Jake Shimabukuro

Dear Jake,

I know we’ve never met but I feel like I know you.  When I saw  you play live on stage, I feel like I knew you.

When you play Blue Roses Falling, I feel like I know why a boy from Hawaii would visit his friend’s grandmother in the hospital.  Do people in other parts of the US do that?  I think so, but not necessarily where I live now.  Not even his own grandmother…  I feel like I know what it is like to chat with an elder in Hawaii, to listen to them, with respect and compassion.  To listen to them, to talk story.  To hold a soft, dry hand.  Or perhaps just sit.

When you push the speed of your flying fingers, I feel like I know how you sat for hours upon hours, days upon days, building focus with and without monotony until your mind and your fingers could perform both precision and emotion faster, ever faster.  Was I there on the days when your fingers would not do it, would not do it, would not do it, until you had to venture out to clear your mind?  Did you return day after day of fruitlessness to try again?  Or were you patient, taking it at the speed you could every day, just a little, push a little here, draw back there, push a little again until one day 6 months later you were just a little bit faster than you had been?

Did you get chocolate milk and syrup on your ukulele from the kitchen counter?  For heaven’s sake, did you take a break when you were on the toilet or did you play, to your mother’s dismay, even in that little room?

Do you play in your back yard in the shade lying on a mat under a tree, gazing up at that tropical Hawaiian sky that smells like … mangoes and music?  In the background are Matt’s lawnmower down the street and Hoku’s children splashing and screeching while Joshua yells at his dog to “GET over here!”

Do you sometimes hear music in your mind as you drive past Walls then wander up and sit looking out from Diamond Head just to hear the rest of the tune?  Is your skin sun-warm as the breeze presses your shirt to your chest and you watch the breaks?

I took my kids to see you this time, so they could see what discipline and courage and love can birth.  I’m so glad I did.

I know I don’t really know you.  But that is the beauty of art, isn’t it?

Aloha and Mahalo,


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