Ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro

The ‘Jimi Hendrix of ukulele’ performs Sept. 23 at Irvine Barclay Theatre.

Jake Shimabukuro’s life changed in 2006 while playing George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on his ukulele in Central Park. A passerby shot a video and posted it on YouTube, and 20 million views later, Shimabukuro was a worldwide sensation.

He’s since collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Bette Midler and Jimmy Buffett. He’s performed for the Queen of England. And he’s collected more than 30 music awards.

We asked the man now known as the “Jimi Hendrix of ukulele” about his career and upcoming show in Irvine.

Your mother gave you a ukulele when you were 4?

Yes. The first time she put it in my hands I was just mesmerized by the sound of the instrument. Every time I played the ukulele I felt so at peace. Soon after, my parents would have to take the ukulele away from me so that I would do things like my homework, eat dinner or take a shower, because I just loved it so much.

How did the video of you playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” change your life?

It single-handedly started my touring career. Ever since that, I’ve been able to tour the world nine months out of the year.

You had to stop touring during the pandemic. What was that like?

I realized how much I craved music. Even though I wasn’t out playing, I’d put on my favorite tracks and listen. And sometimes in the middle of the day, I’d be in the kitchen and have a certain song playing and, gosh, I’d just start crying. Music just touches us in a way that is so deep. It speaks to your soul.

What’s it like to be touring again?

It’s just so emotional to have that connection again with people. The first show back, I saw so many people crying in the audience. But at the end, you just get a sense of, like, this is healing. I’ll never take this for granted again.

What can we expect at your Irvine show?

I’ll be playing a mix of songs people know, like “Hallelujah,” “Ave Maria,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and, of course, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” That will always be one of my favorite songs to perform. And some new songs, too. I just want people to feel uplifted after our performance.

Ticket information:


Country music star Jason Aldean rides into Irvine Sept. 25 with his Back in the Saddle Tour, saying he “hasn’t felt this excited about going on tour in 15 years.” Tickets:

Marvel Comics martial-arts hero Shang-Chi comes to the silver screen in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” opening Sept. 2 at Regal Irvine Spectrum. Tickets:

Bring the family to Woodbury Town Center’s Makers Mart on Sept. 11-12 to enjoy live music, food, a kids’ craft area and shopping for handcrafted goods by local artisans. Info:

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