View Full Version : Back from Hawaii with New Uke

King FarUke
03-13-2010, 09:43 AM
I have returned from a two-week trip to Hawaii with a new uke. While on Maui I purchased a Kamaka HF-3 Tenor at Bounty Music. I had stopped in several music shops during the trip and played several of the K-brand ukes. The Koalohas were very nice, but I found them to be a bit too light in weight (fragile feeling) and loud for my taste. They do have a unique sound from the other ukes that is nice and pleasing in its own way. I can understand the vast appeal they have. I played a really nice Kanilea, but at $2100 I had to pass. I came across a lot of G-Strings, but did not find any that struck me except for a $2500 custom. The few Ko'olaus I saw were nice, but again none really stood out. After a lot of consideration and searching, I decided to purchase a Kamaka Tenor HF-3. All the Kamaka's I played were very consistent in build and had similar sounds. I decided on the Kamaka for a few reasons. 1. I wanted a Hawaiian Koa uke made in Hawaii. 2. Kamaka is the original with a long history. 3. I liked the mellow sound and solid feel of the Kamakas. The Kamaka fret board and neck thickness also felt "the most" right to me. Bounty had offered the uke for $100 below list ($880) and I was going to purchase one that I had played that was on a hanger when the sales clerk told me he had one that was still in the wrap and had never been opened. He brought the uke out still taped in the bubble wrap and opened it in front of me. Fortunately, it happened to be (IMHO) the best looking and best sounding of the tenors I had played. The price was the best I had been quoted. Most stores were between $950 and $1050. The uke was made on Jan 21, 2010 with serial number 100151 (151st uke made in 2010). The finish is perfect and build is superb in my opinion. To my ears it has a sound that I would expect an Hawaiian uke to make - if that makes sense. On my last day I decided to take a tour of the Kamaka factory. Fred Kamaka Sr. happened to be there and I asked if he would sign my uke. He was very friendly, signed my uke, asked me to play the uke and stood for some pictures with me. He then talked with me for some quite some time until I told him I had to leave to check out of my hotel. At this time I feel that I would probably go for a Koaloha next time I take the plunge. I have included a few pics for those who care to see the uke. Thanks again for all those who gave advice prior to my purchase.

03-13-2010, 09:51 AM
Sounds like you had a great trip. And congratulations on finding the perfect 'ukulele while in Hawai'i.

03-13-2010, 09:52 AM
That is a gorgeous uke. Exactly how I would want a Kamaka to look like if I ever were lucky enough to get one. Simply awesome.

Papa Dave
03-13-2010, 10:03 AM
Congratulations on your new signed Kamaka! That had to be a fun trip.

03-13-2010, 10:27 AM
Liked your hunt (trip) report. Thanks for the great pics. It looks great.
We just got back from Hawaii about six weeks ago. Bought my first uke.
I'm already planning our next vacation there with lots of uke factories and stores on the agenda.

Ahnko Honu
03-13-2010, 10:33 AM
WOW congrats on an awesome purchase, sounds like a great deal on a new Kamaka, and that signature makes it priceless to you. SO glad you had a great time here.

03-13-2010, 10:45 AM
That's an absolute beauty!

Interesting to hear your comparisons between the 'K' brands

Enjoy getting to know your new friend!

03-13-2010, 10:48 AM
WoW-stunning uke! Enjoy...I'm jealous!

03-13-2010, 10:52 AM
Beautiful uke and congrats. I was in Maui in Sept and went to Bounty but thay had no Kamakas at that time. I wound up getting mine at Lahaina Music on the other side of the island.
Yes, Hawaii is a special place and the Hawaiians are THE nicest people you will ever meet.

03-13-2010, 11:44 AM
What a lovely ukulele. Enjoy it.

03-13-2010, 12:22 PM
Beautiful ukulele. I hope you post a video so those of us who have never played a Kamaka can get a feel for the unique sound you mentioned. Enjoy!

03-13-2010, 12:25 PM
Awesome! What a beautiful uke. If it sounds half as good as it looks, you are one lucky guy!

Coconut Willie
03-13-2010, 01:04 PM
Wow that is one beautiful ukulele!!! Congrats!!!

03-13-2010, 01:09 PM
Congratulations on your beautiful new Kamaka. They are wonderful ukuleles, and I'm sure you will love it.

Isn't Mr. Kamaka adorable? He is so sweet and that is great that you had him sign the ukulele for you...it makes it priceless. Happy playing!

Big Bob
03-13-2010, 02:29 PM
Congratulations on your new Kamaka.I know the feeling of going to Hawaii and come back with a new ukulele.I have done it 3 times and if the good Lord is willing we hope to go again next Feb.Maybe a Kamaka this time!!! Enjoy

03-13-2010, 03:52 PM
Fantastic stuff, very envious with the new uke and great story to match.

03-13-2010, 04:41 PM
Ooooh, that is one sweet lookin' tenor. I really dig the sound of the HF-3s, too, so it's great to see that you were able to get it at that price! (I looked at one online a few weeks ago that was going for $1200 and it depressed me.)

I wonder if the addition of Kamaka Sr.'s signature gives it any special powers (like the ability to ward off temporary fits of UAS).

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
03-13-2010, 04:52 PM
You can't go wrong with Kamaka. Every ukulele collection needs one if for no other reason than owning a piece of Hawaiian history. Nothing at all against Bounty Music but I'm surprised you didn't buy directly from Kamaka since you took the shop tour anyway.
Curiously, this is the first time I've heard of "light weight" being a negative factor in a ukulele. In most people's minds (and builder's as well) being light is an asset.
Congratz and enjoy!

03-13-2010, 05:27 PM
That is one gorgeous uke! And such a great story behind it. I'm glad you were able to find the right uke for you in Hawaii :)

King FarUke
03-13-2010, 06:42 PM
Thanks for all the great comments.

It really was a fun trip and the people were all very nice. I actually spent most of my time on the beach, hiking, in the water and traveling around - not uke shopping! But whenever we passed a shop - which was pretty frequently I persuaded the wife to let me stop in. The clerks in the retail musical instrument stores like Bounty were helpful. It seemed that some of the uke shops - especially in the Waikiki district - did not have the friendliest clerks. I think a lot of people go into the Waikiki tourist area shops and handle all the ukes as if they were toys with no intentions of buying anything. I noticed as soon as you walk in the clerks seemed very suspicious. If you start dropping some names like "Kamaka," or "KoAloha" and ask about prices and the different sizes they have in stock - in other words you sound as if you know at least a little about ukuleles - they start to pay attention to you and give you some service (especially if you play a little riff or something that sounds nice). I saw many people pick up the expensive ukes and start banging on them even though the signs asked that you not handle them without assistance. I always asked if I could handle a certain one and they were then accomodating. One older man at the Aloha Tower store at the Hilton Hawaiian Village was very nice and took several custom models out of the locked cases to show me even though I told him I was not going to purchase another uke on my trip. He said he loved working at the store because he could play the ukes all day while getting paid. I think he was also lonley and wanted to talk and play the ukes with me.

To answer a couple of the comments:

Mr Kamaka was a real nice man and he really seemed to enjoy his work and was very proud of the factory, his family and his brother Sam. He talked very proudly of his father and wanted to make sure the pictures I took with him had his father's picture in the background. He said he built his first uke at age 5 and his father would destroy any uke he made that was not just right. He would have to work at the factory after school every day. He knew his father was teaching him right at a young age.

You cannot actually buy a Kamaka at the factory unless they have a cancelled order uke for sale (at least that is what they told me while I was there and some others who had stopped in hoping to buy an uke). The only two for sale were an 8-string tenor for $1500 and I believe a concert size custom uke with inlays and such (didn't ask the price). If you want to purchase one from the factory, you place an order and it takes a month for the order to be shipped. The prices listed at the factory were also the MSRP of $980 for an HF-3 (I can only assume they do not want to under- cut the very retail stores that Kamaka relies on to sell the majority of their ukes). I got mine for $880. I also really wanted to play the one I purchased.

I really liked the tight, solid feel of the Kamaka and the weight and balance. The KoAloha was really light in my hands and felt very fragile - not that that would necessarily be a bad thing since it really rang loudly and had a sweet sound (different from the Kamaka but good in its own way). I almost bought the KoAloha, but decided on the Kamaka for my first K-brand and possibly only K-brand purchase. Now that I own the Kamaka, I will probably go for the KoAloha should there be a next time. But, since I cannot be certain there will be another K-brand uke in my future, I thought if I could only own one, it would be a Kamaka.

One day I will get motivated and brave enough to try to make a video with sound.