The ukulele has been enjoying a new wave of popularity over the last fifteen years, showing up in movies and television shows and even on stage and stadium concerts. There are ukuleles being made by dozens of instrument makers throughout the world. You can easily find lots of mass-produced ukuleles that sound great, but there’s just something special about owning one of the ukuleles made in Hawaii. These instruments come with a rich heritage of Hawaiian culture and are highly desirable because of their immaculate builds and beautiful tonewoods.
Do you have a ukulele made in Hawaii on your UAS (ukulele acquisition syndrome) bingo card? Let’s take a look at some of the great ukuleles made in Hawaii.
Ukuleles Made In Hawaii
These ukuleles have been made in Hawaii since the mid-1990s. They are known around the world for their meticulous builds and their incredible sound. Made on the island of Oahu, these ukuleles are favored by artists like Daniel Ho and Herb Ohata, Jr.
Koaloha ukuleles have a unique tone that suits many different types of music. Whether you love to play jazz standards, or just the good old island strum, these instruments are an amazing investment in craftsmanship and tone.
Joe Souza, the founder of Kanile’a Ukulele, spent his whole life playing the ukulele with friends and family. While working as a fire fighter, Joe had the good fortune to also be an apprentice luthier, and in 1990, the Kanile’a Ukulele company was born in his garage.
Kanile’a ukuleles have a unique feature: a slightly rounded fretboard that some players say better accommodates the shape of a finger, making it easier and more comfortable to play up the neck of a ukulele. In addition to their rounded fretboards, they have also consistently been innovators in ukulele design and comfort, creating the first tenor sized pineapple ukulele and introducing a more comfortable bezel armrest.
You can feel good about buying a Kanile’a ukulele, because for every instrument sold, they plant a Koa tree to help repopulate native Hawaiian forests.
Kamaka Ukulele is one of the oldest ukulele makers in Hawaii; started over a hundred years ago in 1916 in the basement of founder Samuel Kaialiilii’s home in Kaimuki. In the mid-1920s, he came up with the very first pineapple-shaped ukulele, which quickly became a popular and distinctive shape for ukuleles. Even the name “Kamaka” in Hawaiian means “the eye” or “the vision”, and it’s certainly apparent that the family-owned Kamaka company has perfected that vision of creating beautiful heirloom-quality ukuleles.
Today, after more than a hundred years, the Kamaka Ukulele company continues to make a full line of ukuleles in different sizes, shapes, and string configurations. Kamaka ukulele makers pride themselves on their quality builds and beautiful tonewoods.
Kamaka ukuleles have found their way into the hands of major celebrities and musicians, including George Harrison, Tom Selleck, and even Adam Sandler. (A fun fact from Kamaka’s website: the 6-string ukulele that Adam Sandler played in the movie “Fifty First Dates” was a custom-made Kamaka, made to Sandler’s specifications, just for that movie!)
Among all the other things that make Kamaka ukuleles so desirable is that they allow the koa wood they select to naturally age for four years instead of kiln-drying the wood. This gives the Kamaka ukuleles an incredibly rich tone with superior projection.
Why Should You Buy a Ukulele Made in Hawaii?
Every ukulele player should know the history of the ukulele: these wonderful little instruments were brought to Hawaii by Portuguese immigrants who arrived to work on the plantations there and roamed the streets at night playing music for everyone. Over the years, the ukulele has become the joyfully adopted symbol of Hawaii and was even used to express their cultural pride during the tumultuous years of transition to U.S. territory from independent kingdom.
But why should you buy a ukulele made in Hawaii? Here are my three top reasons:
- Quality. You probably could find a quality ukulele built somewhere else, but when you’re buying one of the big three K’s of ukuleles, you can be assured that you are getting the best quality build. These aren’t just mass produced or factory produced instruments – these are built one at a time, mostly by hand, by builders who are serious about the craft of ukulele making.
- Heritage. These ukuleles are still made at the place where the ukulele was created in 1879. Call me crazy, but for a history buff like me, there’s something very special about having an instrument built in the same place where it was originally created. It makes me feel more connected to the past and gives me a sense of being a part of something bigger than myself.
- Support a Small Business. When you buy one of these ukuleles made in Hawaii, you’re supporting small businesses that employ real people and do good things like planting trees in native Hawaiian forests. These businesses are more sustainable and really take care of their people, and for me, that’s all the more reason to buy a ukulele from them.
How to Care for Your Ukulele Made in Hawaii
These ukuleles made in Hawaii are made with solid wood, so make sure you take care of your new instrument accordingly. A couple of things to consider when thinking about how you’ll care for your ukulele:
- You’ll want to make sure you have a hard shell case to store your ukulele when taking it on the road to gigs and your local ukulele jam. If your new ukulele made in Hawaii doesn’t include a hard case, it’s worth it to purchase one separately to protect your instrument from bumps and dings.
- A humidifier is another ukulele accessory you’ll need to have. Many of these ukuleles are covered under a manufacturer’s warranty, but only if you have the proper humidifier to protect the wood. These are easy to use and can be used with the hard shell case.
- Polishing cloths are a nice accessory to have for your new ukulele to keep it dust-free and looking like it just came off the line at the workshop!
Are you ready to invest in the ukulele of a lifetime? Check out all the options for you at the Terry Carter Music Store. There are hundreds of gorgeous ukuleles made in Hawaii just waiting for you! We can help you find your perfect dream uke and bring it right to your door. Head on over to the Terry Carter Music Store and start browsing all of the amazing Hawaiian-made ukuleles available today!