BY BLAIR JACKSON | FROM THE SUMMER 2021 ISSUE OF UKULELE
It was very disappointing not being able to spend the third week of January this year at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, but, well, you know… Maybe next year! Ukuleles always have a high profile there on the basement floor of the Convention Center, in the midst of a sea of acoustic guitar, banjo, and classical guitar makers. It’s fun seeing uke luthiers and manufacturers face to face, getting the rundown on their latest product offerings, and there are also always so many great performances at the different booths by top players. However, we did manage to snag a few virtual meetings with uke manufacturers during NAMM week (and after), and we want to share some info on a few of the 2021 models that impressed us.
Enya’s Got the “Blues”
Enya’s first new ukulele release for 2021 is what they call a “color option expansion” of their popular and economical MS models released in 2020. Though the buzz around Enya recently has been for their Nova U carbon fiber composite series, wood has always dominated their instrument lines. This appealing blue MS (available in concert and tenor sizes) has solid mahogany top, back, and sides with a satin finish, mahogany neck, Richlite fingerboard, agate die-cast tuners, a flower inlay on the headstock, either Enya Fluorocarbon or D’Addario EJ87T strings, and a gig bag; all for around $130. And for those who want to plug in, a double B1U pickup is optional.
Córdoba Concerts Now Flamed and Fabulous
Córdoba’s low-priced 15CM mahogany concert uke was rapturously received when it was introduced a couple of years ago—indeed, it has become the company’s all-time best-seller. So it’s not too surprising that Córdoba has given that popular instrument an aesthetic update through the 15CFM: the “FM” stands for “flamed mahogany,” which is the gorgeously patterned laminated wood that gives these ukes such a distinctive and exotic look. The CFMs are available in four bold colors: Sapphire Blue, Jade Green, Rose Red, and Granite Gray. Other features include fan bracing, black ABS binding, C-shape mahogany neck, 19-fret pau ferro fingerboard, pearloid rosette, “Córdoba silver” tuners with pearloid buttons, and Aquila strings. The CFMs retail for around $150.
New in Kala’s Travel Uke Family
This lightweight, super-thin Kala concert uke is designed to be a sturdy and portable travel instrument. The KA-SSKTU-C combines a solid Engelmann spruce top with a vaulted, figured Hawaiian koa back and koa sides, making for an instrument with great clarity and projection. It also features a mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard, black binding, Graph Tech Ratio tuners, Worth Clear Fluorocarbon strings, and a custom thinline Kala gig bag. This latest addition to the company’s Travel Ukulele line, which should be available in late May, will retail for around $300. It also comes in a tenor size ($325).
Impressive Offerings from Kanile’a
Kanile’a has taken some of the ideas from its beloved 2020 Platinum Limited Edition Super Tenor and applied them to a pair of stunning new D-Series ukes (which take their name from the unique offset D-shaped soundhole introduced on the 2020 Platinum). The DK features a “Premium” Hawaiian koa top and koa back and sides (available in either “Deluxe” or “Premium” grades). The DR-T (shown here) has a dark sinker redwood top; the same koa back and side options as the DK; and an ebony fingerboard. Both instruments also have an oval side soundport, are available in either regular tenor or super-tenor (wider-lower bout) sizes, plus Gotoh tuners, proprietary TRU-T internal bracing, and a “premium” gig bag. There are also options for passive or active pickups. Prices range from $2,725 to $3,295.
New Features for Amahi Classic Line
The latest iteration of Amahi’s Classic series includes ten new concert models in ten different woods, including zebrawood, spruce, mahogany, flamed maple, spalted maple, bamboo, bocote, koa, ebony, and, pictured here, quilted ash (F880C). All feature two soundholes—one offset on the top and one on the lower bout side; a black walnut fingerboard; bound body and neck; chrome die-cast tuners; Aquila strings; and a padded gig bag. All the models seem to be retailing for between $100 and $200.
Ohana in Black and White
One of the new Ohana ukes that really caught our eye is the striking CK-150BWE black and white ebony laminate model, which is the concert-size equivalent of their popular SK-15BWE soprano from a couple of years ago. Top, back, and sides are made from laminate wood, with matching black binding and purfling, maple rosette, mahogany headstock, nickel Grover tuners, and Aquila strings. MSRP is $489.
Luna’s Classy Vineyard Series
This beautiful Luna Guitars ukulele is from the company’s new high-end Vineyard Series, which consists of tenor and concert sizes with solid koa tops, koa back and sides, a single cutaway, ergonomic bevel, pearl vine inlay on the rosewood fingerboard and rosette, rosewood binding, C-shape mahogany neck, bone nut, rosewood bridge, Fishman Kula Onboard Preamp System, open-gear tuners and chrome tuning pegs on the slotted headstock, and a padded gig bag. The tenor sells for around $500, the concert $450.
Art Takes Flight
Coming soon from the good folks at Slovenia-based Flight Ukuleles is a cool new budget line known as the Art Series—the colorful and fun uke pictured here is a 17-fret concert model dubbed the “Fusion” (others in the line include “Jungle,” “Mansion,” “Orchid” and “Stardust”). All feature laminated mahogany top, (arched) back, and sides, African okoume neck, walnut fingerboard and bridge, bone nut and saddle, geared tuners, Aquila Super Nylgut strings, and Flight gig bag. At press time, the EU pricing on the instrument is €84, which is about $100 U.S.