As a Kanile'a dealer of nearly ten years, and their biggest overseas dealer, our love for Kanile'a Ukuleles is unquestionable, so to be able to offer this model really is a dream come true for us. Rob began discussions with Kanile'a about a model unique to SUS way back in 2016 during an annual visit to Joe Souza at Kanile'a HQ. Our recent visits to see them at the NAMM show were also a great opportunity to go back and forth on the specifics. And although it took a while to get to this point, we are proud to offer a Kanile'a instrument that offers a beautiful look, beautiful sound, exquisite build quality - and excellent value for money.
We all know how excellent Kanile'a are at handling Koa and Spruce. But, we have always loved the way that Cedar looks and sounds on ukuleles. So, we asked Joe if he could get some good Cedar, and without compromising on any aspect of quality, make the range of sizes to include a Tenor Kanile'a that we could retail under £1000.
So - what is the result?
In short - utterly glorious. You will notice that the Alaskan Rainbow Cedar top is gorgeous; not quite as uniform in grain as traditional Western Red Cedar but rather more textured, with gorgeously defined rainbow shapes in browns, purples and blacks in the figuring. The grain may not always run completely straight but the complex streaks have personality and make the instrument both look and sound mature and inviting like good wood should.
The back and sides are a little more conventional (not a bad thing). Mahogany is not a wood commonly associated with many contemporary Hawaiian instrument makers but its history with the Ukulele going back to early Martin Sopranos of the teens and '20s make it an elegant choice for our SUS Kanile'a model. The fact that Kanile'a have carefully matched the stain on the Mahogany to compliment the Cedar tops is a lovely bonus. Don't be tricked into thinking the back and sides are Koa because of that lovely gold and amber tinge under the UV gloss finish.
How does it sound?
It sounds wonderful... After some careful experimentation we decided to string the Concerts with Worth CM's (High G). These give a nice clean attack as you strum the Ukulele, but with no distortion like you might experience with Cedar being driven hard. Instead, you just get the clarity and harp like undertones you normally get from a great soft wood top combined with decent Fluorocarbon strings. If you pick it you will get a clear, fairly crisp and clean response. This would be a great Ukulele choice for a fingerpicking Concert player or somebody that likes to cut through in a mix surrounded by other players, or in the recording studio. The UV cured gloss finish does several key jobs as well as protecting the wood from scratches and play-wear, like dampening some of the natural boominess of Mahogany, focusing and tightening the sound, and finally working visually to bring all of these gorgeous materials together to resonate in just the right way.
What else is there to know?
This Ukulele has a CITES friendly Ebony fingerboard, bridge and dark chocolatey figured headplate. Kanile'a have also allowed us to use their popular and very identifiable sand inlays on the fingerboard and headstock logo. Some players get put off by a satin neck but fear not because despite having Kanile'as enviromentally friendly UV gloss finish on the body; the neck remains satin with a slight 'played in' feel from new.
The SUS signature Kanile'a will not replace the look and tradition of Hawaiian Koa. Still, plenty of players the world over are on the hunt for something different - a unique sound, a different look. Whether you are the ultimate bedroom musician or opening act at the royal albert hall - the SUS model is a Ukulele that can inspire you and grow with you.
Solid Alaskan Rainbow Cedar Soundboard (top)
Solid South American Mahogany Back and Sides Mahogany neck 38mm Nut width Worth CM Fluorocarbon strings (High G) Ebony fretboard, Pin bridge and head plate position markers and Kanile'a logo inlayed in sand Kanile'a open geared Chrome Tuners NuBone Nut and Saddle UV High Gloss Body/Satin neck Pod Case included