Luthier Manuel Rodriguez Brings Expertise to Fiji
NAMM Member and prestigious luthier, Manuel Rodriguez of Rodriguez Guitars has embarked on a remarkable journey: to craft directly from fallen trees found across of the islands of Fiji. Combining Rodriguez’s traditional knowledge with the most modern technology is at the heart of the Rodriguez Guitars philosophy and is the driving force in this endeavor.
Manuel Rodriguez III is the third-generation of luthiers who have been skillfully crafting instruments for over one hundred years, making it the second oldest brand of guitars in the world. Initially specializing in classic spanish and flamenco guitars, Rodriguez recently visited the Tabs Investments facilities in the Fijian Islands and discovered an interest in manufacturing instruments utilizing some of the islands most exotic species of wood, harvested from trees already fallen. From that first visit, an idea was born, and Manuel has embarked on the manufacture of ukuleles on the islands in the most authentic representation to date according to Rodriguez. Capitalizing on the native tone woods and the traditional craftsmanship inherited between generations, Rodriguez has been on the ground in Fiji for over three months teaching his techniques to the team.
One particular highlight is the work of local Samjalesh Prased, who recently apprenticed under Rodriguez to become one of the first a true luthier expert. Of Prased’s work, Rodriguez remarked, “Samjalesh is a talented artist and craftsman, and the first and most successful apprentice of the art of creating ukuleles. He is a true luthier expert.” Prased’s and the team’s work on the islands have resulted in the manufacturing of over 2,000 ukuleles.
After the initial stages of the project, Rodriquez and Tabs Investment were honored at the United States Embassy in Fiji which recognized their commitment to the promotion and enhancement of, as well as environmental stewardship of Fijian tonewoods. Rodriguez and his team are planning to debut the new Fijian ukuleles at the 2020 NAMM Show.
Rodriguez encourages anyone interested in learning more about the project to send him an email.