Chinese Brands with Limited Distribution click for more
There are a lot of Ukulele factories in China, usually in Guangzhou, and whilst some of them make the famous brands that are distributed internationally, (and some don't respect copyright), they also produce other less famous brands that only get very limited distribution. These may be the factory "house" brands or may be a limited trial run and they never really went into production, (but then a trial run of 500 is more than some luthiers will ever make)? I haven't found the information to be more specific, but some of these brands are as good as the famous ones made along side them so deserve some recognition.
Some of the factories will have used more than one of the brand names on otherwise identical models of Ukulele and I am finding the more I look into it that some of these "manufacturers" are really only Ukulele distributors and by this I mean that a company that specialises in making say Guitars or Violins is asked by a customer to supply Ukuleles as well. Instead of making the Ukuleles themselves, although they probably could, they buy them from one of the other factories and sell them on as their own; making it hard to work out who exactly makes them? Anyway here is what I have found.
Huadun Musical Instruments - Saga
Founded in 2011 and based at the Woodtone factory in Huizhou, Guangdong, the main product is acoustic Guitars but they also produce a couple of ranges of Ukulele too, (there is a long story about Saga founder, Jamson Tim on the website but I wouldn't like to quote any of it as true). For Ukuleles the main brand is Hula, (a very common name and they are not responsible for all of them), and they come in the usual selection of laminate and solid(?) woods and as Soprano, Concert or Tenor scale; there are no colourful budget Sopranos in the range though. For Guitars the main house brand is Saga, (nothing to do with Hosco's Saga distribution company), and I have not seen Ukuleles branded with this. The other Guitar range on the website is Mantic and though there is none shown on the website I have seen this as a Ukulele brand being sold in a number of Asian countries, (sometimes as Mantic Manri, including some colourful budget Sopranos. Possibly this was dropped as a Ukulele brand in favour of Hula? Finally I suspect, because of the factory name and the headstock similarities between all of the brands, that they were also responsible for the Woodtone brand and that possibly this has been dropped too?
Founded in 2013 and based in Shanghai this is predominantly a supplier of musical instrument parts; however it has started making Soprano, Concert and Tenor scale Ukulele Banjos. Possibly this arose because, using the parts it supplied it started making the Banjoleles for Sidekick and then went on to market its own range. Whilst it does distribute some other complete instruments I have never seen anyone else with this range of Banjolele so I think they must be the firm behind them.
Possibly a misnomer putting them in "with limited distribution" and I have seen the J&D brand on sale in most countries however as it is usually in those little shops that stock odd fairly budget brands that you don't come across that often and there is no big advertising or big distributors the distribution is clearly not that great. The company was founded in 1972 using the Rockson branding for Guitars Over the years they have added other own brands J&D (I am not 100% sure but I think this is also known as Jack & Danny?) in 1991 and San Dona some time after that, (though I have not seen Ukuleles using this branding?) They also expanded the range of chordophones they produced to include Violins, Mandolins and Banjos, (but not it appears Banjoleles), plus of course Soprano Concert and Tenor scale Ukuleles and Concert scale solid body electric Ukuleles. They may own other brand names and they certainly do OEM work, I'm 99% certain they make the Leolani Ukuleles for Omi International and Spectrum ones for Toys r Us, plus their catalogue contains enough distinctive models to make me think they may supply Stagg and a number of other European and Australian distributors? I do have some questions about the ownership though, I have seen the J&D branding associated with the Taiwanese company Chern Yeou Enterprises and though the factory is in Changping Town, Dongguan City, Guangdong, it does talk about starting out in Taiwan?
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