Jake Shimabukuro and the Ukulele of Fire

Remember Buddy Green and his freakishly amazing harmonica skills? No? Well, go ahead. Click on that link there. The one I've set up on his name. It's okay. I'll wait.

(Theme from "Jeopardy")

I KNOW, RIGHT? Stellar.

The thing about Buddy is, he took a ridiculously unassuming instrument and made it sing like the Boston Pops. It was incredible. The man brought down Carnegie Hall.

How'd he do that? Well, the same way Jake Shimabukuro knocks the frets off of his ukulele: by not underestimating it. By not judging the book by it's cover. By looking deeper than the surface. It's all in there; it just takes someone believing and working hard enough to find the gold beneath its work-a-day exterior. 

Jake Shimabukuro was born in 1976. (Yeah. Don't even go there with me, people. In 1976 I was a twelve year-old living in Germany, and I was right in the middle of a Bicentennial-themed slumber party where everyone came dressed as Betsy Ross–in a huge coincidence. This dude wasn't even born when I was hosting my epic fete at which I served popcorn cake. Not that this has anything to do with anything. I just thought I'd mention it.)

Anyway, this boy's mother bought him a ukulele when he was 4 years old. And you canNOT believe what he does with it. I grew up with a ukulele. I learned how to play "Tiny Bubbles," and "The Mina Bird" on it. Of course I am famous now, though too modest to admit it. No, please. Hold your applause. I will humbly step aside and allow you to hear what Mr. Shimabukuro's meager efforts have allowed HIM to do on HIS ukulele (which, by the way, looks nothing like the one I grew up with. For starters, mine could have been played by Polly Pocket):


Yeah. Beautiful. If you look closely you'll notice that his fingers never leave his hands. Not even once.

There's not much more to say, really. Except this: I'll bet we all have more in us than we think we do. Maybe we just need to look at ourselves differently. See others differently too. Do the work to find out what's under the surface. If a ukulele and a harmonica can rise up that far, imagine what we can do.

In the meantime, I'm on the lookout for someone who can whoop the living tar out of a kazoo . .  


About Janiel 432 Articles
I have managed to keep the same husband for nearly three decades, and the same four children for almost that long - although one or two of them say it has been much longer. I have been writing since I learned to hold a pencil, and trying to make people laugh even longer. I hope to do some good in the world before I go the way of it. And if not, I'd better at least get to visit Ireland.


  1. I loved this! Dude is amazing!

    It made me think about one of the questions they asked me when I was doing the TV interview : How do people become good at art. I didn’t hesitate in my answer: Self discipline. Stop saying, ‘I can’t’. You’ve got to put in the time – spend the hours to build a relationship with your medium. Practice, practice, practice.

  2. Great comment, Rob. It’s so easy to want it to be easy and to give up when it’s not. But so worth it to work your way through. Which is why you’re so good at so many things. 🙂

    Thanks, girl!

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