Though many still have trouble pronouncing his last name and the instrument he plays, Jake Shimabukuro (she-ma-BOO-koo-row) is becoming recognized as one of the world’s top ukulele (oo-koo-LAY-lay) musicians.
His latest release, My Life (Hitchhike Records 1108) is an EP that features six brand-new ukulele arrangements of Jake’s favorite tunes by Sarah McLachlan, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and Cyndi Lauper, wrapped around the classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. On this heartfelt and beautiful recording, Jake respects the originals while integrating his own soulful, one-of-a-kind interpretations. This follows in the footsteps of Jake’s smash hit full-length CD Gently Weeps (2006), which has sold 100,000 copies worldwide.
Renowned for lightning-fast fingers and revolutionary playing techniques, Jake views the ukulele as an “untapped source of music with unlimited potential”. His virtuosity defies label or category. Playing jazz, blues, funk, classical, bluegrass, folk, flamenco, and rock, Jake’s mission is to show everyone that the ukulele is capable of so much more than only the traditional Hawaiian music many associate it with.
At just four years of age, Jake’s mother gave him his first ukulele lesson. “When I played my first chord I was hooked”, says Jake, ” I fell in love
with the instrument”. That love grew into a deep passion to create and innovate. Experimenting with various techniques allows Jake to create sounds never thought possible on the tiny four-string, two-octave instrument. A true showman, his performance captivates audiences with intricate strumming and plucking, electrifying high-energy grooves and smooth, melodic ballads. His covers of tunes by The Beatles and Led Zeppelin are interpretations that have dazzled and delighted audiences worldwide.
From a modest beginning performing at a local Honolulu cafe, Jake has gone on to play renowned venues such as the House of Blues and The Knitting Factory (Los Angeles); The Birchmere (Alexandria, VA); Tipitina’s (New Orleans); Joe’s Pub, Highline Ballroom, and B.B. King’s Nightclub (NYC); The Bumbershoot Festival (Seattle); The Fuji Rock Festival (Japan); The Music Is Good Medicine Tour covering thirty-two shows (Japan), and many others. Occasional tours with Jimmy Buffett have broadened Jake’s experience, regularly exposing his virtuosity and amazing stage presence to crowds of up to 50,000. Speaking of large audiences, Jake has also performed on national television shows such as NBC’s The Late Show with Conan O’Brien (twice) and Last Call With Carson Daly, as well as featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, Public Radio International’s The World, and The Bob Edwards Show on XM Satellite Radio.
Selection as the spokesman – three years in a row – for Hawaii Tourism Japan’s (HTJ) campaign to market Hawaii to Japan, as well as his frequent tours of the island nation, have made Jake Shimabukuro a household name in Japan. “Rainbow,” a track from Walking Down Rainhill, was selected as HTJ’s theme song as well as the official Honolulu Marathon theme song in 2004. In 2006, the Gently Weeps track “Beyond the Break” was selected as the Marathon’s theme song and was played as Jake crossed the finish line upon completion of his first marathon run.
Jake’s musical accomplishments are well known throughout the Hawaiian Islands and Japan, though he is perhaps known equally as well for his outgoing personality and warm heart. In his spare time Jake often visits schools to talk with and play music for the children of Hawaii, hopefully inspiring thousands to put their energy into learning about and playing music.
Jake’s collaborations and special projects are varied. He’s toured with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones (2002, 2005, 2006) and recorded on the band’s Little Worlds (2003) album. He recently collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma for a single track on the Grammy-Award winning cellist’s album Song’s of Joy & Peace (2008). Also joining Jake in the recording studio was renowned pop singer Cyndi Lauper. Jake is also featured on Ziggy Marley’s Grammy-Award winning Love is My Religion (2006), as well as on three CDs and two DVDs by Jimmy Buffett and The Coral Reefer Band. Jake’s work with Jimmy also led to his contributions to the soundtrack of the Buffett-produced film, Hoot. This experience gave Jake confidence to take on the challenge of scoring the hit Japanese independent film HULA GIRLS. A heart warming comedy/drama, HULA GIRLS was Japan’s official entry to the 2007 Academy Awards Best Foreign Film category and also won four Japanese Academy Awards the same year including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. Jake’s outstanding score was released last year on Hitchhike Records.
Recent career highlights and developments include performing the National Anthem at the 2008 January PGA Opening Drive on Maui (broadcast live on The Golf Channel); a three-week tour of Australia; his upcoming debut at the world-renowned Bonnaroo music festival; and
Jake’s second Late Night with Conan O’Brien appearance, where he brought the NBC house down with a performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” that brought Conan out his chair to declare it one of the best things he’s ever seen on the show!
Energy, imagination, and innovation have been Jake’s keys to success. He plans to continue recording, performing, collaborating, and staying happy. “I love what I do. I’m forever thankful for music”.