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Shortly after the turn of the century, Samuel Kaialiilii Kamaka began crafting Koa wood ukuleles from the basement of his Kaimuki, Hawaii home. In 1916, he formed his one-man shop, "Kamaka Ukulele and Guitar Works," and soon established a solid reputation for making only the highest quality ukuleles.
In 1921, Kamaka Ukulele established a shop at 1814 South King Street. In the mid-20s, Sam Kamaka laid out a pattern for a new oval-shaped ukulele body. His friends remarked that it looked like a pineapple, so one of Sam's artist friends painted the front to duplicate the tropical fruit.
A few years later in 1928, Sam Kamaka patented the design. Thus began the original Pineapple Ukulele, which produced a resonant, mellow sound distinct from the traditional figure-eight. The Pineapple Ukulele became an instant success worldwide, and continues to be Kamaka's signature ukulele to this day.
As the Kamaka legacy moves forward, it is important to reflect on what has made the company endure. The guiding philosophy at Kamaka Hawaii has always been the candid, but sensible advice handed down from Sam Sr. to sons "If you make instruments and use the family name, don't make junk," he said.
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