I mentioned over at 52 Sweets I wasn’t going to have a 52 baking project this year, but that I would have a 52 project over here. I can’t believe it’s the middle of March and here I am, finally ready to tell you about it!
I am turning 40 this year. I know, it’s shocking, right? Since I look not a day older than 25, I know this takes you by surprise. Even if it doesn’t, could you please feign surprise? It would make me feel better about ushering in this milestone. I love celebrating birthdays, mine and everyone else’s, and decided I would celebrate my birthday by doing 40 of my favorite things in the 40 days surrounding my birthday.
And because I know you are math savvy, I expect you are asking, “How does that add up to a 52 project?” Well, my zany trainer friend Mandy, the one who got me started at 52 Donuts, suggested this year we select 12 adventures or try 12 new things over the course of the year. Make sense now? 40 + 12 = 52. So in addition to the next 40 days of celebrating, I will also be embarking on 12 adventures, trying new things or doing something wacky I’ve always wanted to do. (I’ve already been on one of my adventures…I’ll tell you about it soon. It was FUN!)
So here we go…the first of my 40 Days of 40 posts.
Jake Shimabukuro Concert
I first saw Jake Shimabukuro perform in 2006. On a snowy March day, my husband and I drove 3 1/2 hours each way to go to a ukulele concert. And it was amazing. I’m not a big fan of traditional uke tunes, not a huge fan of the old Hawaiian folk tunes heard at luaus, but I am a fan of someone who takes something traditional and does something unexpected with it. Jake Shimabukuro is often referred to as the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele. It’s an appropriate description. You have to see it to understand.
|Me in 2006 with Jake Shimabukuro in Lincoln, Nebraska
In 2006, I carried my cute little yellow uke into the Lied Center. I tucked it under my seat during the concert. After the concert, Jake signed autographs and maybe 50 or 60 people stuck around to get CDs signed. I spotted one fella in line who also had brought his ukulele to be signed. Only two of us, quietly waiting in line with a simple, yet amazingly effective, musical instrument tucked under our arms. Jake happily signed my uke, posed for a picture with me and chatted with me for a few moments. He was as charming as his music is moving. I’ve seen him perform a few times since then on stage with Jimmy Buffett, but never again solo. I’ve hoped since that concert I would have the opportunity to see him perform solo again.
Skip forward six years. This time the concert was close to home, packed, a full house at a performing arts center in my city. No roadtrip necessary! And this time, there was a tailgate party of sorts in the center’s lobby. Three local ukulele clubs joined together in a pre-concert jam. Yes, THREE ukulele clubs in one city in the Midwest. Not only were there many people playing ukuleles, people with ukuleles in cases and less-fancy models like my own were tucked under arms of many. The music in the lobby was great fun, about forty ukuleles, some folks even pulled kazoos out of their pockets for “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue.” I can’t help but think Jake Shimabukuro is at least partially responsible for the growth of ukulele playing, for the interest in an instrument often associated only with Don Ho or Tiny Tim.
The concert was amazing, the perfect kick-off to my 40 Days of 40 celebration. Jake played many of his own songs, often sharing a story of what inspired the song. There were also several covers, which he explained as being like wearing your favorite athlete’s number on a shirt. I think what he does with other artist’s songs is a much greater homage to the song than that. While playing Adele’s Rolling In The Deep, I realized you can almost hear the words of the song coming from his ukulele. He pointed out that as a child, there was no such thing as a touring solo ukulele artist. Isn’t it great that he didn’t let that stop him?
Another big difference six years and increasing popularity makes: after the concert the line of people waiting to meet Jake and get an autograph was out the door. I lost count of the number of ukuleles being held by fans in that line. This time, I didn’t wait in the line and instead went to have a Mai Tai to wrap up the evening. What was shared during the concert was plenty to have me grinning all night, no autograph necessary this time. 🙂
At some point during this post, if you’ve read this far, you probably thought something like, “The ukulele? REALLY?” Yes, really. I know it’s quirky, it’s little and is often thought of as a toy or a decoration brought home from a Hawaiian vacation. But it is also one of the best instruments for teaching children, a perfect introduction to a stringed instrument. And as Jake said during the concert, “If more people played the ukulele, there would be more Peace.” Agreed. Mahalo, Jake, for kicking off my 40 Days of 40.