Kiku, 6 String Uke
When an instrument evolves past its traditional design and sings with a voice that is unlike any other it stands out from the crowd and it stands alone. Such an instrument deserves a spotlight and begs for its own distinct name. So it is that the name Kīkū (pronounced kee koo) is born. It is a term coined by Zanuck Lindsey and Nara Cardenas. Lichty Guitars is proud to have been chosen to design and craft a custom Kīkū as a part of a collaboration between Kmo Hussey and Zanuck
More of the story …
When Jay built his first six string ukulele-sized instrument we initially thought of it as a Gukulele, part guitar and part ukulele. This style instrument has been around for a while, though they are few and far between, and it has been called many things. We struggled a bit with the name because the instrument Jay built was different. It was more complex and …well, musical/pleasing right down to your toes. We knew this six-string uke was in need of a new name and “Gukulele” was not quite it.
Of course, just the right folks showed up at just the right time to help with this naming dilemma. Out of the blue we got a call from Kimo Hussey and Zanuck Lindsey, two acclaimed Hawaiian musicians, who have asked Jay to craft a special six string instrument for their upcoming international tour. Kimo is a dear friend and he and Jay have collaborated on many instruments, both in their ongoing search for the ultimate design and sound. Jay is honored and thrilled to be working with both Kimo and Zanuck on this project.
In the midst of this collaboration, Zanuck was the one who passionately shared with us that this style instrument – one that encompasses a small ukulele-sized body and a 6 string neck, deserves a very special name all its own. He shared with us that the name “Kīkū” is perfect for many reasons. He and Nara Cardenas, a Hawaiian Native language speaker and cultural consultant share this vision and skillfully explained the roots of Kīkū …
“The word Kīkū, as referenced in the ‘olelo noeau “Niihau i ke kīkū,” means “independent”. It is often used to praise a precocious or headstrong child and so the name carries with it the connotation of rebellion and, of innovation. Kīkū inspires bold visions of modern invention fused with a reverence for sovereign, indigenous dignity. It also is a play on words in the Hawaiian language for the word “kika” is a Hawaiianization for “guitar”, but that’s where the similarity ends.
Over time, though it is still an instrument in its infancy, it has been given many names including six string ukulele, guitalele, uketar, guke, etc. These unimaginative terms used to classify this groundbreaking instrument lack depth and nuance. Kīkū accurately describes its individuality, beauty, and lineage with our Hawaiian culture and love of nahenahe (soothing) music.” – Zanuck Lindsey and Nara Cardenas
We love it and expect that other luthiers will embrace this new name, as well.
Learn more about the Lichty Kīkū.
From Jay’s perspective as a player …
I had heard of an ukulele with six strings called the guitalele and was intrigued so I was pleased when a client asked me to build him one. My research led me to actually purchasing an inexpensive factory version. This one had a tenor size body and an 17″ scale neck. To put it mildly I wan’t impressed. In fact, Corrie wouldn’t let me play it in the house…not that I was inclined to play it at all. The good news was I now had an example of what I didn’t want to build.
My version has a baritone ukulele size body with a 20″ scale neck. It has the tone of a small classical guitar with the voice of a baritone ukulele and feels, sounds and plays like a dream. We posted a couple of YouTube videos and the response was very encouraging.
I assumed I would play it like a small guitar…which I can, but after a suggestion from my new friend Zanuck Lindsey to play it like an ukulele with two extra strings this little guy won my heart. After having it here for a couple of weeks I realized that even though it was part ukulele and part guitar it was actually way more than the sum of those two. I now have a new voice for my music.
With a voice way larger than it’s size the Kīkū has me playing songs in a totally different way.
Jay now has multiple orders for Kīkūs. The only problem is that he can barely stop playing to put down the one he built because he loves it so much!
Click the link to see and hear more – the first Lichty Kīkū
and from it’s happy owner …
Thank you for another fantastic experience and exquisite instrument – the Kīkū. Again you’ve exceeded expectations. It was a lot of fun collaborating with you on this project for this unique and new style of instrument. From the first mention of it during out visit last May, through the many discussions on various aspects of the design, to the final completion of this distinctive, splendid instrument, it was a pleasure working with you. I am very proud to own another Lichty masterpiece as well as the very first Kīkū. Bill Witmer