An ukulele weekend, with one of the best — Jake
Jake Shimabukuro arguably is the ranking ukulele stylist today. For him, practice makes perfection.
And he credits the Roy Sakuma Ukulele Studio, where he learned the principles of strumming, even though his mother was first first instructor.
“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today, if it weren’t for Roy’s commitment to teach,” says Shimabukuro, who, with the uke, will be in the limelight this weekend.
Tonight (Friday, July 16), Shimabukuro will be among the stars at a gala at the Ala Moana Hotel, and he will be on the roster of Sunday’s (July 18) 40th Annual Ukulele Festival at Kapiolani Park Bandstand.
“The popularity of the instrument is growing tremendously,” says Shimabukuro.
And he should know, with his extensive tours on the Mainland, in Europe, in Asia.
“On the Mainland, I talk with people who have music stores, and they all tell me, what’s keeping the shops alive is ukulele sales. Guitars are down, ukuleles are skyrocketing.”
And folks who come to his shows, domestically and abroad, include the young and the old.
“People bring their ukuleles to my concerts; and heavy metal musicians, with pierced ears and black outfits, bring ukuleles, too.
“I keep hearing stories that people are learning to play the uke after playing other instruments; it used to be the other way around, that you start with the uke and then branch out.
“But clearly, you get at a good time with the ukulele. It brings peace and joy. And in concert, even before you play a note, people see it and they smile. It’s a very special instrument.”
Shimabukuro played at the ukulele festival while still a student; of course, in recent years, he’s been a headline guest artist.
Yep, he got the jitters while still a student strummer.
“One year, they featured me with the instructors; I was so nervous; we had to play ‘Delicato.’ My teacher at Roy Sakuma’s was Tammy Omuro (she was Tammy Akiyama at the time) and I still keep in touch with her,” he said. “She was one the great teachers — still passionate about teaching, still teaching out of her home now. She’s amazing; one of those human beings who, if you’re in the same room with her, you just smile, because she makes you feel good. She made my half-hour class so encouraging, it motivated me to go home and practice. I credit her, and Roy Sakuma, when people ask me how I started playing ukulele, even if it was mom who first taught me. After all, Tammy was a student of Roy’s, too; when she was my teacher, she was still a student at Kaimuki High School.”
It’s all about the practice, he insists.
“Honestly, I enjoy practicing; it doesn’t get tiring at all. I do spend a lot of time at the airport practicing while waiting for planes; when we’re driving from city to city (someone else is at the wheel), I’m in the back seat, arranging, composing, practicing. You have many opportunities to practice.”
The proof of his practicing will be heard in “Peace Love Ukulele,” his newest CD, which will be released in September.
WHERE TO SEE, HEAR JAKE
5:30 p.m. today (July 16)
Hibiscus Ballroom, Ala Moana Hotel
Also featuring Danny Kaleikini, Herb “Ohta-san” Ohta, Nando Suan, Natalie Ai Kamauu
9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday (July 18)
Kapiolani Park Bandstand
Also featuring Cecilio & Kapono, James Hill, Herb Ohta Jr., Bryan Tolentino, Natalie Ai Kamauu, Tommy D, Hookani Pila, Da Hawaii Seniors of Cerritos, Sunset Strummers, Yuji Igarashi, Kolohe Imamura, George Matsushita, Nihon Ukulele Assn., Yam