One of the greatest things about the annual NAMM Show is meeting up with friends new and old. It is such a joy to connect and catch up with these folks. A couple years ago I had the opportunity to meet Joe Souza and his wife Kristen. One of the enduring things about people from Hawaii is the true spirit of aloha. Joe, Kristen and the rest of the crew represent this in the best possible way. At this year’s show i had a chance to catch up with Joe to see what’s new with Kanile’a.
With the ukulele being voted as the most popular instrument over the past few years, the growth and innovation continues with this simple, but amazing instrument. If you don’t know it already, I have a great fondness for this instrument. There is something so basic and pure in it’s voice. It’s style. It’s ability to meld into just about any style. I love picking and strumming simple praise and worship music with it as I’ve been trying to learn to play. That simplicity…for me…brings it all together with a focus on what is important. Did anyone else see that squirrel…sorry, got distracted there. As a side note, there will be more about ukes coming soon!
So back to the cool stuff…Kanile’a, a Hawaiian word meaning Joyous Sound, has built a great reputation over the years as one of the finest Hawaiian builders of ukuleles. This year Joe highlighted a couple of new things that are very cool. First off is the new notched cutaway (pictured and played below). This new instrument provides easier access to the higher frets in a notable different way than your typical cutaway. To me, I really like to the style and when chatting with players who are much more talented than I, they seem to like it too. By the way, I think you will also really like the slot headstock. It gives the uke’ a great, classic look.
Next up is the long-neck tenor. This extended neck tenor provides much more room to play in the upper frets, resulting in an action much more usable to many players. Joe can be seen holding one below.
The last thing I wanted to take note on is the new UV protective satin finish. I have become a huge fan of satin or no-gloss finishes. I think it really shows the beauty of the amazing woods used in the ukuleles. It is also said that the absolute purest sound can be had by using an unfinished wood. With this not being practical at all, the UV Satin is a nice compromise allowing the wood to resonate and provide protection at the same time. Read more about that finish here
So, this might be the time when some of you are thinking this all sounds good, but what do they sound like? Rather than me trying to explain it all from a rank amateur player’s perspective why don’t you listen to the one and only Troy Fernandez playing Hawaiian Superman on the notch cutaway model. Troy formed the Kaʻau Crater Boys with Ernie Cruz Jr. on the guitar in the early 90’s and has released several solo records as well. I’ve had a chance to watch him play a few times and I’m always inspired to try and get better.