4 strings


POSTED: Friday, March 26, 2010

Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro is so busy touring the world these days that it's become more of a special treat to come home and perform in Hawaii.

“;There's really no place like Hawaii,”; Shimabukuro, 33, said. “;I get to hang with my family and friends, hang at the beach and eat good local food.”;

His latest kick? An acai bowl from Diamond Head Cove Health Bar on Monsarrat Avenue.

After a West Coast tour that took him from Oregon to Northern California's wine country and the Bay Area, Shimabukuro will play the Maui Arts & Cultural Center tomorrow, followed by a special event for members of his fan club, jklub, at Jimmy Buffett's at the Beachcomber Waikiki on Sunday.

Shimabukuro said the audiences he plays for in each city bring a different energy to his shows, which he enjoys.

“;It's always different from night to night,”; he said. “;That's what I love about it, because your audience changes and inspires you to do different songs.”;






        A private concert for “;jklub”; members


» Where: Jimmy Buffett's at the Beachcomber, 2300 Kalakaua Ave.


» When: 2 p.m. Sunday (doors open at 1:30 p.m.)


» Cost: $23 (includes one drink)


» Info: 791-1200


» Note: Fan club membership ($35) is required to purchase tickets


» Web site:




The one consistency is that his ukulele always brings out smiles.

His latest album, “;Live,”; was released last April and is a compilation of his best live performances. A new album is expected in September with 14 or 15 original compositions and a live arrangement of Queen's “;Bohemian Rhapsody.”;

Why “;Bohemian Rhapsody”;? Given that the classic Queen track has so many different instruments and vocal lines, he decided it would be fun to simplify it.

“;It's so heavily orchestrated, with all these moving parts,”; he said. “;I thought it would be the perfect song to take to the other end of the spectrum and really strip it down to its simplest parts—just one instrument, four strings.”;

The new album also features Jake's first formal ukulele collaboration with his younger brother, Bruce, who composed one of the tracks. Iggy Jang, concertmaster of the Honolulu Symphony, is another featured guest musician.

PART OF Shimabukuro's mission is to demonstrate the versatility of the ukulele, and its reach beyond traditional Hawaiian music.

He's defied all labels by breaking into every category, from jazz to blues, funk, classical, folk, flamenco and rock. Some mainland reviewers have dubbed Shimabukuro the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele.

Jake's reaction?

“;He was definitely one of my heroes, so I'm just completely blown away by that,”; he said. “;I'm very honored, but I don't see how I'm the Jimi Hendrix of ukulele.

“;For me, I'm just a big fan of the instrument.”;

Shimabukuro credits YouTube, in part, for spreading his music among the masses. A video of him playing George Harrison's “;While My Guitar Weeps”; for a TV show in New York's Central Park was posted in 2006 and has received nearly 4.9 million views to date (visit to view the clip).

“;Seriously, that four-minute video clip changed my life,”; he said. “;It opened so many doors for me, and it allowed me to travel and tour and play with different artists.”;

In recent years Shimabukuro has played with Bela Fleck, Ziggy Marley and Yo-Yo Ma, and was among a group of honored celebrities (including Lady Gaga, Bette Midler and Whoopi Goldberg) who performed for the queen of England. Next month, he's scheduled for a tour that includes Russia, the Netherlands, Germany and France, but he'll be back home in time to play Jack Johnson's Kokua Festival on April 23 and 24.

After that he's got another gig in Japan, where he's popular.

No matter how busy he gets, however, Shimabukuro is dedicated to his work with students and his nonprofit, Music Is Good Medicine, which aims to use the power of music to heal, influence and inspire people.

“;Hopefully, I can use music as a way to inspire them to figure out what their passion is in life,”; he said. “;If I can just reach out to one child and that one student decides to be drug-free, that makes it all worthwhile.”;