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 in his new album, Zoukelele.
He is one of the driving forces behind the eclectic Alpaca Social Club/Beyondsemble that appeared at WOMAD NZ 2013. He also regularly performs with members of the leading classical NZ Indian music scene under the banner East meets West and last year joined "Welcoming the Stranger" as a musical director in Ireland- a dance and music show that embraces culture from nations torn apart by war and issues of refugees. This show will head to Palestine in April 2017 to perform at the international dance festival in Ramallah.
Back to his music, Zoukelele was launched in October 2014 to critical acclaim. It features innovative playing on the upside down ngoni uke to create the sound of the Mali ngoni harp. Alongside these are 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.
Over the past 20 years, he has worked with some of the best irish traditional musicians including: accordianist/singer Seamus Begley; singers Michael and Mary Black; BBC2 2012 folk musician of the year guitarist/accordianist Tim Edey; uillean piper Eoin Duignan; violinist Toni Geiling, Lord of the Dance accordianist Liam O'Connor; harmonica player Brendan Power; singers Eilish Kennedy and Pauline Scanlon.
He's been a guest member of dub funk band Black Sand Diva; Jon co-formed the very successful dynamic electro-acoustic duo Sanders Alley with singer/guitarist/percussionist Dave Alley (www.myspace.com/sandersalley).
Sanders Alley has since its extended the line up into Sanders Alley Khan with singer/fiddle/mandolin/guitarist Dave Khan; and Sanders Alley Geiling with violinist Toni Geiling. Plus many others....
Jon launched Twigs of the Neem Tree in late 2010 and Zoukelele in 2014: both collections of bouzouki and ukulele compositions accompanied by 12 of the best acoustic musicians in their respective fields today. It has a therapeutic healing theme in honour of the revered Indian medicinal 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 BBC2 folk musicIAN of the year 2012 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).