul Sister” when he was only 8 years old!

Here’s a shot that sets the scene & & I’ll leave you with some video from event organizers La Maison de Culture de Tahiti:

La Maison de Culture de Tahiti