Jake Shimabukuro is an American ukulele player and composer based in Hawaii. Known for both his virtuosic playing and his ability to shift between several different genres. Shimabukuro first gained attention in his native Hawaii, in 1998, as a member of the band Pure Heart, but it wasn't until 2006; when a clip of his instrumental, solo ukulele cover of The Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weeps, from his performance on the tv series Midnight Ukulele Disco, went viral on Youtube that he became known internationally. Since then, Shimabukuro has been invited to collaborate with artists such as Jimmy Buffett, Bela Fleck, Ziggy Marley, Cyndi Lauper, Keali'i Reichel and Yo-Yo Ma. He accompanied Bette Midler in a performance for Queen Elizabeth in 2009, his 2012 album, Grand Ukulele, was produced by studio legend Alan Parsons and that same year, Shimabukuro was the subject of a PBS documentary titled Life on Four Strings. He's also performed on several national television & radio programs and at a number of TED conferences. To date, Shimabukuro has released 25 albums; three with Pure Heart, one as a member of the band Colón; with Pure Hear percussionist, Lopaka Colón, and the rest as a solo artist. However, because he was signed as a solo artist in Japan before he was in the U.S., nearly half of Shimabukuro's solo albums are only available in Japan.
Shimabukuro has often been referred to as the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele, due to the affect that he's had on the public perception of the instrument and its capabilities. From his technical prowess; which rivals that of the world's best classical guitarists, to the songs that he chooses to cover; which, in addition to the aforementioned Beatles classic, include Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, Bach's Two-Part Invention No. 4 in D minor, Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, Daft Punk's Get Lucky, Michael Jackson's Thiller and many more, to his original compositions; which blend elements of jazz, rock, blues, funk, classical, bluegrass, folk and flamenco, as well as traditional Hawaiian music, Shimabukuro has reinvented the ukulele and had an unmistakable and unavoidable influence on everyone who takes up the instrument in his wake; just like Jimi Hendrix did with the guitar. Early in his career, he also experimented with effects pedals, creating sounds that few would associate with the ukulele which, of course, further fed into the Hendrix comparison. The ukulele is often considered a novelty instrument by many outside of its native Hawaii and is rarely associated with any kind of serious music, but Jake Shimabukuro and the generation of musicians who he has inspired, which includes equally virtuosic ukulele players such as Taimane Gardner, Kalei Gamiao and Brittni Paiva, are proving that, far from being a toy, the instrument is capable of presenting the same technical challenges and producing the same artistic masterpieces as any other musical instrument and it absolutely deserves to be taken just as seriously.
I'll leave you with the clip that made Jake Shimabukuro famous, his cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps from Midnight Ukulele Disco, his cover of Bohemian Rhapsody, a live version of his song Dragon; which shows off his use of effects pedals and the studio version of his song Island Fever Blues from Grand Ukulele. You can watch more videos on his Youtube channel or visit his official site. You can also stream his music on Spotify or buy his albums on Amazon and iTunes.
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