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Rodriguez III Details Ukulele Developments in Fiji

by Victoria Wasylak • in
  • MMR Global
  • Supplier Scene
• Created: July 11, 2019

Luthier Manuel Rodriguez III recently checked in with MMR about his voyage to Fiji.

“Two years ago, I visited Fiji with the hope of selling guitars. On the backdrop of changing business environments and challenges concerning my family business, times were tough,” he said. “[This was] a sales trip around the world in an attempt to salvage some small opportunities to sell my guitars resulted in broadening my view of what the world at large had to offer.”

In Fiji, Rodriguez III became acquainted with a small indigenous business, TABS Investments, with TABS managing director Uluibau Tabete. TABS Investments has been supplying mahogany tonewood to the United States of America in small volumes.

“Uluibau’s relationship with brands such as Taylor Guitars has spawned well deserved recognition for Fiji’s mahogany, and it was through touring and discussions during our time together that I realized Fiji’s potential, not only for mahogany, but its various and beautiful exotic species of hardwoods,” Rodriguez III says. “A new idea to build ukuleles in Fiji using its exotic timbers was born. Our Fiji-made ukuleles are destined to be high quality ukuleles that come with the embedded passion and Spanish history of handmade guitar building by Manuel Rodriguez (M.R.). Our ukuleles will project sounds unique to Fijian tradition through its native wood structure. Fiji as a place distinguishes its own beauty. Our ukuleles will become a symbol and representation of rare serenity, magnificence and status.”

While in Fiji, Rodriguez III also took on his first ukulele building apprentice, Sanjalesh Prasad. Sanjalesh got his introduction to ukulele building through his new working relationship with Manuel Rodriguez III. With Sanjalesh’s help, production of wood pieces for ukulele parts has exceeded 2000 ukulele sets.

After two months of working into the ukulele production project, the Embassy of the United States in Fiji held a reception to give recognition to those involved in “Investment in Sustainable Mahogany for Musical Instruments.” Rodriguez III and TABS Investments were shown appreciation for their commitment to utilizing volumes of small off-cuts from Fiji’s various saw-mill productions, and using these expensive wood species pieces for quality ukulele production. Appreciation for the ukulele project was also shown by the Chairperson of the Fiji Hardwood Corporation (Fiji’s local government mahogany plantation management company), where he presented special pens made with Fiji mahogany as a token of appreciation.

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