The ukulele has a mixed bag of friends, including mega-zillionaire Warren Buffett, at least three Beatles and elementary-school students in Nova Scotia. Despite many thousands of fans the world over, the small four-stringed instrument has been the butt of countless jokes and insults. But as a new documentary demonstrates, the uke has made a comeback.
The Mighty Uke: The Amazing Comeback of a Musical Underdog opens with shots of Hawaiian virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro ”” now 33 ”” in New York City wearing jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt, playing his ukulele with brilliance and brio. Director Tony Coleman describes Shimbukuro’s technique as “ukulele shock and awe. He’s an athletic performer, full of expression.” Shimbukuro’s mother handed him a ukulele when he was 4, and a little more than two decades later, his version of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” went viral on YouTube.