15 CM Córdoba Ukulele

overall rating:

1.5

planets

Lily Melendez
6/17/2021
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Whether you picked up roller skating or baking endless amounts of bread, finding new hobbies was a must-have in quarantine. For me, playing the ukulele became my coveted escape. I specifically purchased the 15CM concert-style Córdoba ukulele as I wanted an easy-to-play, durable instrument with a warm sound. Upon purchasing my ukulele, I realized these desired features are highly dependent on the specific species of wood and materials being sourced. Both Córdoba guitars and ukuleles utilize a wide variety of materials based on desired playability level and sonic qualities and tones, with some woods producing more cheerful or bright sounds than others. However, despite the company claiming all their wood is sustainably harvested and sourced, there lies a lack of transparency with regards to their processes of obtaining and manufacturing their materials. This problem is evident when we observe that the most preferable and leveraged materials used in the music industry are mahogany and rosewood, both increasingly endangered species of wood. 

Fortunately, Córdoba has made strides to better approach sustainability and biodiversity security, switching out certain nylon and rosewood materials and becoming fully compliant with eco-friendly sourcing guidelines under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). As of 2020, CEO Tim Miklaucic has introduced more sustainable methods in minimizing waste and environmental impact in producing high quality instruments. Ultimately, I believe Córdoba is doing a good job in devising new ways to approach sustainability in the music industry. Yet, their lack of information surrounding the efficacy of their action plans, where they source their materials, and what constitutes their labor and manufacturing practices overall reduces the validity of their commitment to change. 

What it's made of:

1.5

The 15 CM Córdoba ukulele is composed of mahogany for the entirety of its neck, base, and build. Despite mahogany being the most renowned wood type for creating long-lasting instruments with well-balanced sound, its species has historically been extracted illegally and unsustainably from Peruvian Amazon regions. Since 2017, Córdoba has promised to comply with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) sustainable wood certifications, ensuring that their mahogany has not been illegally possessed, transported, or sold but rather regulated under both FSC and CITES guidelines. Córdoba has also reshaped their traditional bridge and fingerboard materials to uphold sustainable sourcing, by specifically switching out Brazilian rosewood, one of the most exploited wood species, for Pau Ferro. Pau Ferro is a South American tonewood that is not listed under CITES Appendices, meaning it is a more protected, sustainable wood alternative. In addition, this material sustains the desired sonic qualities and durable look and feel that rosewood delivers in conventional ukulele models. In addition, Córdoba is now producing their ukulele bags out of entirely recycled ocean plastics and discarded fishing nets as opposed to petroleum-based nylon. Nylon accumulates about “10% of the debris in the ocean” with fishing nets accounting for about “50% of the world’s ocean pollution,” thus reducing nylon’s material production and use can help reverse plastics’ harmful presence. By 2022, Córdoba wishes to extend this recyclable alternative to their production of ukuleles and mini-guitars more generally. 

Although Córdoba announced they would find an alternative to plastic-based, greenhouse gas-emitting nylon, this ukulele unfortunately still employs synthetic plastic Aquila strings that maintain a core nylon material. In terms of design features, most of their 15 CM ukulele’s have an abalone-based rosette, a circular decoration around the base. Córdoba has provided little information regarding whether or not their abalone shells are ethically sourced from sustainable farmed locations or caught from the wild in ways that majorly neglect marine biodiversity. 

How it's made:

0.5

With respect to their manufacturing processes, Córdoba did not reveal much about their specific methods or workplace practices. It is clear, though, the company has workshops and factory sites in the U.S., Spain, Portugal, and China. All of Córdoba’s instruments are said to be hand-made and collaboratively “designed in the Spanish tradition” by professional craftsman in workshops. These workshops comprise specific levels of craft with some builders specialized in designing and carving the wood, while others work to reinforce the instruments with gluing, varnishing, and sanding practices. Nonetheless, in the Chinese factory context, it is uncertain whether there is this same level of supportive craftsmanship, safe labor practices, or environmental regulation. Córdoba has not disclosed its specific working conditions, wages, and operational environments of their current international facilities. Regardless if the ukuleles are made in a workshop or factory, there is still not a lot of transparency with regards to the waste or pollutive externalities of their materials in terms of their supply chain. For these reasons, I would rate this as a .5 as the company has not yet illuminated any present methods they have that specifically uphold worker-priority or environmentally-friendly operations on an international scale. 

Who makes it:

1

In their design front, Córdoba works in collaboration with experts across the music industry, such as professional guitar-builder, Pepe Romero Jr. of Romero Creations. The company’s designs often come from communities of international artisans, uplifting various voices and cultural expertise within the manufacturing stages. Córdoba is also part of the larger Guitar Salon International Foundation, a non-profit which aims to promote musical accessibility for children and public schools more generally. This along with the Córdoba Cares initiative, which donates high quality ukuleles to “low-income school programs, veteran rehabilitation support, senior living communities, music therapy and more,” displays the company’s support for communities at-large. However, despite Córdoba priding itself on their deep historical and cultural craftsmanship in producing and distributing their instruments, they barely mention social equity in their production. The international factory workers and laborers who manufacture their high-demand, specialized ukuleles are not disclosed despite being the most commendable element in their production process. 

The company still has room to grow in terms of pursuing more holistic renewable sourcing, such as integrating the use of recycled plastics throughout their products, as well as making more transparent their working conditions and community-centered labor practices. However, as we have seen, Córdoba has already achieved sustainability efforts in ways that still reinforce their dedication to the rich cultural design and quality of their instruments. Thus, I have high hopes they will implement their larger goals of sustainability very soon.