Our friend Cassidy Blackwell from Natural Selection went and saw the Jake Shumabukuro performance last week at the Castro Theatre here in SF. Here’s her photos and review from the show and documentary screening…

This past Wednesday, Jake Shimabukuro, the world-renowned ukelele virtuoso debuted his new yet-to-be-titled tour documentary at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. Known for his ability to make big sounds out of a small instrument, Shimabukuro skyrocketed to worldwide stardom in 2006 after his YouTube rendition of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” went viral. The World Premiere viewing of the documentary sheds a light on Shimabukuro’s youth and artistic development while providing an intimate glimpse of his life as a globally touring artist. Director Tadashi Nakamuro artfully captures the power of the instrument to connect people of all ages, cultures, and ethnicities as cameras follow him at home, behind stage, and to performances around the world in everywhere from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Concert Hall to a nursing home for the elderly displaced by the tsunami in Sendai Japan to a preschool in San Francisco.

While the ukelele is a massively respected instrument in Hawaii, Shimabukuro’s genre-spanning repertoire (from jazz to rock to traditional to latin) has single handedly given the instrument greater acclaim beyond its place of island origin. “That’s the great part about playing the ukelele,” joked Shimabukuro in an audience Q&A after the film, “everyone has very low expectations for the instrument.” Audience members were treated to a special concert after the screening that was filled with Shimabukuro classics, covers, and special appearances from fellow ukelele artist, Dominator, his mother and brother. The set list included:

  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  • a traditional Hawaiian standard
  • Blue Roses
  • Me and Shirley T (guest performance by Dominator)
  • Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Wipe Out (duet with brother Bruce also on ukelele)
  • a family performance of a traditional Hawaiian song, (brother Bruce on ukelele and mother Carol on vocals)

I first saw Shimabukuro four years ago at High Sierra Music Festival and was blown away by his musical prowess at the time. The documentary is beautiful depiction his evolution of his musicianship as well as Shimabukuro as a humble, yet globally inspiring artist.