With four simple strings and his one-of-a-kind Kamaka tenor ukulele, Jake Shimabukuro will infuse Hawaiian soul into Bing Concert Hall on Thursday, April 24. Sample a slice of Shimabukuro’s vast ability with these five videos that showcase the versatility of the ukulele in the hands of a masterful musician.
A recording of this famous song by George Harrison propelled Shimabukuro to Internet fame more than eight years ago. The stimulating rhythms, vibrant strumming and fingerpicking technique, combined with Shimabukuro’s full-bodied energy, struck a chord with viewers across the globe.
In his rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the ukulele virtuoso allows the sweet lyricism of his instrument to carry Queen’s legendary fantasy message. Through the ukulele, the rock operetta takes on a refreshing tropical feel, and Shimabukuro once again inspires through his honest and open tone.
Long ago in Japan, students studied the 13-stringed koto and played a piece called “Sakura Sakura” to welcome the spring season and its cherry blossoms. Shimabukuro shows us the universal appeal of the ukulele by imitating the piercing sound of the koto with electrifying string plucking on his own arrangement of the traditional folk song.
During the seemingly distant time of cassettes and beepers, paging a dear one “143” stood for a shorthanded “I love you.” Shimabukuro displays his pager-savvy lingo in this original creation dedicated to then-fiancée Kelly, who Shimabukuro married in May 2011. Listen to the sheer joy and wonder Shimabukuro imparts through warm harmonies and a brisk tempo fit for loving notes.
Through a dreamlike composition dedicated to his friend’s ailing grandmother, Shimabukuro gives us the essence of the ukulele as a provider of peace and love in the midst of uncertainty. Imagine as you listen a ceiling abound with blue roses, their petals gently falling and perhaps grazing the tip of your nose. Shimabukuro shelters this delicate image with the voice of his physically small yet expressively immense instrument.
Wherever Shimabukuro goes, his message of harmony resonates with audiences through the charm and dynamism of the ukulele. A humble instrument with unlimited capacity, the amiable ukulele makes a remarkable reality from modest aspirations. Whether through the hands of Shimabukuro or through your own hands, consider kindling the ageless song and spirit of the ukulele to inspire peace within yourself and perhaps within your neighbor as well.
Contact Sophia Dao at sdao “at” stanford.edu.