Jon Sanders is recognised as a virtuoso bouzouki player, tenor ukulele player, drop D and DADGAD guitarist and an internationally acclaimed composer. His composition draws on elements of jazz, gypsy, funk, arabic, latino and Celtic styles, somewhat reminiscent of Sylvain Luc, Pierre Bensusan, Antonio Forcione and James Hill yet instantly different. He has developed the ngoni uke, a hybrid Mali small ngoni and ukelele, and the guizouki, a bouzouki/guitar fusion instrument. These are used extensively on his last three albums, Twigs of the Neem Tree, Zoukelele and Nada Brahma.
Known for his musical collaborations as well as solo shows, Jon is currently a musical director in dance choreographer Catherine Young’s “Welcoming the Stranger” project that has toured Ireland and Palestine (Ramallah dance fest 2017). He is also a founder member of the eclectic Alpaca Social Club/Beyondsemble band that appeared at WOMAD NZ 2013. He has performed and run workshops at all of the major NZ festivals. He also regularly performs with leading NZ classical Indian musicians under the East meets West title.
Over the past 25 years he has performed and toured with Lord of the Dance accordionist Liam O’Connor, Michael and Mary Black, Seamus Begley, 2012 BBC2 Radio folk musician of the year Tim Edey, harmonica player Brendan Power, piper Eoin Duignan and singer Eilis Kennedy.
His latest album, Nada Brahma, (2019) was inspired by the 1983 book of the same name and explores vibrational harmony in and rhythms in nature in Celtic, Afro Funk and Kirtan music through its 12 self penned tracks. His Zoukeleke album was launched in October 2014 to critical acclaim. Siobhan Long of the Irish Times called it a “ deeply meditative, inpishly playful, jazz tinged” collection. It features innovative playing on an upside down uke to create the sound of the Mali ngoni harp and rousing and emotive Arabic suites on the guizouki, a guitar/bouzouki hybrid instrument. There's also music that looks to a higher spiritual connection in the tracks Ascension and Rumi Jazz.
Jon launched Twigs of the Neem Tree in late 2010 - his first bespoke collection of bouzouki and ukulele compositions accompanied by 12 of the best acoustic musicians in their respective fields today. With a therapeutic healing theme in honour of the revered Indian medicinal Neem tree, The Irish Times called the album "a slow-burning delight."
Says Jon: “Bouzouki is probably my favourite instrument, leaping effortlessly over so many musical boundaries and genres - you’ll hear classical, jazz funk and contemporary acoustic styles here. And the tenor ukulele makes a perfect platform to transpose music from other instruments and bring a smile to the audience at the same time - I’ve arranged music as diverse as Irish polkas and ancient harp tunes alongside blue grass meltdowns on this album!”
Sublimely accompanying Jon on the tracks are some of the finest exponents of acoustic music today. They include guitarists Tim Edey (Irl/UK) and Mark Mazengarb (NZ) who is currently supporting Tommy Emmanuel, cellist Barry Philips (USA), harmonica player Brendan Power, percussionists Greg Sheehan (Australia) and Martin Schaerer (Switzerland), vocalist and guitarist Dave Alley(NZ) and violinist Toni Geiling (Germany).