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Luke El U
07-11-2014, 10:39 PM
Being "stuck" in Thailand because EMS lost my passport has its rewards, after all. The extended stay has given me the opportunity to go on my first uke factory tour ever.

I got to see how the KoAloha Opios are made from raw lumber all the way through to the final product. Way cool.

As an added bonus, I was asked to conduct an interview in English with one of Thailand's most talented young uke players- Sydney - even way cooler!

All of it, the tour and the interview, will be released as a video at a later date. The attached picture includes Sydney (center) holding a neckless demo model, on which I got to place all of my 200lb+ hefty self. It's got the same patented uni-brace as all the KoAlohas. As scared as I was of breaking it, the body held firm. (However, don't try that at home, I'm told it will void your warrantee.)

Peng is holding one of several lovely custom made ukes also made at the factory. This brand, "The Rebel", is independent of KoAloha. The Rebel is made in all size ukes as well as guitars. I'm considering ordering a resonator tenor from them after I get back to work.
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All things considered it's still great to be stuck in the land of smiles (and ukuleles)!

dsummers
07-12-2014, 12:50 AM
I have a Rebel concert and a thin body concert and they are really great ukes! If anyone is looking for a new uke, they are definitely worth a tryout.

KevinV
07-12-2014, 03:39 AM
Glad you got to do the tour to pass some time. Sounds like a blast and it looks like a happy bunch of folks there. Would love to do the tour myself.

I'm surprised to hear they also make a line of unrelated guitars and ukuleles in the shop. I could be mistaken, but I thought the story was that KoAloha set this shop up and trained the workers to build only KoAloha's to KoAloha standards/specs, redesigning the process from ground up and revamping the building/process to address humidity problems that caused issues with their earlier Koalana line of ukuleles.

What's the full story on this?

Luke El U
07-12-2014, 05:16 AM
Glad you got to do the tour to pass some time. Sounds like a blast and it looks like a happy bunch of folks there. Would love to do the tour myself.

I'm surprised to hear they also make a line of unrelated guitars and ukuleles in the shop. I could be mistaken, but I thought the story was that KoAloha set this shop up and trained the workers to build only KoAloha's to KoAloha standards/specs, redesigning the process from ground up and revamping the building/process to address humidity problems that caused issues with their earlier Koalana line of ukuleles.

What's the full story on this?

It really was a great experience. I feel very lucky to have had it. Peng told me anyone is welcome, so if you ever find yourself in Bangkok, be sure to look him up.

Okay, I'll try to explain it as best and as simply as possible. I brought these questions up during the tour and interviews. In a nutshell, this is how I understand the business relationship and it's history.

Years ago Peng lived in Hawaii and fell in love with the uke. He eventually met the Okamis at KoAloha and took a uke building class from them. After the Okami's first attempt at making KoAlanas in China did not succeed, Peng expressed an interest in building them in Thailand.

After a long process of training and setting up a factory to KoAloha's specifications, the Thai factory built The Limited Edition Box sets of KoAlanas. (One of which I am a proud owner) This was a way for Peng to prove to the Okamis that he and his team could meet the high standards set by KoAloha.

KoAloha was very satisfied with what the Thais could produce and decided to re-brand the KoAlana as the KoAloha Opio. The "Rebels" that are produced at the same factory do not use any of the KoAloha patented designs. Apparently, the Okamis feel the Rebel is made for a different market and that the Thai factory must diversify in order to maintain its success as a viable business in Thailand.

That is my understanding and I ask KoAloha to forgive me if any of what I've written is incorrect or misleading.

BTW, some days before at Peng's store, Baan Ukulele, I also got to check out a rare KoAloha miniature uke made by Pops Okami. It really works!68782

Jim Hanks
07-12-2014, 05:48 AM
Cool story. Looking forward to the video.