Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro still remembers vividly the first time he had a ukulele at age four. This was the moment that would change his life and make him one of the most innovative and original uke players in history. He has been compared to Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix. He recalls, “My mom played and I kept asking her to teach me.” “One day, we sat down together on the ground and she handed me her Kamaka ukulele. I remember being so nervous. She taught me how to play the strings and my first chord. The ukulele was my first love. You had to take the instrument from me immediately to get me to play any other instruments.” Jake was born in Honolulu and continues to call Hawai’i home. He was a musician from childhood, and he played guitar, drums, and piano. He says, “But none of these instruments spoke to me like the ukulele.” The uke was unique because it was different. Although music was always my passion, I didn’t know that I could become a musician. “I always thought I would be a teacher, and incorporate music into the classroom rather than performing in front people.” Shimabukuro would go on to perform on some of the most famous stages around the globe. He began his career in Hawai’i and was inspired by some of the island’s most renowned uke players, including Ohta-San, Peter Moon, and Eddie Kamae. He quickly expanded his musical influences and drew inspiration from all corners of the musical spectrum. He says that he realized that he could learn from musicians, guitarists, drummers, violinists, pianists as well as singers and dancers as a result of growing up. Then I began to watch athletes. Athletes can be artists, too. “I was greatly influenced by people such as Bruce Lee and Michael Jordan – applying their philosophy to music performance.” Shimabukuro, a member the Pure Heart, became a local celebrity. His fame spread from Hawai’i to Japan. In 2001, he was signed as a solo artist to Epic Records (Sony/Japan). This was the beginning of what would be a long list of solo albums. They are known for their intricate fretwork, rich repertoire, and romantic melodicism. In 2005, Shimabukuro was an international sensation after a YouTube video of him singing “While My Guitar Gently Woeps” by George Harrison became viral. Jake laughs, “I didn’t know what YouTube was at the time.” “Nobody knew, especially not in Hawaii. However, I was able to share the video with friends who were going to college in the mainland. It had already been viewed millions of times by the time I saw it. It didn’t have my name on it at the time. It said nothing more than “Asian guy chops on ukulele”, or something similar. It was that moment that opened the doors to traveling in North America, Europe and Asia. It was a turning point in my life.” Shimabukuro made a major statement by adapting an Eric Clapton song for the ukulele. (Eric Clapton had previously played lead guitar on the Beatles original recording). Jake is known for his original compositions and his solo arrangements of uke pieces such as Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Schubert’s Ave Maria, and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. I would sit down at home and learn how to play some of these songs on my ukulele. I do a lot of it for curiosity. It’s mostly for my own curiosity. Jake Shimabukuro is a Billboard World Music Chart top-ranked artist who has sold out many prestigious venues such as the Hollywood Bowl and Lincoln Center, Sydney Opera House and Wolf Trap, Bonnaroo and SXSW. He also performed for Queen Elizabeth II in Blackpool, England’s Royal Variety Performance. Shimabukuro’s 140-date-per-year touring schedule is complemented by an extensive and varied collection of albums that captures the many moods of a uke. Nashville Sessions is his most innovative, multifaceted, and engaging CD to date. It combines elements of jazz virtuosity and heartfelt melodycism. Jake is a husband and father to two children. He balances his career with family and community service. He visits schools all over the globe to spread positive messages and encourage young people to quit using drugs. He has been a major contributor to the current revival in interest in the ukulele over the years. He recalls that when he first began touring the mainland, everyone would comment, “Oh man, that’s crazy!'” But there are many famous ukulele players, including Paul McCartney and Eddie Vedder, Train and Jimmy Buffett, Dave Mathews, Taylor Swift, Michael McDonald, Dave Mathews, and Michael McDonald. You can find ukulele music in popular cartoons such as ‘Peg Cat and ‘SpongeBob squarePants’. Every year, the popularity of ukuleles continues to grow. Through projects such as the Nashville Sessions album, I am constantly discovering new sounds and styles for the instrument. I had tons of ideas already for the next album by the time that recording was completed. I can’t wait to get back into the studio and experiment some more.” from www.jakeshimabukuro.com

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