Odds are you've never seen ukulele played like this! Though some still have trouble pronouncing his last name and the instrument he plays, Jake Shimabukuro (she-ma-BOO-koo-row) is recognized as one of the world's most exciting and innovative ukulele players and composers.
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. In December 2009 Jake was honored to perform with singer/actress Bette Midler in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen as part of a special fundraising concert in Blackpool, England.
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 the traditional Hawaiian music many associate it with. The Opera House is proud to welcome Jake back for his third appearance, which is selling quickly.
More about Jake
Jake's latest album is Live, his first full-length CD since 2006's best-selling Gently Weeps. After taping dozens of U.S. and overseas performances Jake chose these tracks as representing "the best of the best" of his live playing. Every track reveals a different side of the ukulele: soft and sensitive at times, other times cheery and playful, occasionally dramatic, and, once in a while, hard and aggressive. The 17-song CD, released in April 2009, includes 12 Shimabukuro originals (Nine versions of his best-known compositions, plus four brand-new tunes) and five covers (including a jaw-dropping version of J.S. Bach's "Two-Part Invention No. 4 in D Minor" and a memorable interpretation of "Thriller," the Rod Temperton song made famous by Michael Jackson). Of course there's a live version of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" which might be Jake's best-recorded version yet!
Jake's mother gave him his first ukulele lesson when he was four years old. "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 and inventing various techniques allows Jake to create sounds never thought possible on the tiny four-string, two-octave instrument. A true showman, his shows dazzle audiences with intricate strumming and plucking, electrifying high-energy grooves and deeply felt melodic ballads.
From a modest beginning performing at a local Honolulu café, Jake has gone on to play renowned and popular venues and festivals across the world. This past summer Jake added Sweden, Finland, France, Spain, and Brazil to the list of countries he's performed in. Occasional tours with Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band have broadened Jake's experience, regularly exposing his virtuosity and charming 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, The Today Show, and Last Call With Carson Daly, as well been featured on NPR's Morning Edition and World Café, Public Radio International's The World, Sirius/XM's The Bob Edwards Show, and others.
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 that island nation, has made Jake 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.