Music

Ukulele Virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro Finds Complexity In Simplicity

Musician Jake Shimabukuro spoke with “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes about how the ukulele challenges him to be creative.
Musician Jake Shimabukuro spoke with “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes about how the ukulele challenges him to be creative.
Credit Myke Johns / WABE
Audio version of this story here.

Jake Shimabukuro does more with four strings than most guitarists do with six. He is a Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso who has been touring the world over the last 16 years. He’s collaborated with everyone from Yo-Yo Ma to Bette Midler.

Shimabukuro plays City Winery on Monday and Tuesday night.

The musician began playing at age 4 when his mother gave him the instrument. Years later, he became one of YouTube’s first viral stars in 2006 when a video of him playing The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in Central Park was posted without his knowledge. Today, that video has gotten over 15 million views.

Shimabukuro says he fell in love with the instrument’s limitations.

“I loved how the instrument itself challenged me to be more creative,” he tells “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes, “to think outside of the box.”

Getting further outside of the box, Shimabukuro’s most recent album, 2016’s “Nashville Sessions,” was the result of writing purely in the studio.

“I’ve always enjoyed covering other people’s music,” he says. “I never had a lot of confidence in my own writing or my own compositions. With my latest album, we weren’t even thinking about making a record, we just wanted to go in there with a few great studio musicians and just jam and see what would happen.”

“At the end of six days, we had more songs than we needed for a record!” he says.