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One ukulele to entertain them all

Jake Shimabukuro, the Japanese American uke legend, performs in Costa Mesa and shows what four strings can really do.

March 28, 2011|By Mona Shadia and Mike Reicher, mona.shadia@latimes.com, mike@reicher@latimes.com

The inspiration for many of Shimabukuro's songs actually comes from his own childhood. Before each song, Shimabukuro told the story behind it. First dates and early relationships inspired one of his songs, "Boy Meets Girl." Its melody reflected that feeling of nervousness, rapid heartbeats and uncertainly, but also hope for something deep and meaningful, he said.

He compensated for the ukulele's limited range by pausing at times, creating a mood of poignancy by letting silence fill the auditorium. In other numbers he strummed as fast and furious as a flamenco guitarist. He patted his chordophone like a drum and moved his body effusively. Sometimes he'd strike a pose like a rock guitarist wailing an anthem.

His ability to make the ukulele sound like a piano or guitar mesmerized people at Thursday's show.

"It's amazing what he can do with that instrument," said Mission Viejo resident Lisa Serrantino, who began playing the ukulele as a hobby with her husband, Jay, five years ago. "It just blows me away."

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