Posted on: Friday, November 27, 2009
Shimabukuro readies for royal performance
Midler invites virtuoso to join her in playing for queen
One day he’s playing a gig with Buffett in Las Vegas, and less than a week later he gets a phone call from Midler – Buffett’s friend – asking if he will go to England with her to play for Queen Elizabeth II on Dec. 7.
Buffett planted the seed during a lunch meeting that the two Hawai’i acts should work together. Midler, a 1963 Radford High School grad, took it from there. Shimabukuro will now play before the queen the same night as Whoopi Goldberg, Michael BublÃ©, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and many other stars perform for her.
All of this still hasn’t quite sunk in for Shimabukuro, a 1994 Kaimuki High School grad who has been living life at warp speed in 2009.
Since January, the 33-year-old virtuoso has toured with Buffett, recorded with, among others, Yo Yo Ma and Cyndi Lauper (for a Japanese project), toured Japan for three months and completed his first tours in both Europe and Brazil.
But maybe the coolest, or most indicative, move of who Shimabukuro is came when he booked his flight to join Midler in England: He leaves next Friday, performs for the queen on Dec. 7, then hops a plane back so he can perform at a Toys for Tots concert at Blaisdell Concert Hall on Dec. 9.
Canceling his Tots appearance was not an option, he said, despite playing for royalty, with music royalty, a continent and two oceans away from home.
He also plans to play for the Honolulu Marathon competitors and at Jimmy Buffett’s at the Beachcomber before Christmas.
You’ve gotta like this guy. He’s normal, but humble despite being hugely successful.
He said he was “blown away” when Buffett told him Midler was a fan of his work. She told them she loved Jake’s rendition of The Beatles’ “In My Life” and asked him to play it with her for the queen. One song, and back to Hawai’i.
His biggest worry now is about protocol, which he said he’ll be briefed on upon his arrival in England.
“Nothing prepares you for playing for the queen,”Shimabukuro said, laughing. “But I have been very fortunate for all the people I’ve met and touring with Jimmy. A lot of people have taken me under their wings and helped me.”
That others have helped him is one reason he’s planning to make it back for the Toys for Tots concert. He is, despite all his world tours, still firmly grounded and likes to give back to his community. And he’s a Midler fan and won’t hide it.
“When I told my mom I was going to play before the queen with Bette Midler, her face lit up,” he said. “I must have seen ‘Beaches‘ a hundred times, and I used to cover a lot of her songs.
“I was nervous walking in her door, but she was so cool and made me feel at ease. We talked a lot. I think what stood out was that she told me to always be true to myself. I like that.”