Ukulele to da max

Most non-Hawaiians think of ukuleles as cheesy accompaniment to staged hula shows for tourists. But locally, the ukulele is a genuine art, appreciated by most. Of course, the repertoire of songs is mostly traditional and folksy, but some of it is really good.

Then along came Jake Shimabukuro from Honolulu, and he infused new life into the instrument. Aside from plugging it in and amplifying it and distorting it, he has also explored new melodies acoustically. He is obviously very talented and can pull off some incredible pieces of music. We missed him last year when he performed in the Hawaiian composer’s contest at the Lihue Marriott Resort. The contest and concert is held every year as part of the Mokihana Festival.

In this video, he plays “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by the Beatles, arranging George Harrison’s electric guitar solo for an acoustic ukulele:

P.S. The title is Hawaiian pidgin for “extreme ukulele.”

Updated Aug 22, 2018:

Jason contacted me to let me know about the broken links in this article. This old article was published “before youtube” when the video was hosted on an ukulele website (for the record: So I found the video on youtube now and embedded it. I also fixed all the other links that aged badly. Jake Shimabukuro has continued performing and releasing albums, also worth checking out.

Jason is also promoting his own ukulele website, the Chord Genome Project, showing beginners how to play thousands of songs by transposing them to simple chords. It’s free, but you can pay to access additional content, which seems fair. I am not affiliated or compensated, but because he contacted me politely by email, I thought I’d provide the link if any ukulele players are interested.

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