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Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings (2012)

This intimate documentary gives viewers a singular glimpse into Jake Shimabukuro, ukulele virtuoso, but also Jake, the young boy who grew up in a modest apartment to a single mother and unsuspectingly rose to international stardom.

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This intimate documentary gives viewers a singular glimpse into Jake Shimabukuro, ukulele virtuoso, but also Jake, the young boy who grew up in a modest apartment to a single mother and unsuspectingly rose to international stardom.

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March 2012 (USA)  »

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An incredible look at one of the world's most virtuosic musicians
21 May 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Jake Shimabukuro is not a "ukulele player" -- he's a world-renowned musical virtuoso who blows away anyone who hears his music. He is in the same pantheon as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Bela Fleck, and even great classical musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma and Hilary Hahn. Jake, more than any musician I know of, transcends his instrument and creates pure music, touching the souls of his listeners.

A well-kept (though award-winning) Hawaiian and Japanese secret until 2006, Jake burst upon the world stage when someone posted the now-famous video of him playing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" on YouTube. The video instantly went viral, and Jake became a international star, receiving concert requests from around the world, and playing with and opening for such stars as Jimmy Buffett, Bela Fleck, Ziggy Marley, and Bette Midler, and being produced by Alan Parsons.

All while retaining his youthful humility and disarming openness and lack of pretense. This movie is a lovely look into his life, both for Jake fans, and for those who have never heard of him. The film is by turns fascinating, jaw-dropping, inspiring, funny, touching, and moving. It's a well-rounded and expertly done piece of cinema by a very experienced Japanese-American documentarian, who strives to bring the human touch to his work. The film should appeal to anyone, regardless of age, nationality, or musical interest (or lack thereof). Jake's life alone is fascinating, never mind his brilliant music (which we are given glorious exposure to).

Jake has a special connection with Japan, both through his heritage and because his longtime manager is from Japan. Thus, he's an even bigger star in Japan than in the U.S. Hopefully, this wonderful film will open the eyes of further music lovers in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world.

By the way, this hour-long documentary is viewable for free until August 8, 2013 on the PBS site. Go to their Video page, and click the drop-down Progams menu (or access it directly here: http://goo.gl/cDN0T or http://video.pbs.org/video/2365004338).


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