[quote]Jake Shimabukuro thanks his lucky stars for YouTube
While His Ukulele Gently Weeps
by Paul Bowers @ccpnews
Jake Shimabukuro might forever be known as the ukulele player who performed an innovative cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on a bench in Central Park. A single-shot video of the performance, posted online in 2005, has created an audience of millions for his music and given him the opportunity to share the stage with the likes of Béla Fleck, Bette Midler, Ziggy Marley, and Jimmy Buffett.
“We wouldn’t be talking if it wasn’t for YouTube,” Shimabukuro says on the phone from his hometown of Honolulu, Hawaii. He spends nine months of the year on the road performing his solo show these days, so he relishes the chance to catch a few waves, do some fishing, and eat a little Spam wasubi on the island where he was raised.
He has recorded other rock and pop covers since “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” including an elaborate arrangement of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” on his most recent album, 2011′s Peace Love Ukulele, but none of them have seen the same sort of viral success. He’s still experimenting, though.
“You take a Wagner piece or something, you’ll rip out all your hair trying to do that and not even get past the first 10 bars,” he says. “There are always things out there that are going to be next to impossible to play, but that’s the beauty of the ukulele. It’s not about capturing every single note, but it’s about capturing the spirit of the song.” He bore that adage in mind while working on “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a song whose stacked harmonies he knew he could never replicate exactly with the four-stringed instrument.
The first time through the verse and chorus of any cover song, Shimabukuro plays it straight out of respect for the composer. But then he lets loose, sometimes tweaking the time signature or strumming through blurringly fast percussive runs. In the YouTube video that made him famous, the low frame rate creates a stop-motion animation effect as his playing hand flies back and forth over the sound hole.