Widely recognized as the world’s top ukulele player, Jake Shimabukuro (shee-ma-BOO-koo-roh) is internationally renowned for lightening-fast fingers and revolutionary playing techniques. He views the ukulele as an “untapped source of music with unlimited potential.” Jake’s virtuosity defies label or category. Playing jazz, blues, funk, classical music, 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.
Jake was born November 3, 1976 in Honolulu, Hawaii. 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 spectacular showman, his performances captivate 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 café, Jake has gone on to play famous venues such as the House of Blues and The Knitting Factory (Los Angeles), The Birchmere (Alexandria, VA), Tipitina’s (New Orleans), Joe’s Pub and B.B. King’s Nightclub (New York City), The Bumbershoot Festival (Seattle), The Fuji Rock Festival (Japan) and many others. Occasional tours with Jimmy Buffett since 2005 have given Jake the experience of a lifetime, regularly exposing his virtuosity and amazing stage presence to crowds of over 50,000.
Jake toured with Bela Fleck & the Flecktones (2002, 2005, 2006) and recorded on the band’s Little Worlds (2003) album. Jake is also featured on Ziggy Marley’s Grammy Award winning album Love is My Religion (2006) and contributed to the soundtrack of the Jimmy Buffett-produced film, Hoot. This was a rewarding experience for Jake and gave him the confidence to score the Japanese independent film Hula Girl.
The album Travels came out in 2015. The recording featured original compositions by Jake as well as modern interpretations of cherished Hawaiian standards and two 1970s’ pop hits, “I’ll Be There” by the Jackson 5, and “Low Rider” by War.
Also in 2015, Jake returned home to Honolulu to participate in the world premiere of Campanella, the first-ever concerto written for the ukulele. The piece was composed by Dr. Byron Yasui for Jake to perform with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra. “It was a great moment for the ukulele, because it was the first time that the ukulele was presented as a classical instrument,” said Jake. “It was, by far, the most difficult piece of music I have ever performed.”
In early 2016, Jake released Live In Japan (Hitchhike Records/eOne), a two-CD set featuring career-spanning musical pieces, including a 10-minute classic reworking of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
A few months later, Jake released Nashville Sessions (2016), his first album of all original songs. what was conceived as studio jams evolved into beautifully structured compositions. The lineup incliuded Nolan Verner on bass and Evan Hutchings on drums.