About Kristen and Joe
Joe and Kristen were both born and raised in Kailua on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu. Joe is the youngest of eight, and Kristen is an only child. Kristen’s background is in customer sales and accounting. For Joe, the ‘ukulele has always been part of his life. He can recall, from a very young age, going to family parties and everyone sitting in a circle and jamming Hawaiian music on their ‘ukuleles and guitars. “In elementary school is when I first got exposed to the ‘ukulele. It was a requirement for music. Hawaiian language class in High school is when I really started showing serious interest in the ‘ukulele, although, it wasn’t until after I graduated that the ‘ukulele started to influence my life.”
“‘Ukulele playing became very natural. Once I got good, everything started to open for me. In 1991, I was given the chance to apprentice under a master luthier. His name is Peter Burmudez, or “Uncle Pete” as I affectionately call him. I was only twenty, and didn’t know the true significance of what I was getting into.”
In 1997 Joe was invited to the island of Kaua’i for a Hawaiian falsetto contest titled “Na Himeni Ki’eki’e”, which means “from majestic heights a hymn”. The competition was very stiff. Therefore, when the winners were announced, Joe was very surprised to hear that he had taken top honors in the amateur division. What a highlight in his life! “Next to my wedding day, that has to be the most exciting day of my life.”
Through all of this, Joe was still building ‘ukuleles. On January 11, 1998 he was married to his lovely wife Kristen “baby blue” Slavish. They decided not too long after purchasing their house that they would finally set up their ‘ukulele shop. It was then that Kanile’a ‘Ukulele was born, along with “their three sons”. (Chuckle)
“It has been over twenty years since I first started sweeping the sawdust from Uncle Pete’s shop floor. Wow, how time flies! He and I still share information, constantly improving our craft.”
Joe says he has a hard time accepting Uncle Pete’s admiration when he says; “Now you are the master”. Joe just laughs and continues his duties.
Just another incredible accomplishment, Joseph Souza “Master Luthier”.