On ‘Peace Love Ukulele’ (out January 4th from Hitchhike Records), Jake Shimabukuro displays his customary “brilliance and brio” (NPR) on the ukulele with “Go For Broke,” a Shimabukuro original that pays heartfelt tribute to the courageous American soldiers of Japanese ancestry who fought and sacrificed their lives in World War II.
The motto of the second-generation (Nisei) Japanese-American soldiers from Shimabukuro’s native Hawaii, the most highly decorated U.S. unit in military history, was “Go For Broke,” meaning “to risk everything on one great effort to win big.” That’s also a good description of the way Shimabukuro plays, with “stunning chops” and “a deep and sensitive musicality” (Guitar Player).
The Nisei veterans’ determination has been a source of inspiration for Shimabukuro, himself of Japanese ancestry, since he was a young boy. “Whenever I am faced with a problem, I always ask myself, ‘How can I handle this situation in a way that would make a Nisei veteran proud?'” he says of the men of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 100th Infantry Battalion, the 1399th Engineering Construction Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), who fought for the U.S. against their ancestral land at a time when those of Japanese heritage were often viewed with suspicion. “I think anyone who hears their story will be inspired to be a better person.”
Shimabukuro knows a peaceful way to express that inspiration. “If everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place,” he says.