SUPPOSEDLY derived from a guitar-like instrument brought to Hawaii by Portuguese sailors, the taropatch is similar in size to a concert ukulele and has eight strings, arranged in four pairs.
Although manufacturers such as Nunes, Kumalae and Oscar Schmidt produced the taropatch during the early-mid 1900s, it’s generally accepted that the finest examples were built by C.F. Martin & Co in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, USA.
The first recorded sale of a Martin taropatch was on August 9, 1916, and it first appeared in the company’s price lists in 1918. Available in three styles of mahogany and koa, it didn’t sell as well as Martin’s easier-to-play, four-stringed ukes, particularly after the company released its own concert size in 1925. The taropatch was dropped from the Martin line in 1932.
Pictured here is a Martin 1K (koa) taropatch dating from around 1929. The instrument was purchased in England in 1977 by Richard Maingôt and the case was made for it in 2004 by Cedar Creek Custom Case Shoppe (cedarcreekcases.com) in Oilville, Virginia, USA.
“I acquired my lovely taropatch while I was living in Richmond, Surrey,” says Mr Maingot. “I purchased it on the spot; an eight-stringed beauty without a scratch or blemish on her body. And what a tone! You are immediately transported to Hawaii when you hear this instrument.”
Some contemporary manufacturers, such as Kamaka, Lanikai and Kala, make eight-string ukulele variants, but none are quite up to the standard of the vintage Martins. At least not yet…