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Shimabukuro's Ukulele 'Gently Weeps'

January 12, 2012

Jake Shimabukuro believes music is the greatest gift, and the ukulele is the friendliest way to present that gift to the world.

Jake Shimabukuro’s life is centered on the ukulele — it’s been that way since he was 4 and picked up a “uke.”

“My mom played and taught me my first few chords,” Shimabukuro said. “I started strumming mainly traditional Hawaiian music has a child.”

Later, though, Shimabukuro enjoyed the challenge of trying to play other styles of music on the four string, two octave instrument, such as jazz, classical or rock.

In the hands of Shimabukuro, the traditional Hawaiian instrument is stretched and molded into a complex and bold new musical force.

Now Shimabukuro,35, is a rare young musician who’s earned comparisons to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis.

Shimabukuro has strummed himself into a world renown ukulele player, and he’s also known as a YouTube sensation.

Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam recently released his own album of ukulele songs and said this about Jake: “Jake is taking the instrument to a place that I can’t see anybody else catching up with him.”

Shimabukuro brings his uke to Newton-Conover Auditorium Friday, Jan. 27, for a one-night-only concert, not even a month after the Jan. 4 release of his most recent album “Peace Love Ukulele.”

The CD debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard World Album Chart.

Shimabukuro and his “uke” effortlessly mix jazz, rock, classical, traditional Hawaiian music, and folk, to create a sound that’s both technically masterful and emotionally powerful…and utterly unique in the music world.

With drums, bass and even orchestral strings filling spaces behind the ukulele, the album conveys the complete musical vision of one of the world’s most original talents.

Shimabukuro describes “Peace Love Ukulele” as an album he hopes will bring joy and happiness to listeners.

“I hope the emotions expressed in the music will connect people and make them realize that we all feel the same things — we just express them differently,” he said.

A few of Shimabukuro’s favorite tunes on the album include “143,” a song inspired by the pager code 143 which simply means I love you, “Go For Broke,” a song written for the Japanese-American veterans who served in World War II, and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” one of his all-time favorite classic rock tunes.

After taking on covers of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Shimabukuro admitted there are many great tunes out there, and he loves covering tunes written or performed by his favorite artists.

“Covering a song of your favorite artist is like wearing your favorite basketball player’s jersey,” he said.

The new CD, Peace Love Ukulele, is Shimabukuro’s first independent release.

“I had a lot of fun putting things together for this album,” he said. “I really took my time with this one and tried to present the ukulele in ways that were fresh and exciting.”

Shimabukuro hopes listeners experience the same joy that he experiences when he strums the uklele.

Armed with his new CD, Shimabukuro hopes to inspire more people to take an interest in the young instrument.

“The ukulele is probably one of the easiest instruments to play. Anyone can pick it up for the first time, learn a couple chords and immediately start strumming songs,” he said. “It’s so relaxing. I always tell people that playing the ukulele is like an entire yoga session in one strum.”

Shimabukuro said all the great musicians inspire him, but inspiration comes from elsewhere, too.

“A lot of my inspiration comes from figures outside of the music world — people like Bruce Lee, Bill Cosby, Michael Jordan, Joe Montana and other artists who are passionate about what they do," he said.

His heroes outside of music — when he was growing up — were Bruce Lee and Bill Cosby

He especially loved Lee’s philosophy and applied a lot of his ideas to his approach in music. “Lee embraced all forms of martial arts and didn’t believe in having just one style,” Shimabukuro said. “I love all forms of music and try not to get locked into one genre.

Shimabukuro’s style is extremely eclectic and spans numberous genres. He uses recorded music for different things.

“I like uptempo songs for when I’m exercising, slow ballads when I’m trying to relax, instrumental music when I’m studying, etc.”

Shimabukuro is not sure where he’ll be in 10 years, but he enjoys everything that is happening at this moment.

“I’m extremely thankful for all the wonderful opportunities that have been coming my way,” he said.

His purpose in creating Peace Love Ukulele is simple but powerful.

“I believe the ukulele is the instrument of peace,” he said. “If everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place.

Want to go?
What: Jake Shimabukuro, ukulele player.
When: Friday, Jan. 27.
Where: Newton-Conover Auditorium, located at 60 West Sixth St. in Newton.
Cost: s: Please contact the Newton-Conover Auditorium office at 828-464-8100, e-mail rhelton@newton-conoverauditorium.org or visit www.newton-conoverauditorium.org

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