Custom KoAloha “Leimano” Tenor Ukulele


Custom KoAloha ‘Leiomano’ Tenor Ukulele handcrafted on the island of Oahu, Hawaii by luthiers Paul Okami – President of KoAloha and Alan ‘Griz’ Tagama – custom ukulele luthier. Griz handcrafts beautifully playing and aesthetically pleasing instruments for both the professional musician and the recreational player in limited quantities per year. The ‘Black Label’ model ukuleles are the premiere model instruments at KoAloha and remain amongst the most sought-after ukuleles in the world due to their fine craftsmanship, playability, and tone.

Write up on this special instrument by the maker, master luthier Paul Okami:


The ukulele is more often than not thought of as a playful and fun instrument. Many people are drawn to it for its convenient size and ease of playing. Despite its lack of range and small-bodied tone, the ukulele is capable of playing any type of music. While the ukulele is great as a rhythm instrument, it can take lead in almost any genre from Hawaiian solos to deep classical pieces. We decided on a theme that shows strength to remind people that the ukulele is not bound by any preconceived notions and can play anything that you want to play.

“Leiomano” roughly translates to ring or garland of shark teeth. This was a close combat weapon used in times of war. Prior to western contact, Hawaiians had no access to metals, but they were very inventive with the materials that were available. The body of the weapon was fashioned from koa, then lashed with tiger shark teeth. The leiomano design on the fretboard is entirely hand cut from koa, with three individual tooth designs in an alternating pattern. The details on each tooth are hand engraved into a white mother of pearl. The lashings and hilt wrap are done in mamane, another native Hawaiian hardwood, also traditionally used for tools and weapons.

The rosette is done in black mother of pearl, with white mother-of-pearl shark teeth, representing the smaller knuckle-duster style of leiomano. The ring of shark teeth is also a symbol of protection. In Hawaii, sharks are respected as guardians of the ocean, not just an apex predator. There are many stories of sharks leading people to fish or sharks swimming people back to shore.

The earliest settlers of the islands as well as the subsequent waves of people that came here and became Hawaiians all arrived via canoe from across the sea. Maritime routes were the highways of old and the four cardinal directions were named based on the sun and stars, rather than the poles of the earth. Navigation by sea was a critical part of pre-western culture. Without this connection to nature and ability to navigate without modern instruments, Hawaii would not be as we know it today. The rosette around the pickup jack is an homage to the voyaging traditions of Polynesia, done in black and white mother of pearl, framed by white mother of pearl
sharks teeth.


  • Curly Hawaiian Koa Top and back/ Macassar Ebony Sides
  • Mahogany satin tenor neck
  • TUSQ(tm) nut and saddle
  • KoAloha 5-pointed crown headstock w/Macassar ebony faceplate
  • Macassar ebony fretboard and bridge
  • Inlay materials: Koa, Mamane, Black and white mother of pearl
  • 20-fret straight-cut fretboard, joined at the 15th fret
  • Unique Black Label construction
  • LR Baggs 5.0 active ukulele pickup
  • Standard GCEA with low g
  • KoAloha’s patented “Musubi” soundhole
  • High gloss finish
  • White Oahu fiberglass case
  • “Better than the Weather” warranty

In terms of tonal qualities, this Custom KoAloha ‘Black Label’ Tenor Ukulele can be characterized with a rich and bold tone with wonderful sustain, exceptional clarity, and great range. These instruments have perfectly set intonation and offer precise and definitive note separation in both the lower register and higher positions on the neck. The customized neck and overall weight distribution of the instrument along with a slightly more compact body design allows for extended ease of play and free-flowing mobility to the player.

Custom KoAloha ‘Black Label’ Ukuleles are handcrafted with all the expertise and commitment to the highest level of craftsmanship with all the warmth of true ‘Aloha’ in every build. A highly recommended piece that rarely appears on the grand landscape of ukulele luthiery. #240018

Price: Donated to the Hawaiian Music Archives at Hawaii State Archives on ‘Iolani Palace grounds

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