The things Jake Shimabukuro can do with a ukulele will astonish you. The Honolulu native is a virtuoso, and his repertoire includes everything from a killer version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to original pop compositions. Part of it is just oodles of practice combined with innate talent. Another part of the magic, however, comes from the bond Shimabukuro has with his instrument. He spoke to us about his uke and why he loves it.
Do you have a large collection of ukuleles? I have a few, but basically, every time I get a new one, I just retire the one I’m using. I have a few at home, but mainly it’s just the one that I tour with, record with, practice with.
Tell me about the one you’re using now. The one that I’m playing now, the brand is Kamaka. They were the first family in Hawaii to start manufacturing ukuleles, almost a hundred years ago. It’s a four-string, tenor-sized ukulele, and I just absolutely love it.
How do you acquire a new one? All of the instruments that I play are made by the same person, Casey Kamaka. ... Every few years, they’ll make a new ukulele for me. The one that I’m playing now, I’ve had that ukulele for maybe about six years now. And they just finished making another one for me. But it takes me a while, because ... I’m so attached to the one I’m playing now — I think it’s going to take me some time before I can make that switch.
How do you know when you need a new one? These instruments, they’ll last you your entire life. You never really need a new one. But I do travel a lot, and it takes a toll.
If you go
Jake Shimabukuro performs at Brooklyn Bowl on Thursday.