March 01, 2018

Ohana Music is a family-oriented company located in Long Beach, California. Driven by owner, Louis Wu, the company consists of a small and tight-knit working staff; like the family its named after. Often, people have wondered about Ohana’s structure and the creative process. Today we get a chance for an exclusive interview with Louis, to learn the history of the company and his personal considerations when debuting a new model.

Why did you choose the name Ohana?

In 2004 my wife and I were fully involved in our careers, hers in accounting and mine in biomedical engineering. The demand on our time meant we were less able to spend it with our young children who were both still in grade school at the time. Half-jokingly, one evening I asked my wife if it was OK to quit my job and start something new so we could have more time with our family. To my surprise, she said yes! That was the beginning of my new chapter in the musical instruments business.


Ohana owner, Louis Wu (left) with son, Chris (right) at NAMM 2018

Ohana started with just me, a one-man operation, and I wanted this new venture to be more than just a business. I felt that I needed a name that would truly represent my new career and the culture I wanted to instill. That lead me to the name, Ohana Music. What better name than “Ohana” to represent a place where people can truly feel that they are part of a family!


What inspired you to start a ukulele company?

While growing up in Hong Kong, I was mostly influenced by Chinese folk music in its pentatonic scale form, as well as western and pop music at the time--like the Bee Gees and The Beatles. Later, I took interest in classical music, and my study of its history and evolution enable me to see the connection and significance of music, art, and humanity. It is my belief that music is in everyone and for everyone. It entertains, invigorates, inspires, restores, and brings unity. With the accessibility of ukulele and music, I believe we are all in a position to entertain and inspire ourselves and those around us.


From right to left: Cynthia Lin, Louis Wu, Alissa Hunnicut, Daniel Ho, Jennifer Leitham, and Ken Middleton at the Ohana Booth NAMM2018


What are the most important considerations when bringing a new model to production?

My passion is to develop new instruments featuring a combination of tonewoods that yield a unique and pleasing sound. My other passion is in designing instruments that are musically viable--but that are completely new(like the CK-70-6A with the double course on the C & G) or vintage instruments that are no longer on the market (like those in our Vintage series like the new SK-390)


New Ohana soprano vintage ukuele: SK-390

While researching a new model, it is imperative to consider all the factors that will make the instrument an ideal one. These include tonewoods the ukulele is built from, types of bracing used, soundboard thickness and choice of hardware. Once we ensure the instrument is structurally sound based on its physical properties and components, we then work out the art of making the model sound and look fantastic. I want to create an instrument that has the right tone (that combination of range, projection, warmth and sustain), and at the same time is built for many years of enjoyment.


Louis Wu (center) with tech Jason (left) at the Ohana tech station


What does a typical day in the office look like?

I arrive at the office at seven every morning, to greet our technical and warehouse staff and brief them on the day. Then I plan the rest of the day for myself and our front office staff.Correspondence is a big part of almost every day.  It could be an email response to an end-user’s technical question, or writing our foreign and domestic suppliers on procurement and delivery timeline. Some days I’m communicating with a festival organizer on Ohana’s participation, planning with an artist for an upcoming workshop or concert tour, or speaking with a non-profit on how we can reach out and serve their community through music. Part of what I love about my current career is my ever-changing day--I truly learn something with nearly each one.

Louis Wu (right) with lead tech Brad (left) at the Ohana tech station


Louis Wu (right) with lead tech Brad (left) at the Ohana tech station

I also spend time every day with our technical staff and often get involved in setting up instruments with them.  This keeps me closely in tune with our products, quality and service, and enables Ohana to quickly take corrective actions when issues first arise. Around 2 pm I will do my usual run to the local high school to pick up my daughter. I will really miss the time with her each afternoon when she graduates this summer!


What do you envision for Ohana’s future?

When I first started Ohana, I wanted it to be more than just a business. So these are the core values and philosophies I have tried to maintain and hold true for Ohana:


For products, we focus on instrument tone, quality, and innovation.


For business, we aim at supporting and partnering with independent music dealers and local businesses.


Socially, we want to support causes that bring hope and joy to our communities.


In music, we want to entertain, educate, inspire and influence.


As a team, we look to treat each other with respect, fairness and integrity, and aim at being the best we can be.   Finally being happy at what we do is very important to me. In a way, these are all the things that we hope a family would represent and I hope that’s what represents our family at Ohana as well. I want to make sure the Ohana culture and value stay the same as we grow, and that product innovation, quality, customer service and employee satisfaction remain strong.


Louis Wu in the Ohana Show Room

There are three questions I often ask myself and people around me.  These are “why”, “why not”, and “what else”. They will always be a guide that enables me to see and seek out opportunities that will help the company and our staff grow to our fullest potential. So I hope it is our unwavering belief in instrument sound and quality, desire to innovate, quest for excellence, paired with our vision and culture that make Ohana unique. There you have it! An exclusive look at Ohana's process of design and production!   Be sure to check our extensive list of products. Not sure where to start, check out our starter ukulelesor for those with more acquired tastes, take a stroll through our unique and limited edition models.


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Available Through Authorized Ohana Dealers!