Famed ukulele virtuoso shares song of hope

Roy Sakuma
Roy Sakuma

By Diane Ako - bio | email & Sisto Domingo

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A world famous ukulele virtuoso uses his music to spread a message of hope. Roy Sakuma wrote a lyric some 30 years ago. Just recently, he dusted off the notes and started playing it to classrooms across the state.

Most know Sakuma as a legendary ukulele player and teacher, but behind the happy music is a sad story. "I had a rough childhood. I had a lot of problems, a lot of things where I was confused," said Sakuma.

It started when Sakuma's mother was diagnosed with mental illness. His dad told him, "'You can't listen to your mother because she won't tell you things that don't make sense.' She's my mother but at a young age I couldn't listen to her.

Then Sakuma's brother, best friend, and next door neighbor were all diagnosed with mental illness. The brother and neighbor both committed suicide. "With all this mental illness around me I lived in fear that I'd be the next victim," shared Sakuma.

Scared, alone, and afraid, Sakuma dropped out of school. "I was rarely ever in school. Thankfully I found the ukulele. That really helped turn my life around," he reflected.

One day, during a low point of his life, Sakuma wrote a song. "It came from my heart. It just came out," he said. "The chorus is, I am what I am. I'll be what I"ll be. Look, can't you see that it's me, all of me?"

Today, Sakuma and his star pupil Nick Acosta sing that song for kids at elementary schools. "It's a great message this song is sending to children, to everyone," he said.

It's not just for kids. It's for anyone having a tough time. "It's a struggle for lots of us," said Sakuma.

Simple words- with a powerful meaning. Sakuma asserted, "It's going to give a lot of people hope, and hope is the foundation that lets us work through things. If everyone had hope, that would be the key in life.