Ukulele Boom Generates Global Sales for Hawaii Companies

Some local companies turn to Asian manufacturers to meet demand

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The main impetus came from Israel Kamakawiwoole and his version of “Over the Rainbow,” which is backed by Iz’s gentle ukulele strumming. First released in 1993, the song has been played in countless movies and TV shows, and is now familiar from Toronto to Timbuktu.

Photo: Courtesy Kamaka Hawaii

“We’ve seen kids at school playing them in mainland China,” says Kala’s Upton. “It’s a real community instrument. That backyard jam thing is translatable in every culture. Ukuleles are always played in groups and at gatherings and there are ukulele clubs happening all over the planet.”

Kanilea’s Souza doesn’t expect the ukulele boom to end soon. He’s recently back from Rome, where he took part in a two-day ukulele festival that gathered players from around the world, including Hawaii.

He loves that dedicated players keep adding to their collections, knowing that each instrument offers a slightly different sound or feel.

“They’re coming down with a symptom I call UAS,” chuckles Souza, “Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome. They want more than one. They may want a tenor or a bass or one with an inlay of mother of pearl with honu designs, or the family crest, or any number of designs. The ukulele basically can be a blank canvas.”

Souza believes the time is right for the ukulele boom to keep going.

“The last big boom time was the Depression,” he says. “America was going through some harder times when the ukulele was embraced. With the direction the world is going now I hope the ukulele boom will prevail and continue to reach new markets. I can see the joy and mood it creates when people play. People ask me what I do at the end of the day and I share this – I go home and play ukulele.”

 

U.S. Ukulele Sales

 

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