Best Kala Ukuleles Review – 2021 Guide

| Last Updated: May 7, 2021

Some companies are often almost a synonym for a certain instrument.

Just like when someone says Gibson and thinks of electric guitars or Steinway and you think of an acoustic piano, Kala is a name that you should relate to all kinds of Ukulele guitars.

Who is Kala? 

Kala Brand Co. is one of the current leading ukulele manufacturers and it was founded in 2005.

Who Makes Kala Ukuleles?

Kala is an American company, located very close to San Francisco. They are a new company that made a real difference in the Ukulele world offering users affordable but yet well-build Ukulele models. 

Thanks to their initial success, they were able to experiment even more and create some really interesting models such as Resonator Brass Tenor, Archtop, or Banjo Ukulele, a hybrid between obvious models (also known as banjolele), for example.

Besides making all kinds of Ukuleles they are also producing acoustic guitars and cajons, but apart from Ukulele, it seems that they put the most effort in making professional electric and acoustic-electric basses and bass ukuleles under the brand name U•BASS. 

Speaking of ukuleles, they have many models available from both Solid Wood and Laminate including the sub-brands such as Makala, a brand dedicated to making entry-level instruments, and Kala Elite USA, handmade ukuleles made at their hometown of Petaluma, California.

Where Are Kala Ukes Made?

Apart from Kala Elite USA models, the rest of the ukulele models are imported from China regardless if it’s solid wood, solid top, and many other models.

What Makes Kala Ukuleles Stand Out From the Competition?

If you’re wondering should you take a look for other brands, please go ahead. But, here are some undisputed facts regarding Kala Ukuleles:

Experience

Kala entered the market with really high ambitions and 15 years later they are the leading Ukulele brand. They almost became a synonym for Ukulele instrument. That should ensure you that they know their business pretty well and that they probably devoted more time than the others to polish all the flaws in their prior design.

Build Quality

While many China-imported instruments may come at a lower prices and with better accessories, they may not come with such a decent build quality.

Kala is sort of opposite regarding this question. They take extra care of your Ukulele upon arrival so regardless if it’s China or USA-made, they seem to be more reliable than the rest of the competition.

Variety

Kala has probably the largest collection of Ukuleles so it’s quite easy to pick a model that will suit your needs the most. Sometimes it will be simply selecting the proper color and design, but if you can’t find what you need in Kala models, you’ll have a small chance to find it anywhere else.

What to Look For When Buying a Kala Ukulele

Kala is a brand that will offer you Ukuleles for all tiers, so you will probably find Ukuleles right for you from their catalog. That’s why we would recommend defining answers to these questions first:

Define Your Playing Level

If you’re a complete beginner, Makala sub-brand will go very well, while kids may go towards the Waterman model. This model will be a great travel companion, too as it’s completely water-resistant and it can be exposed to the Sun. 

For the rest of the users, there are advanced instruments made from either Solid Wood or Laminate, while professional players may consider Kala Elite USA which will provide you with wonderful handmade models.

Ukulele Size

Based on your hand size and age, kids and women may go towards the smallest Ukulele, Soprano while bigger guys (and girls) should probably pick Tenor Ukulele instead.

Electric or Acoustic

If you consider playing live at some point, having a model with installed preamp will come real handy for bigger venues as you can use PA speakers to reinforce your sound. 

Budget

Based on your budget, laminate models may be much more affordable than a solid wood and it won’t sound too different to untrained ears.

Comparison of the Best Kala Ukuleles

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Laminated Koa Electric Tenor
  • Pau Ferro premium-feel fingerboard
  • Cutaway and lightweight design
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  • Mahogany Tenor Ukulele with Satin finish
  • Brass resonator sound hole cover
  • Great looking instrument
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  • Laminate Mahogany Concert Ukulele
  • Side fret markers printed
  • Unique Satin Blue model
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  • Best Kala Tenor Ukulele
  • Mellow and sweet sound
  • Equipped with 2-band EQ and Tuner
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  • Best Kala Baritone Ukulele
  • Gorgeous dark vintage look
  • Ideal for transitioning from (or to) guitar
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Review of the Best Kala Ukuleles

It was hard to refine 10 instruments from the Kala catalog, so we decided to focus on the mid-range of their offer as that’s their most crowded and best selling area.

Best Overall:
Kala KA-KTGE-C Tenor Cutaway

Kala KA-KTGE-C Tenor Ukulele - Cutaway w/ EQ Gloss

PROS

  • Cutaway and lightweight design
  • Pau Ferro premium-feel fingerboard
  • Equipped with D’Addario Titanium strings
  • UK-300T preamp installed with onboard EQ and tuner
  • Laminated Koa Electric Tenor Ukulele with a glossy finish

CONS

  • A bit pricey
  • The tuner may come faulty on some models

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers say that it sounds incredibly bright and sweet. Build quality seems to be top notch and intonation is very reliable. They would gladly recommend it to anyone who is looking for an advanced model. Check out the tuner upon arriving, though - there are reports that it may come faulty.

Why it Stands Out to Us

While this Tenor Ukulele uses laminated wood, we find it as a perfect example of how well such models can sound. Koa wood even in a laminated state makes a real difference and can sound match standard solid wood models easily.

On top of that, it's an electronic model - it comes with a Belcat UK-300T preamp. It works loud and clear and the onboard tuner is quite accurate. Besides the volume knob, you have 2-band EQ sliders to control your overall sound.

Cutaway feature is something that you may skip, but if you’re more than just a chord player, you will appreciate this design a lot.

Bottom Line

If you’re a semi-pro player looking for an affordable professional choice, consider this model. It is equipped with a good preamp and the cutaway design will come really handy as you try reaching higher frets.

Runner-up:
Kala KA-RES-BRS Tenor Resonator - Brass Cover

Kala KA-RES-BRS Tenor Resonator Ukulele - Brass Cover

PROS

  • Great looking instrument
  • Brass resonator sound hole cover
  • Can be used for other genres, like blues
  • Mahogany Tenor Ukulele with Satin finish
  • Louder bright sound with a pinch of slapback 

CONS

  • Cutaway design would be awesome
  • Case should be included with the product

What Recent Buyers Report

Even those users who were skeptical about it fell in love with the sound. They had great fun playing it and say that it will be loud enough to play along with acoustic guitars.

Simply put, it is so good that we couldn’t find any complaints about it.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Kala did a wonderful job to provide us with an affordable Resonator Ukulele. It’s the body is made from Mahogany but actually, the equipped Brass Resonator produces all the sound.

It’s one of those models that has an outstanding look with nice subtle sunburst motifs but it still stands out because of its sound characteristics. Tone is bright and, due to its resonator nature, accompanied by the slapback effect over.

The only reason why it’s not our best overall technically it’s not your regular Ukulele, but it simply had to be mentioned as something very interesting to consider.

Bottom Line

If you love being unique, this Brass Ukulele model is probably made just for you. It won’t give you just an original and much louder sound than a regular Ukulele, but it can become a part of your visual identity.

Best for the Money:
Kala KA-SEMB Soprano

Kala KA-SEM - Blue

PROS

  • Unique Satin Blue model
  • Side fret markers printed
  • Laminate Mahogany Concert Ukulele
  • Walnut fingerboard with black bindings
  • Equipped with Aquila Super Nylgut Strings

CONS

  • Mediocre headstock tuners
  • Color is not so glossy looking in real life

What Recent Buyers Report

It’s commented as a decent beginner’s model that holds its tune pretty well.

Unfortunately, the pictures may mislead you and make you expect glossy blue color while you will get a Satin-like finish which still looks great, but it doesn’t shine like you would expect based on the images.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This Soprano Ukulele looks simply amazing. It’s a budget model, oriented towards beginners, but looks very unique thanks to the Blue Satin color. It would be really hard to not notice such an instrument in any situation.

Fretboard and bridge are made from Walnut and it has fret markers are printed on the side of the neck which, a feature that new players will appreciate a lot.

In terms of sound quality, it won’t impress or fail you. It is equipped with the Aquila Super Nylgut Strings, though, which will provide you additional sustain.

Bottom Line

Budget models weren’t made to impress you with the playing features, but, that doesn’t mean they can’t look gorgeous. If you’re in love with the blue, we doubt you’re going to find a much prettier instrument on the market.

Best Kala Tenor Ukulele:
Kala KA-EBY-TE Electric

Kala KA-EBY-TE Ebony Tenor Acoustic-Electric Ukulele

PROS

  • Mellow and sweet sound
  • Maple fretboard with Satin finish
  • Equipped with 2-band EQ and Tuner
  • Aquila Super Nylgut Strings installed
  • Laminated Stripped Ebony Electric Tenor Ukulele

CONS

  • Tuner display could be bigger
  • 3-band EQ would be a better solution

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers love its sound in both acoustic and electric instances. The soundboard design is also praised and the frets seem to be polished pretty well while the overall sound can be summarized as mellow and sweet.

The only letdown they felt is that it doesn’t come with titanium strings.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We are totally in love with the design solution. Stripped Ebony looks really expensive and the black sides are spot on. 

Preamp is handled by Ammoon UK-300T which provides you with the 2-band EQ sliders and volume knob along with a basic chromatic tuner.

Maple fretboard and bridge follow the given contrast very well and anything but Satin finish would be just wrong on this model. We also love the fact that the soundhole rosette matches the Maple color and not plain white.

Speaking of the fretboard, the action seems to be more responsive and lower than the usual Ukulele standard.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a vintage model that has a pinch of modern vibe within, this Stripped Ebony Ukulele design is just for you. It won’t fail you on the sound aspect as well and you will have fun with the installed preamp.

Best Kala Baritone Ukulele:
Kala KA-ZCT-B Ziricote

Kala Ziricote Baritone - Natural Ziricote

PROS

  • Deep and warm sound
  • Gorgeous dark vintage look
  • Exotic Laminate Ziricote body
  • Walnut fretboard on Mahogany neck
  • Ideal for easy transitioning from (or to) acoustic guitar

CONS

  • No D’Addario Titanium strings installed
  • Hard to keep clean due to High Gloss finish

What Recent Buyers Report

People are struggling to find a real flaw in this instrument. They tend to compare the sound to the real guitar, especially regarding how deep and loud it sounds. 

Those who had played smaller Ukuleles before say that they would buy this instrument instead if they only knew its sound characteristics.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Ziricote is a hard and dense exotic wood from Central America and this definition perfectly describes the sound of this Kala model. Sound is deep, thick, and warm, almost guitar-like.

Like the wood, the design is also exotic. Its dark color shifts the instrument towards a vintage look, but the middle line and glossy finish pull it back towards a more modern appearance.

Fingerprint is made from dark rosewood and it matches the rest of the instrument nicely just like the black headstock tuners while the frets are also marked on the side of the neck.

Bottom Line

Kala KA-ZCT-B is an ideal choice for any guitarist who wants to make a slow transition. It will allow you to use the same string setup as on your acoustic, while you can adapt to the smaller body size first.

Best Kala Concert Ukulele:
Kala KA-SMHC

Kala KA-SMHC All Solid Satin Mahogany Concert Ukulele, w/Tuner

PROS

  • Clip on tuner and cloth bundled 
  • Warm and rich sound that evolves in years
  • Walnut fingerboard with Silver Nickel Frets
  • Solid Mahogany Concert Ukulele with Satin finish
  • Vintage design with black bindings and white rosette

CONS

  • Headstock tuner caps are plastic
  • Wood color may differ a lot since it’s made from a single piece

What Recent Buyers Report

This instrument was often purchased from skilled users who knew they wanted an upgrade from their Laminate Ukulele and they didn’t regret picking this model, except for the fact that color is a part of pure loiterry.

As a matter of fact, once they started playing it, they couldn’t put it down.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Solid wood ukuleles are always a pure delight for a real Ukulele player so it’s almost a steal to have this Kala model coming at such a price.

While the body design is quite simple and vintage with basic black binding and white rosette, fretboard workmanship is pure art. Action is wonderful and the Walnut on Mahogany neck combo fits this model really well.

This model has a typical solid wood clear, warm, and rich sound which will break-in further as it ages so its sound will evolve along with your playing skills for many years to come.

Bottom Line

Kala KA-SMHC might be an ideal size for all players out there. It has a balanced sound, just right between Soprano and Tenor size, and might be the best choice if you’re uncertain what works the best for you.

Best Kala Travel Ukulele:
Kala KA-EMTU-T Tenor

Kala Satin Exotic Mahogany Travel Tenor Ukulele with Bag

PROS

  • Padded case included
  • Lightweight and slim design
  • Travel Tenor made from Exotic Mahogany
  • Walnut fingerboard with natural Satin finish
  • Well-balanced tone thanks to the arched back 

CONS

  • Finish isn’t so appealing in real life
  • Basic clip on tuner would be welcomed

What Recent Buyers Report

This model was recommended by tutors to their students. It is easy to carry around and it performs well in all dynamics and handles both melodies and strums equally.

But, it appears that the finish is not so gorgeous in real life as in images due to the nature of exotic Mahogany wood.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Overall, this Travel Tenor seems to be a reasonable upgrade from an entry-level Ukulele at an affordable price.

This model was made from Exotic Mahogany in a natural Satin finish which gives you a more resonant sound when compared to the regular Mahogany. Combined with the arched back, the tone also appears to be more balanced and less mellow. Walnut fingerboard also provides you a different and more soft-action compared to the usual Rosewood.

And given the fact it’s the Travel Tenor, it’s nice from Kala to include a decent padded gig bag with this product.

Bottom Line

Kala KA-EMTU-T represents an ideal choice for those who are on the road a lot. It gives you the best of both worlds - Tenor-sized frets and the body thickness which actually goes towards Concert Ukulele models.

Best Kala Soprano Ukulele:
Kala KA-SSLNG Long Neck

Kala KA-SSLNG Soprano Long Neck - Solid Spruce Top / Mahogany Ukulele, Natural, Soprano

PROS

  • Warm and balanced tone
  • Suitable for guitar players
  • Exceptional workmanship and aesthetics
  • Soprano Ukulele with Concert-scale Neck
  • Spruce Top and Mahogany sides and back

CONS

  • A bit basic and plain design
  • May not be suitable for younger children

What Recent Buyers Report

Just as we expected, reports are full of big guys praising this model as they could finally get a good grip on the neck. But some tried several models and picked this one among them based on how balanced the tone sounds.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Long neck models are an interesting solution that can’t be found so often on the market.

This specific model has a Soprano body with Spruce Top and Concert-scaled neck made of Mahogany. Using this model, guitar players can adapt to the size of a regular Soprano Ukulele much easier as the frets and the neck size will be closer to their preferences.

Workmanship on this model is exceptional - neck is straight, frets are polished perfectly so it stays in tune for a long time while the string action is very responsive while the Chrome Die-Cast headstock tuners handle the intonation pretty well. 

Bottom Line

If you would like to have a bit more from a Soprano Ukulele, but you’re not sure if Concert size might be too big for you, the Kala KA-SSLNG Long Neck model might be the choice you were looking for.

Best Kala Electric Ukulele:
Kala KA-SMHT Tenor

Kala KA-SMHT Solid Mahogany Tenor Ukulele, Natural, Small

PROS

  • All solid Mahogany Ukulele
  • Walnut fretboard and bridge
  • Balanced fret and string action
  • Vintage design with black bindings
  • Thick neck model - ideal for big guys

CONS

  • Bag could be included
  • Titanium Strings would be awesome

What Recent Buyers Report

Some guys were struggling to find a model that’s big enough for them and they were satisfied with this model especially. Due to its thicker neck, the left-hand grip might be more comfortable if you were feeling uncomfortable with regular Ukuleles.

It is also reported that the build quality is quite professional.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This Tenor ukulele sounds simply terrific. Thanks to the solid Mahogany soundboard combined with the Walnut fretboard it resonates pretty well.

Satin finishes fill the whole model appearance with a vintage vibe which is followed by the classical slotted headstock, white rosette, and black body bindings. 

Solid wood models generally produce much warmer, almost 3D sound compared to the average Laminate Ukulele. This is especially heard when you try to produce soft notes. Solid wood models may even change the way you imagine Ukulele sound and they are also more durable regarding unwanted physical damages.

Bottom Line

This instrument represents a great balance between professional and advanced semi-pro models and it might be the one you will keep for many years. We highly recommend you to tune it into a low-G setup and take advantage of its big resonant soundboard.

Best Kala Waterman Ukulele:
Kala KA-SWT Transparent Ice Soprano

Kala Transparent Ice Soprano Waterman Ukulele KA-SWT Bundle with a Tuner and Lumintrail Cleaning Cloth

PROS

  • Water-resistant, easy to clean
  • Unique transparent white color
  • Comes with bag, tuner, and cloth
  • ABS Composite Plastic Soprano Ukulele
  • Equipped with Aquila Super Nylgut Strings

CONS

  • Mediocre sound
  • We would like more color options

What Recent Buyers Report

They say that this model is ideal for traveling or any other kind of fun time, such as a birthday present. Also, they comment that this model is more resistant to sudden drops so it seems to be an ideal pick even for toddlers.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This model is fully made out of ABS Composite Plastic which makes it much more durable to not just various damages but also water spills and long Sun exposure. 

This material is much easier to clean and the color choices are vivid enough to look very inspiring to kids of all ages while still sounding like a Soprano Ukulele. 

Apart from this transparent color model, it also comes in more fun colors such as Aqua which actually glows in the dark. We must also add that this specific Transparent Ice is great for taking various artistic photos as well. 

Bottom Line

Kids don’t care too much about sound quality. But they will tell you if they like something or not. We honestly doubt that this Transparent Ice Ukulele will be anything else but eye-candy to any kid out there.

Types of Ukuleles by Kala 

Kala has many Ukulele models in their catalog. Lets give you a hint of how they categorized them:

Kala Elite USA 

These Ukuleles are handmade in the USA. They are the most premium models Kala is currently making and they are using not just solid wood for those instruments, but also Koa Wood, a Hawaiian Ukulele trademark ingredient.

Solid Wood

Just like Elite models, these are also made from all solid wood, but not handmade and they are imported from China. Quite decent models, only half a step away from Elite models and therefore a lower price, too. 

Solid Top

As you may guess from the name, these models have solid wood only for the top. As most of the sound is produced actually from this part of the instrument, these models seem to provide a very good sound at a much more reasonable price.

Exotic Wood

Wood type defines the overall sound of the Ukulele, regardless of Laminate or Solid Wood choice. In this section, Kala provides you with unique Laminated wood choices such as Pacific Walnut, Bamboo, Ziricote, Spalted Mango, various Ebony, and many others so you may experiment and find your personal favorite.

Crossover

Those models represent a combination of regular Ukulele design with some other instruments so you can find here a mix of Banjo (known as Banjolele), Brass Resonator, and Archtop models.

Mahogany

As the Koa belongs to the Mahogany wood family, it’s quite natural to have a complete Mahogany Ukulele series as a specific category. Those are laminated models which are very affordable and come in various shapes and colors, even including the legendary pineapple Ukulele.

U•Bass

This category is dedicated not just for Bass Ukuleles but Bass Guitars as well. However, the Acoustic-Electric U•BASS page is meant just for Bass Ukulele models.

Comparison Overview 

Kala is often used as a reference to other brands, so let check how it stands against the competition:

Kala vs. Luna Ukulele

Luna is probably the only company that can match the Kala presence and catalog. They invest a lot into making more appealing visuals, but quality control seems to be a bit better with Kala instruments.

Sound wise, they can match the Kala instruments, but Kala has a complete line of premium models while Luna focuses on the laminated budget models.

Donner vs. Kala Ukulele

Donner is an entry-level brand that has exceptional quality control, but they don’t hit the same group as Kala Brand does. It’s more oriented to the low-budget part of Kala’s models and at such a range it does quite decent models.

Kala vs. Oscar Schmidt Ukulele

Oscar Schmidt had been making great acoustic instruments since 1920 and shared the same philosophy as Kala - providing affordable instruments without comprising the sound quality as much as possible. 

They are a well-known brand in the Ukulele world but their interest spans further to other instruments while Kala puts their main focus on Ukuleles.

Kala vs. Lohanu Ukulele

Lohanu is a new Canadian company on the market, established in 2019. Based on what they did so far, we guess that they may resemble where Kala was 15 years ago. 

They provide you with the unconditional lifetime warranty while regarding instruments they have a much smaller catalog that can match low-mid tier of Kala instruments in both price and quality generally speaking.

Kala vs. Makala Ukulele

Makala is a sub-brand of Kala. They are made mostly for complete beginners and have a vintage wooden appearance. They also provide a Ukuleles series for kids, made completely from plastic.

While they have the same quality control, the sound and performance are much better on Kala instruments.

How to Maintain a Kala Ukulele

Maintaining a Kala Ukulele isn’t an expensive or complicated process.

There is one simple rule that you should memorize about cleaning. It simply says: “no chemicals”. Any kind of chemical may harm your instrument body and shorten its lifespan in the long run. Most body cleaning should be done by using a microfibre cloth and water. 

As for cleaning your fretboard, remove all strings and clean the neck with the steel wool. Then apply some lemon oil or bore oil drops on the fretboard. This process should be applied about once a year, depending on how frequently you’re playing your instrument.

Regarding other concerns, Ukulele shouldn’t be exposed to direct sun for too long as it will impact the sound quality. For carrying it around, always go for at least a padded gig bag as it will protect your instrument from physical damages and dents. 

Storing a Ukulele in a case or bag is also the best way to hold your instrument at home.

Also, if you have an electronic model, always remember to pull the cable out from your instrument when you’re finished with your playing as it will significantly preserve battery life in your preamp. 

Conclusion 

Kala Ukuleles are our first choice when you’re looking for a reliable instrument that doesn’t cost too much. They have a wide array of models made for all kinds of players, every model sounds great in its own tier and the quality control is top-notch. 

People Also Ask

Let’s review some of the most frequent concerns about Kala Brand. We will explain what makes Kala different and so popular among Ukulele players, at what range its price spans, what strings they include, and also explain the basics about warranty conditions. 

Is Kala a Good Ukulele Brand?

Yes, Kala is an excellent Ukulele brand with so many different Ukuleles to select from. They are a leading Ukulele company and they are actually from the USA (California to be precise) and you can find their active pages on all relevant social networks. 

How Much Does a Kala Ukulele Cost? 

Kala Ukulele can go as low as $40 for The Waterman Ukuleles and up to $3.000 for Emisunshine Signature Tenor Ukulele. 

However, most of the Kala Ukuleles are placed somewhere between the $100-$500 range based on the Ukulele type and other features.

What Strings Do Kala Ukuleles Come With?

Depending on the model Kala comes with many different strings. Premium models such as Gloss Koa line come with titanium Pro-Arte strings from D’Addario, while budget models are equipped with Aquila Super Nylgut strings.

What Kind of Warranty Does Kala Offer?

Depending on the instrument origin, Kala provides you a warrant of one year for imported instruments and two years on the U.S. made models. The warranty is valid only if you keep the original receipt and keep the instrument unmodified. The instrument also must be purchased from the authorized dealer only.

Should I Buy a Laminate or Solid Wood Ukulele?

Despite the current fad, there is nothing wrong with having a laminate Ukulele. Yes, the sound of the solid wood is a bit better, but the price goes up significantly, too. If you want to try out some sort of compromise, consider models that have solid wood only on top.

What’s the Difference Between Acacia and Mahogany Ukulele?

Acacia is a bit more dense wood than Mahogany and results in punchier sound if used for soundboard. Mahogany is more mellow and warm, but the differences are that so drastic. If you want to have something unique, we would advise you to go and pick Acacia Ukulele then.



I'm a 35-year-old rock-oriented professional musician from Belgrade, Serbia with 20 years of field experience in various areas of the music industry. After graduating from elementary music school I joined my first band Alogia in 2001 which had incredible initial success with the debut album and became one of the greatest Balkan heavy metal acts ever. We have recorded several studio and live albums and played as an opening act for Whitesnake, Apocalyptica, and Paul Di’Anno. Meanwhile, I got a chance to collaborate with Roland Planet shop and get familiar with various music equipment for more than a decade. For the last eight years, I have done live audio mixing for numerous bands and other live and studio events, including some TV audio mixing for national television broadcast as well. Currently, I’m playing keyboards for one of the most authentic Serbian music rock legends - Dr. Nele Karajlić, also known for his work with Zabranjeno Pušenje and No Smoking Orchestra.