Bruce Shimabukuro - Bits & Pieces

Melissa Moniz
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Friday - July 13, 2007

The 411

The press release for Bruce Shimabukuro’s CD release headlines with,“Goodbye ‘Jake’s Brother,’ Hello Bruce.” At 26, Bruce is now ready to shake away from his brother’s amazing musical reputation and build completely on his own talents.

“Now that they’re saying that, I’m going to kind of miss being Jake’s brother,” laughs Bruce. “I would always introduce myself by saying ‘My name is Bruce, but my friends call me Jake’s brother.‘But I guess it’s part of growing up.We’re very close and I never took offense to it. I think other people may have made it a bigger deal, but it was kind of nice. I made a lot of friends that way.”

As the younger brother, Bruce learned to play the ukulele from Jake,and in 1999 when Jake opened up his ukulele school in Hawaii Kai, Bruce started teaching.After Jake decided to close the school, Bruce continued to teach students from his garage and in 2001 opened his own school, called Ukulele Essence. The studio in Kaimuki has reached its maximum capacity, and so Bruce and his students soon will be moving to a new location on Waialae Avenue.

Another exciting venture for Bruce is the release of his new album, Bits & Pieces, which hits stores in a few weeks. The mini-album allowed Bruce to step outside of his comfort zone, featuring him on guitar and vocals rather than ukulele as he did on his first album, Incognito, which received a Hoku nomination for “Most Promising Artist.”

“This is a totally different album,” says the Kaimuki graduate.“You know, I grew up playing ukulele and that’s pretty much all I did musically. And I want to say maybe like seven or eight months ago I started picking up the guitar a little bit and getting more into that and songwriting and singing. This album actually features me more as a songwriter than an ukulele player.”

To catch a live performance, Bruce performs every Thursday at rRed Elephant from noon to 12:30 p.m., July 19 at the Bishop Museum, July 21 at the Hawaii Kai Town Center with his brother Jake, and July 22 at the Ukulele Festival in Kapiolani Park. He also has a CD release party scheduled for July 21 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with an ukulele workshop from 1 to 2 p.m.

For more info about Bruce’s new album, his ukulele school, or his CD release party, visit


Q’n A

Bruce Shimabukuro
Bruce Shimabukuro

What or who has been your biggest musical influence?

I would have to go with Jake really. He has really been around to teach me everything I pretty much know, however, I very rarely listen to his music. I know all his songs and if I hear it I’ll know it’s his, but I don’t think we even have a CD of his in the house. But for him too, he rarely listens to his own album. And even my first album, I’m proud of it but it’s just weird and to me just a little strange.

What is your strongest musical ability?

I think most people would agree that I’m a better ukulele player than guitar player. And some people may think now that I’m choosing the guitar over the ukulele, but to me I’m a ukulele player and now I play guitar and write songs. You put everything together and I like to think that’s what I do now.

What’s your favorite song to sing in the shower?

Maybe Smelly Cats from Friends. (laughs) I’m kidding. I don’t sing too much in the shower.

What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

A little less than two years ago I did a performance down at the Esprit Lounge and this guy from the Mainland walked up to me and said, ‘Oh, Jake, you really improved. I saw your show about a couple of years ago. Man, keep it up.’ That felt pretty good. I never told Jake about that though, I just told all my friends.

How are you and your brother Jake different and alike?

We’re very different as far as the things that we enjoy doing. But the thing with Jake is that he’s so busy with music and always traveling. He’s gone like nine months out of the year. Every time he comes back home he’s always a little out of the loop. But it’s kind of good, we hang out all the time like shooting pool and throwing darts. When he is home we are pretty much together all the time. I can’t really say how we’re different or alike because we’re more like really good friends, rather than brothers.

How would you describe your personal style?

I think I’m like the typical person from Hawaii - just trying to be the best that I can, keep up and enjoy the opportunities that I get.

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