Jake Shimabukuro has received many accolades over the years – musical genius, “the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele (Guitar Player),” and ukulele Rockstar. A viral video of his performance of a Beatles’ classic brought him to international attention 16 years ago. He’s come along way since his mother gave him a ukulele at age four. Now he shares his knowledge and skills of the ukulele through video lessons for the MasterClass streaming platform series.
Last Saturday afternoon, we got to watch Jake’s virtual performance broadcast live from his Oahu home thanks to Kahilu TV. Shimabukuro kicked off his set with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a song he did in the pre-COVID era as a multipart harmony sing-along with the audience.
Keeping the classic rock theme flowing, he followed with a dark yet stunning version of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” Jake said he wished his good buddy Paul Buckley was there with him playing bass or percussion. Buckley, also the Kahilu’s sound tech, jumped in from the theatre with a question while Jake tuned his instrument. Over the years, he and the musician have become good friends and he occasionally sits in with him. The two did a post-show interview session after the concert wrapped up.
During his nearly one-hour broadcast, Jake stood in front of a wall of red acoustic panels, a woodblock art piece, and a sign reading “Ukulele Friends Hawaii.” They’re a public Facebook group whose mission is “to perpetuate Hawaii’s rich and unique ‘Ukulele culture.” The performance area seemed a little confined for him and he had to stay in the frame for the one camera. Typically, during a public gig, you’d see Shimabukuro leap like Pete Townshend, or do Olympic acrobatic moves while frantically strumming his uke with a sledgehammer-like attack.
There were gentle moments too. The beautiful “Blue Roses Falling” is a song for a friend whose mom was bedridden in a hospital and had hallucinations of blue roses falling from her ceiling. Jake also delivered a solid performance of The Beatles’ “In My Life.”
In between his set of stunning ukulele instrumentals, the musician spoke in a conversational manner and often reached out to those watching around the world. In the comment section below the video screen, a fan from Hiroshima, Japan, cheered him on.
Shimabukuro ended with a tribute tune to his martial arts hero Bruce Lee. He dedicated “Dragon” to the Kahilu Theatre’s Artistic Director Chuck Gessert, who has been doing a wonderful job bringing back live entertainment on a regular basis with the venue’s new streaming service.
It’s been over a year since Jake has played a public performance at the Kahilu’s annual Ukulele and Slack Key Guitar Festival, and I look forward to his return. “There’s nothing else like it, and I hope we get to do it again in person this year,” remarked Shimabukuro in a closing comment.
Notes & Links
Jake Shimabukuro Setlist (56 minutes) | Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen) | Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles) | Blue Roses Falling | Medley: A’kaka Falls/Ave Maria | Kawika (Ka’au Crater Boys) | In My Life (The Beatles) | Dragon | Encore: While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles) |
Event date: 23/JAN/2021
To catch a show and stay up to date with the Kahilu Theatre’s new online platform Kahilu TV and connect with Jake Shimabukuro, click on the links below.