Maui Arts & Entertainment

INTERVIEW: Jake Shimabukuro: Ukuleles on FIRE

March 14, 2011, 10:49 PM HST
* Updated March 16, 11:09 AM
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By Maesyn

With a million watt smile of sheer joy, Jake Shimabukuro makes playing the ukelele look like a wild dance of effortless glee.

Jake Shimabukuro (file photo)

Embodying the musicianship of an old jazz cat and the pure hearted innocence of a young child, Shimabukuro brings his unique breed of ukulele to the MACC’s Castle Theater this Saturday night at 7:30.

The pure tones of the ukulele have long soothed our sunny shores, but Hawaiian born Shimabukuro takes the instrument to an unspeakably genius level of wizardry and creativity.

His fingers fly, his head bobs and weaves, his entire body becomes the music as it pours from his hands with intertwining melodies and rhythms. All this with frequent jovial winks to the audience with a playful sense of humor.


At the tender age of 4, Shimabukuro began studying the instrument under the tutelage of his mother. Once he had raced through standard ukulele songs, he became curious about how to play the pop tunes he heard on his radio.


He began to explore the possibilities of translating songs onto the 4 string, 2 octave instrument.

The result of this passion and curiosity was the unique development of a gift that would revolutionize the instrument and the way it was played. “Everytime I played the Ukulele I just felt so at peace, it just brought me home,” he said.

“I want to share my love and passion for the instrument with people because I really believe it can transform people’s lives. You’re communicating pure emotion with people and it doesn’t matter what part of the world we’re from, we all feel the same things.”


“I want to contribute something positive and unique to the world, and music and the ukulele just happens to be my vehicle with which I can express that.”

Shimabukuro became a worldwide internet phenomenon when his Central Park rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” virally skyrocketed on Youtube.

While he has played with world famous musicians like Jimmy Buffett, Bela Fleck, Bette Midler, Yo-Yo Ma, Cyndi Lauper and Ziggy Marley, Jake keeps to his humble local island roots.

The wide eyed, big hearted local is the spokesperson for “Music is Good Medicine,” a community program that tours schools, hospitals and senior centers around Hawaii, encouraging them to live healthy lives.

“The ukulele,” he says, “is the instrument of peace – and if everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place.”

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