The ukulele is one of the most misunderstood and disrespected instruments in the music universe. Much like the bagpipes, the ukulele has been the butt of so many jokes through the ages. But as audiences will see in the new PBS special, Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings, the ukulele is deserving of far more respect than it gets. This semi-rockumentary is as good as anything that MTV used to run during its golden era in the 90s. Though considering the fact that MTV hasn’t run actual music programming in some years, it’s one more documentary that proves the value of PBS not to just older audiences, but to younger audiences, too. The near hour-long documentary follows the superstar Hawaiian musician as he traverses the globe, making appearances in support of his albums. Along the way, audiences learn about the man’s roots and get a glimpse of the man behind the music. By the time the near one-hour program ends, audiences will hopefully have a new view of the ukulele as a valid instrument and by connection a new view of PBS as a network that’s just as wonderful to watch as MTV if not more so at this rate.
Life on Four Strings is, as noted, as good as any music documentary presented by MTV during its heyday of the 90s. It presents a young musician playing an instrument that most would consider a joke and makes them into a performer and instrument to be taken seriously. Audiences will enjoy watching Shimabukuro as he shares his story of how he rose from being just another Hawaiian to being a world renowned musician, playing on the likes of Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Today Show, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Most intriguing of all is that through it all, Shimabukuro remains humble in every situation. And after his trip to the tsunami ravaged regions of Japan, audiences see just how humble he really is. As a matter of fact, they hear first-hand from Shimabukuro himself as to the emotions he felt in seeing the destruction versus the joy that he was able to bring to the victims with just his music. This is one of the documentary’s most moving of moments. There are other moments that are other moments that are just as touching. One of those moments is the story of the romance between Shimabukuro and his wife and their eventual announcement about expecting their first child. Viewers will find their own favorite moments when they order this DVD for themselves.
The stories shared throughout the course of Life on Four Strings offer their own share of entertainment. They would be nothing without video and solid production values to advance Shimabukuro’s story. The transitions from one segment to another are solid and smooth. And the ability of those behind the documentary to take the man’s material from his older days and transfer it to DVD is a credit to their work. It’s that expert editing work that keeps viewers engaged throughout the presentation. Again, this makes this feature just as good as anything produced by MTV in its glory days. Being that MTV rarely plays that kind of documentary anymore, it shows that PBS can easily hold its own in its charge for younger audiences. This isn’t the first time that PBS has released such an impressive documentary, either. Last year’s release of a documentary centered on famed comedian John Leguizamo proved just as enjoyable. If PBS keeps on this course, the network could very easily garner itself some of the biggest ratings that it’s had n a long time. Here’s to hoping. Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings is available now on DVD and can be ordered direct from the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org/product/index.jsp?productId=20571686&cp=&kw=jake+shimabukuro+life+on+four+strings&origkw=Jake+Shimabukuro+Life+on+Four+Strings&sr=1. More information on this and other PBS releases is available online via the PBS online store at http://www.shoppbs.org, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pbs and on the official PBS website at http://www.pbs.org.
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