The KoAloha is a hybrid developed by
Roy Sakuma and Alvin Okami.

KoAloha is a local hybrid

WHEN Herb "Ohta-san" Ohta told Alvin Okami that Japanese tourists were asking where they could buy a scale-model ukulele, Okami decided to make a miniature that was fully playable.

Roy Sakuma wanted to combine the best elements of the various full-sized ukuleles he'd played during the years and go beyond the familiar sound of the instrument.

Okami and Sakuma combined forces and from their separate endeavors the new full-size KoAloha brand ukulele was born.

Okami, Sakuma says, "has such a great ear, he hears things that most people can't in the tone quality. He's incredible. I'd tell him what an ukulele is supposed to feel or sound like, and the sound that I wanted, and a day or two later he would have it - or have improved on it."

So what makes one ukulele different from another?

"It's a whole number of things. Attention to detail, precision, exactness. You can't say that the secret of any brand is 'this' or 'that' - this wood or that string. Sometimes it can be as basic as fine tuning a design without changing any of the parts," Okami says.

Among the elements Okami and Sakuma have designed into the KoAloha are clarity of tone and acoustic volume.

"It's very clean when you hit the strings," Sakuma explains as he strums. "There's a very balanced sound, so you don't hear one string dominating everything else. We've had a lot of feedback on the intonation. Lyle Ritz loved it, Troy Fernandez hit C and his head snapped back because he wasn't used an ukulele pumping out so much volume. Ernie Cruz tried it and he told me he wants two.

Cruz might have to wait a while. Okami and Sakuma could sell all their current production here in the islands but foreign markets are expressing an interest in both the full-size and miniatures.

Okami, who had spent the previous 14 years designing and manufacturing Plexiglas and acrylic household products had never designed or manufactured an ukulele, but was a keen inventor and problem-solver. Intrigued by the challenge, Okami taught himself each step of the design and construction process as he went.

"KoAloha is really our baby," Okami says. "It has taken me on an analytical journey through acoustics, wood characteristics, moisture, everything you can possibly think of that goes into making an ukulele. Whatever Stradivarius went through with his violins I think know in a small sense what he experienced."

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