The first time I set eyes on a TODA, I had been awake for two days and amongst all the hustle and bustle around me at the NAMM show, I remember Phil lightly strumming a TODA Concert Ukulele and like a shot of espresso or the moment a cold shower hits; suddenly I was reinvigorated and just hopelessly besotted with the workmanship put into such an instrument. That day, we beat out several other high profile Music shops for the opportunity to take that TODA concert home with us and before I had even carried it on the plane with me; a regular customer with an eye for the spectacular had earmarked it for their collection.
At that time, we were told there wouldn't be another instrument made available to stores in the west until next years show and that it would have to be someone else turn next time to keep things fair... Imagine my shock and delight when about 3 weeks ago we were offered first refusal on a Premium Koa TODA Tenor after the original recipient in the far east had backed out. To say we jumped at the chance would be the ultimate understatement.
TODA has a reputation in Japan as being one of the countries finest builders. Much like his contemporary Eiichi Sumi, TODA cannot be emailed, called or contacted at his workshop as he likes to be left to his own devices and he currently produces fewer than 10 instruments each year. He doesn't take traditional commissions and instead likes to design and innovate with each series of Ukulele builds. Many household name manufacturers have drawn inspiration from his designs; most famously AnueNue with the Moonbird UT200 Ukulele. For the past decade, the only way of making contact with TODA was via 'Ohana Ukulele' (a famous Japanese Ukulele shop).
More recently, TODA opened up his custom builds for us dealers to fight over at the NAMM show with The Ukulele site in Hawaii and Ribbee Ukulele in Thailand both taking delivery of a single TODA instrument in the past two years. Otherwise, that really is it. TODA is currently considered one of if not THE premier Japanese Ukulele Luthier and his instruments have only ever appeared in a handful of music retailers. We really are honoured to bring one to SUS for only the second time.
This Premium Hawaiian Koa Tenor is not a highly decorated and adorned piece of art. The components are clean and precise and every centimetre of this instrument has been made to let the wood speak for itself. The aesthetic details of this instrument are painfully deliberate with pieces of wood grain in the Ebony pickguard matching up wonderfully with the head plate and the small fingerboard inlays shimmering uni-formally from different angles.
The Ukulele sounds superb as well. There is recording quality and then there is just a calm, confident and pioneering quality to this instrument. It can sing, it can shout, in the right hands I bet it could even make you cry. There will certainly be people out there that may question whether an instrument at this kind of premium price can ever really live up to the players expectations but I would be willing to bet that someone out there would be willing to give this instrument hundreds and thousands of hours of emotive playing and it will only be too glad to give it back.
Solid Premium Hawaiian Koa top, back and sides
Figured Ebony Scratchplate, front plate and back plate Slotted Headstock with figured Koa TODA inlay Koa and Mother of pearl Soundhole rosette Mother of pearl fret inlays Ebony fingerboard and bridge Ebony binding Bone Nut and Saddle 36mm nut width 20 frets, 14 to body Satin finish TODA Hard Case Hand Crafted only by Toda himself, in Japan