Kiwaya Master Tenor Koa Ukulele

This is my prize ukulele. It's from Elderly Music in Michigan, and is an uncommon Kiwaya tenor size. It's the master series, all Hawaiian koa model, styled after the vintage Martin 3 ukulele, with fretboard center inlay and "moustache" in iveroid at the base. It has a koa saddle bridge and ebony fretboard. It weighs only 17 ounces, so it's light and resonant. This ukulele is uncommon, because the Kiwaya company, established in 1916 in Japan, now only makes, as stock, the soprano and concert sizes. All tenors are custom. I was lucky to find this one after it was made for the 2011 NAMM Show in California for the Kiwaya display. All master series are order only, and the tenor is an uncommon order. This ukulele, and all that are master series, are made by the luthiers in Japan. It sounds lovely, currently with flourocarbon Worth Clear strings. It has less volume than, for instance, a KoAloha, but the intonation is perfect. I mean, ideal. And the low action and meticulous build are typical of hand made Japanese instruments. I cannot compliment the look and build of this instrument enough. The Gotoh Japanese friction tuners hold tune well (better than I imagined, especially with the high tension tenor strings), and are pretty. They are out of the way for fretting and have a traditional look--I'm a huge fanatic for quality friction tuners. I may well try this ukulele with Ko Olau Gold nylon strings which, although might reduce the volume another decibel, will sound sensual and mellow and cut into my fingers less with extensive play compared to the Worths. The beauty of any ukulele is tweaking to your personal taste. If anyone googles this and has a question about this fine instrument, which is pricey but less than a high end Kamaka, Mya-Moe or most custom ukuleles, ask in comments. Happy strumming.


Erik said...

Beautiful uke indeed. I'm considering buying one too. Did you end up keeping it in your stable? What strings do you find to be the best for your liking? How were the Ko'olau golds?
When you say less volume, is it less much less than say a Kamaka or other K's?

Coolkayaker1 said...

Hi, Erik,

I sold it, and I hate myself for it. I used Fremont Blacklines on it. Kiwayas are tightly built, and as such, they have less "jangle" than a vintage Martin, say. Some of it is the build, and some is the dryness of old wood. It does not have less volume than Kamaka or other Ks (I own three KoOlaus, and in the past many Kamakas and KoAlohas). I never have regretted selling an instrument as I have this Kiwaya. Best to you.

Erik said...

Thanks for the reply CK1. It certainly looks to be a masterpiece of an instrument. I'm torn on either this or a K brand uke including a custom Ko'olau or Kanilea. Also hoping maybe Takumi may release their Tenor rendition of their high end line. I'm sure you've seen the concert TK-3C they have up for sale right now. Since you've had the many K's I'm sure you'd be able to relate and maybe share any additional insight towards this model or my buying considerations. Would this model holds its value more or less compared to an equally priced K?

Coolkayaker1 said...

Hi, Erik. There is no doubt that, despite Kiwaya being an outstanding instrument, they are not exceedingly popular and you will take it on the chin for resale. You're doing well to think of that now. With the strong dollar and weak yen, Takume (which would resell worse than Kiwaya) and Kiwaya should come down in price, theoretically. Don't know if it will in reality.

The four Hawaian Ks resell best, and KoOlau is the most expensive and best. Kamaka and Kanileas are very spotty, so platy before buying on those and check intonation thoroughly; they are known for subpar intonation up the neck. Koaloha is the least blingy, but least expensive K brand.

Finally, with the uke bubble deflating like the midnight bladder of a nursing home resident, uke re sales are in a downward spiral. I gave sold over forty used ukes in the past five years and the trend is definite: this uke wave has hit shore. What does that mean for you? Outstanding deals on high end used ukuleles. That would be the best way to go if one has patience (and few of us do). For new, Pono is an exceptional brand.

Good luck to you, my fellow ukulele player.


Related Posts with Thumbnails