About Kala Brand Music Co.™
California Owned. Hawaii Inspired.
Who We Are
Kala Brand Music Co.™ is the world’s most-popular ukulele brand and the founder of the Original U•BASS®, family-owned and operated in the sunny Northern California city of Petaluma.
Kala is home to the most diverse catalog of ukuleles in history, with a wide variety of offerings in sizes, styles and tonewoods, all bound by a singular quality and creative vision.
We are the brand of choice for artists like Vance Joy, Twenty One Pilots, mxmtoon, Walk Off the Earth, and dodie, with instruments sold and enjoyed in over 50 countries around the globe.
A California-born & raised musician, Mike Upton first fell in love with the ‘ukulele and its uniquely beautiful craftsmanship and tone while living and working in Hawaii in the 1990s. But for all their immense potential for more widespread use and enjoyment outside the islands, at the time he could find very few options available between the high-cost, artisan ukulele makers and cheap, poorly-built toys.
After returning to his hometown of Petaluma, California, Mike founded Kala Ukulele to begin to design and build affordable ukuleles to make the instrument he loved more widely accessible. The first team of Kala sales and instrument techs was formed in 2005, working out of a converted chicken hatchery. With a keen sense of design and quality, Kala was able to rapidly expand its production and distribution to a national scale, emerging as a leading name in ukulele during a renaissance decade of boutique interest in the instrument throughout indie music circles in the United States, Canada, and England.
From the KA-15, the satin mahogany series that became the brand’s early flagship, Kala was also able to turn heads with an expanding catalog of sizes and internationally-sourced woods previously uncommon to the ukulele and now synonymous with Kala, such as Pacific Walnut, Exotic Mahogany, Striped Ebony, Flame Maple, and Ziricote.
In 2009, we made waves in the ukulele and bass communities alike with the introduction of the U•BASS®, the world’s first ukulele bass, a concept that came from the discovery of the massive tonal capabilities of thick, lightweight rubber strings atop a baritone ukulele body. After some early support and endorsements from venerated players in the world of bass like Bakithi Kumalo, Abraham Laboriel Sr., and Hutch Hutchinson, the U•BASS® developed a reputation as a small, but mighty powerhouse in the future of bass. You can see our expanded U•BASS® catalog here.
Just a decade into Kala’s business, the global levels of awareness and interest in the ukulele had reached an all-time high, with breakthrough pop acts like Vance Joy, Twenty One Pilots, Walk Off the Earth, and Eddie Vedder giving the instrument unparalleled global visibility.
In 2013, to better meet the needs of brand new players and schools on a budget, Kala finalized and released The Waterman: an all-weather, plastic ukulele inspired by the 1950s Maccaferri ukuleles. A few years following its launch, Kala undertook a massive donation initiative of over 10,000+ Waterman to schools throughout the country to seed and support music programs. The Waterman earned a fast reputation for playability and durability, and to this day remains the most commonly used ukulele in American classrooms.
After the widespread success of Kala’s imported instruments, Mike was able to realize a lifelong dream in 2015 by forming a team of local luthiers and builders to introduce the first USA-Made varieties of Kala Ukuleles, branded as our Kala® Elite USA Series. Taylor Guitar helped to provide Kala with our first side-bending machines. Kala Elite Ukuleles were quickly followed by the creation of the California U•BASS®, a solid body counterpart to the then-established success of the Acoustic-Electric U•BASS®. Hawaiian Koa, Honduran Mahogany, and Sitka Spruce have been among our most successful tonewoods for Kala Elite instruments.
The 2010’s also saw Kala introduce our first artist signature series instruments for artists like Nik West, Bakithi Kumalo, and America’s Got Talent’s Mandy Harvey with her own Learn to Play Tenor. Since 2020, Kala has followed these releases with the Elvis Signature Learn To Play Series and an Artist Signature ukulele for the Oakland-based songwriter mxmtoon.
Today, Kala enjoys a phenomenally supportive base of players internationally and the hard-earned status of the world’s best-selling ukulele brand. With our 15th Anniversary just behind us, Kala remains just as committed to our original values today as we were in our first year: player-ready quality, affordable prices, and inspired instrument design.
“About Us” Mini FAQ
How do you pronounce “Kala”
“Kala” is pronounced / k.ah.lah /. It rhymes with “koala.”
What does “Kala” mean?
“Kala” is a Hawaiian word meaning “good fortune.” However, like many Hawaiian words, it historically has had many different meanings and uses.
Where is Kala located?
Kala was founded and is based today out of the city of Petaluma, California, just an hour north of San Francisco. We also have warehouses in Honolulu, HI and Ashland, VA.
What does Kala do?
We design and manufacture instruments, specializing in the ukulele and the U•BASS®. We also dabble in the cajón and unique variations of acoustic guitar.
Where are Kala instruments made?
All Kala models are designed in California and manufactured by teams in select locations throughout the globe, depending on the model; we have a variety of products manufactured in China, Indonesia, Portugal, Vietnam, and India. The Kala® Elite USA Series and California U•BASS® Series are built here in the United States.