Leolani: Sharing The Aloha.

You may already own a Leolani ‘ukulele or seen them on social media, but do you know how this small, family-owned business got its start? Curious to find out, I spoke with Keli’i Yamashita at Leolani to learn more.


Photo credit: Leolani


How They Got Started.

In 2001, partners Jenny Liu and Terry Chang noticed kiosks selling souvenir ‘ukuleles to Oahu tourists. Having a great affection for the instrument and Hawaiian culture, they understood how the 'ukulele brought happiness to the player and saw an opportunity in a niche market. Their idea was to offer quality ‘ukuleles to travelers while maintaining affordability. By 2002, Leolani 'Ukulele (which means heavenly voice in Hawaiian) was officially launched. To date, it has grown into an internationally recognized ‘ukulele company.

Product Evolution.

Much research and diligence go into designing and developing their ‘ukuleles. All of Leolani’s designs are created in-house at their headquarters in Honolulu, then sent to a factory in China where the instruments are manufactured. Leolani has three series of instruments: Leolani: offered in various laminated woods (depending on the model), the Kumu: produced from laminated Koa that the company secures from Hawaiian tree farmers, and the impending Na leo: their first solid-wood, Hawaiian-made ‘ukulele. This exciting new series is in the works. So, be sure to keep an eye out for its forthcoming release.

Photo credit: Leolani


The Spirit of Aloha.

One thing I have observed and witnessed about Leolani is how active and big-hearted they are with the ‘ukulele community. So, what inspires them to be stewards of generosity? When asked this question, Keli’i stated, it is one of the company’s values. The gift of a ‘ukulele provides joy to the receiver and stems from the custom of sharing aloha with others. Leolani's generosity has positively impacted multiple charities and touched many lives within the uke community. They have also hosted multiple contests such as their 100-day Uke Uplift Day and 12 Days of Christmas ‘Ukulele giveaways.

Advice To Beginners and Where To Shop.

Covid-19 has changed many dynamics in our lives, including increased online shopping. Whether you are looking for your first uke or 20th (ahem, there are some beautiful ukes out there. Have you seen Leolani’s new artist series ‘ukulele?), Leolani is easy to find. You can buy directly via their website, find them on Amazon, or if you want to stay local, check out Leolani’s website for a list of authorized retailers near you.

Keli’i had advice for those ready to buy their first ‘ukulele. You want to listen to the sound it creates, look at the appearance to find an instrument that appeals to you, and make certain it feels comfortable in your arms. If you are buying online, research the ‘ukulele and find sound samples or YouTube videos of it being played. This will give you an idea of how the instrument will sound before committing and buying it. He also recommended one of Leolani’s most popular models for a great starter uke, the mango C85G concert ‘ukulele. The concert is a good medium between the soprano and the tenor sizes.


Photo credit: Leolani


What You Should Know About Leolani.

First and foremost, Leolani genuinely cares about its customers and the community it serves. They value and respect their relationships. Regardless, if you speak with one of Leolani’s employees in person, engage with them on social media, or interact with one of their brand ambassadors, you will always receive the same message of aloha, respect, and geniality. Lastly, be sure to keep an eye out for their Na leo series and the launch of their new YouTube channel. Both are coming very soon!


Photo credit: Leolani


To keep in touch with Leolani, you can find them on Instagram @leolani_kumu_ukulele, Facebook Leolani Ukulele, or their website, leolaniukulele.com. Until next time, happy strumming!


Do you have an uplifting Leolani story? Drop a comment below; I would love to read it.


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