The ukulele is a four stringed instrument with a limited range that conjures up images of Hawai’ian kitsch to most Mainlanders. But for Japanese Hawai’ian ukulele pioneer Jake Shimabukuro the instrument is much more. By playing rock, blues, jazz, and even traditional Japanese music, Shimbukuro unleashes the ukulele’s dynamic power, creating sounds not normally associated with the instrument. Make no mistake—Jake is a ukulele virtuoso, as innovative and identifiable with his instrument as musical innovators like Jimi Hendrix or Yo Yo Ma are with theirs.
With the instrument that carried him through difficult days for his family and provided an outlet to make connections to people across the globe, Jake performs at gala-priced solo shows at concert halls to cozier events for children and seniors. He’s developed a loyal following and growing fan base because of his message that although “life isn’t always perfect, it can feel perfect” through music.
Tadashi Nakamura’s feature documentary debut fulfills the promise of his short documentaries Yellow Brotherhood, Pilgrimage, and A Song For Ourselves, (Reel Asian 2005, 2007 and 2009 respectively) by continuing his focus on the formative role of family, friendship and community balanced with slick visuals and kick ass music. Nakamura deftly uses archival photos and home movies that familiarize us with Jake and his personal and musical journey. From his modest upbringing in a single parent home to his questionable teenage 1990’s style choices, we feel as if Jake is someone we grew up with. You will want to pick up a “uke” and start jamming with him.
Director: Tadashi Nakamura
Producer: Donald Young
Cinematography: Jim Choi, Ka’alue Anthony, Tadashi Nakamura
Editor: Tadashi Nakamura
Sound: Adriano Bravo
Music: Jake Shimabukuro
Los Angeles-based filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura was named one of CNN’s “Young People Who Rock” for being the youngest filmmaker at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Nakamura’s trilogy of documentary films on the Japanese American experience, Yellow Brotherhood (2003), Pilgrimage (2007) and A Song for Ourselves (2009) have garnered over 20 awards at film festivals around the world. In the words of film scholar B. Ruby Rich, “Nakamura takes the joy of activism and makes it downright contagious!”