Jake Shimabukuro is a ukulele artist whose YouTube channel has been viewed tens of million times, yet many people still can’t pronounce his last name. It’s “Shee-ma-BOO-koo-roh,” and born Hawai’ians refer to his instrument as an “oo-koo-LAY-lay.” Otherwise, it’s just the humble uke, a lute instrument that dates to the 19th century but is commonly valued about one step higher than a kazoo. It’s time for that condescension to change—long past time, in fact, if Shimabukuro is any indication.
Consider Shimabukuro’s much-admired rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” a piece that went viral in YouTube’s infancy. Since then he’s toured with Jimmy Buffett and played the West Hollywood House of Blues, B.B. King’s Nightclub in New York, Bumbershoot and popular TV and radio talk shows. He’s a household name in Japan, where he’s the ambassador for Hawai’ian tourism. His instrument has only four strings with little sustain and can cover a mere two octaves from middle C up, but that’s close to the range of the average human voice. Thus, Shimabukuro has all of the popular music at his disposal. He’s uploaded mesmerizing covers of “Every Breath You Take,” “Hallelujah,” “In My Life,” “Rolling in the Deep,” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” One of his many TED appearances included “Bohemian Rhapsody,” played in full with no help from snazzy effects pedals. For a change of style, check out his take on Bach’s challenging “Two-Part Invention No. 4 in D Minor.” One seldom gets a chance to say this about a ukulele player, but this Shimabukuro cat rocks.
If you think he’s charming and talented on YouTube, wait till you see him in person. His fingers leap and dance like the “jumping flea” for which his ukulele was named. He pulls sounds from his instrument that have no business being in there.
What: Jake Shimabukuro
Where: Capitol Theater,
206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4
How much: $30-$35
Learn more: 360-754-6670 | TicketFly