Joseph Souza, co-owner of Kanile'a 'Ukulele joined Sunrise to talk about a very special 'ukulele!
The nonprofit Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative has unveiled the world's first-ever ukulele built entirely from endemic Hawaiian hardwoods.The ukulele was designed and hand crafted by a team of nearly 20 master artisans under the guidance of Master Luthier Joseph Souza at Kanile'a 'Ukulele, a renowned Hawaii musical instrument company. This magnificent piece showcases the sustainable use of Hawaiian hardwoods under HLRI's Legacy Tree program, as well as the Legacy Carbon program overseen by HLH, LLC, a sustainable forestry company based on Hawaii Island.
The ukulele is made from four varieties of the highest-grade Hawaiian hardwoods, and is the first in a special line of ukuleles that will be produced in a carbon-neutral process through HLH's new Legacy Carbon program, which offers certified carbon credits for the permanent reforestation of koa trees. These limited pieces, each valued at $8,000, will be given to purchasers of Family Forests of 1,000 Legacy Trees or more.
"Each endemic hardwood used in these ukuleles can also be found in the HLRI Legacy Forest, bringing to life former pastureland that was once blanketed with trees, understory and wildlife," said Jeffrey Dunster, executive director of HLRI. "The first-of-its-kind sustainable production of these Hawaii-sourced ukuleles showcases the ability to grow dynamic, economically viable forests that will be here for generations to come."
Master-grade koa is used on the body, neck, finger board and bridge of the instrument. Two specially selected cuts of 'iliahi (Hawaiian sandalwood) are used for the bracing which provides incredible scent, beauty and dimension; 'ohi'a lehua was used for the position markers and lining; and ko'oko'olau for the binding, center strip on the neck, and the heel cap. Souza and his team prototyped the instrument, which "unlocked the code" in determining what endemic hardwoods would ensure the finest sound, playability and aesthetic quality.
"In addition to these hardwoods, which have never been used together like this in a ukulele, the design also integrates the finest prized coral sand from Oahu's Kailua Beach in a special inlay, which we created to represent Hawaii's unique ahupua'a system of land sections that run from the mountains – where many of these endemic hardwoods are found – to the sea," Souza said.
Legendary Hawaii musician Willie K was the first to play the instrument at a special July event held in the Hawaiian Legacy Forest, located on the slopes of Mauna Kea.
"When I first played this ukulele, it was an unbelievable moment – I have never heard sound resonate like this," he said. "As I played a song with deep meaning to me – 'Hiilawe,' after the iconic Hawaii Island waterfall that is along the same coastline as the Legacy Forest – I could smell the sandalwood from the bracing of the ukulele. It is a beautiful testament to what we can sustainably produce here in Hawaii."
The ukulele will be on display at The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, a HLRI partner that is in the process of planting 500,000 koa Legacy Trees in the Legacy Forest in conjunction with the luxury hotel collection's global tree-planting initiative.
"When our guests visit the Hawaiian Legacy Forest, they see firsthand the positive impact of planting these rare endemic trees," said Robert Whitfield, regional vice president and general manager of the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. "This ukulele is another way we are working to showcase the beauty of our Hawaiian forests and encourage their reforestation. When a guest sponsors a Family Legacy Forest (1,000 trees) they will receive this rare heirloom ukulele as a personal gift from the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative."
HLRI recently celebrated the planting of its 300,000th endemic tree on more than 1,000 acres set aside for permanent reforestation on Hawaii Island – nearly a quarter of its overall goal of 1.3 million total trees to be planted across the Hawaiian Islands. HLRI has re-established an entire native ecosystem and is transforming Mauna Kea pastureland back to the spectacular koa forest it once was. In addition to koa, it is planting many other indigenous species of trees and understory, including ohia, mamane, naio, ko'oko'olau, kukaenene and 'iliahi.
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