Jake Shimabukuro shares musical beginnings for World Ukulele Day

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The ukulele was made made famous here in Hawaii in the 19th century and has since become an instrument of choice worldwide. February 2, 2021 is World Ukulele Day, and HI Now host Kanoe Gibson caught up with none other than Hawaii’s own virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro.

“I got into playing the ukulele because my mom played,” Shimabukuro remembers. “So when I was about 4 years old, she sat me down, I played my first chord, and I just fell in love with it. That same joy that I felt on that first day still resonates with me today.”

A few years later, Shimabukuro joined Roy Sakuma’s ukulele studio. That’s where he started to pick and pluck melodies rather than just strumming. He says Herb Ohta, also known as Ohta-San, was one of his biggest influencers.

“I would listen to all of Ohta-San’s recordings,” he remembers. “I was so fascinated by this little, tiny, four-stringed instrument.”

Shimabukuro says he got the bug to perform during his freshman year of high school at his school’s first assembly.

“I didn’t even say anything, I just looked down and I started playing,” he says. “The entire gym just got super quiet and then all of a sudden there was just this thunderous applause.”

It was a chicken skin moment for Shimabukuro that changed his life forever.

“It was such an amazing rush and feeling,” he remembers. “The fulfillment that I get with connecting with an audience, or being able to share my passion and having that joy resonate with everyone, including myself collectively, is just an incredible experience.”

Shimabukuro believes that not only is music the universal language, but it’s also the language of the universe.

“Music truly does connect us,” he says. “I’m so thankful for my mom, you know, for introducing that instrument.”

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