There was a nearly full house at the Colonial Theatre for ukulele icon Jake Shimabukuro whose high- energy performance had audience members dancing in their seats on Friday, Nov. 11.

He played many original works, as well as other covers of famous works such as George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” the song that went viral on YouTube and rocketed Shimabukuro into fame.


Dorothy England / News Editor

Dorothy England / News Editor

A native to Honolulu, Hawaii, Shimabukuro has been playing the ukulele for 36 years after he first picked it up when he was four years old and begged his mother to teach him how to play. Since then, he has continued to play other instruments such as the guitar and drums, but has stuck with the ukulele.


Vicky Pittman, director of education and community outreach at the Colonial Theatre, described Shimabukuro’s live performance as “extraordinary.” She said, “Nothing can take the place of a live performance, especially for someone like him. You cannot capture that energy on any other medium but live.

Shimabukuro had audience members nodding along to each song at the Colonial with Nolan Verner playing deep bass riffs behind Shimabukuro’s energetic ukulele performance and the addition of a kaleidoscope array of colors and shapes projected onto the ceiling of the theater.

As Pittman said, “The lights added to the overall setting because it is difficult being up there alone, and the split focus it created for the audience was beautiful.”

Shimabukuro brought many original works to the stage, but also played a few covers such as The Beatles “Come Together” and Queens “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Shimabukuro said, “I start with a song I really enjoy and I like to see where it takes me.” Audience members were able to see Shimabukuro’s approach at work when he dedicated a song to the late Leonard Cohen, who passed away earlier this week, in an on-the-spot ukulele rendition of Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.

Audience and community member Linda McBride said that “the tribute to [Leonard Cohen] was one of the best ways to mourn the loss of such an icon.” McBride was not alone in her opinions. Audience members commended Shimabukuro with a standing ovation after the individual song.

Shimabukuro played many of his original works off his new album “Nashville Sessions” and had audience members laughing at the titles such as “F Minor,” because as Shimabukuro said, “It [the song] is played in F Minor scale.” Another song off his new album he said, “It sounds like a Celtic tune, so we decided to call this one ‘Celtic Tune’.”

Shimabukuro’s inspiration comes from many backgrounds in the style he plays, with the one song having a Celtic sound while others he described as sounding like an “Armenian or Egyptian folk tune,” or another described as “Bluegrass inspired.”

As McBride said, her grandmother was a first generation immigrant from Ireland and McBride had grown up listening to Celtic songs. Shimabukuro’s “Celtic Tune,” she said, reminded her of the songs her grandmother used to play her.

“Nashville Sessions,” Shimabukuro’s new album, is out for sale now and features 10 songs recorded with Jake Shimabukuro on ukulele, Nolan Verner on bass and Evan Hutchings on drums.

Fletcher Rice can be contacted at

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