Jake Shimabukuro is a ukulele virtuoso known for his complex finger work and music that combines elements of jazz, rock and pop.
Shimabukuro’s mother gave him a ukulele at age four and he quickly took an interest in the instrument. A fifth generation Japanese-American, Shimabukuro initially gained attention in Hawaii in 1998 as a member of Pure Heart, a trio with Lopaka Colon (percussion), and Jon Yamasato (guitar).
Shimabukuro was working at a music store in Honolulu when the group released its eponymous first album, featuring a sound and style somewhat similar to the Ka’au Crater Boys. Their first album won them four Na Hoku Hanohano Awards (the Hawaiian counterpart of the Grammy Awards): Island Contemporary Album of the Year, Most Promising Artist(s), Album of the Year and Favorite Entertainment of the Year, the latter determined by unrestricted public vote.
The following year, they released Pure Heart 2, which earned them another Hoku award for Island Contemporary Album of the year.
Shimabukuro and Colon later formed another group, Colon, which they named in honor of Colon’s father, famed percussionist Augie Colon.
The new guitarist was Guy Cruz, younger brother of the Ka’au Crater Boys’ Ernie Cruz, Jr., and John Cruz.
Colon won the Hoku Award for Favorite Entertainer of the Year in 2001, after which Shimabukuro decided to pursue a solo career.
As a solo artist after the break-up of Colon he experimented with using effect pedals to make new sounds that few would associate with a ukulele. He has released an instructional DVD called Play Loud Ukulele, and in 2006, composed the music to the Japanese film Hula Girls, which featured hula dancing and a Hawaiian spa resort as its primary theme and setting respectively.
In November 2009, Shimabukuro accompanied fellow Hawaiian-born Bette Midler at the Royal Variety Show. They performed a rendition of the Beatles song “In My Life” as the first of Midler’s three-song set.
His latest recording, Peace Love Ukelele is set for release this year.
* His version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is one of the most seen YouTube clips ever.
* Ukulele virtuoso has changed the sound and repertoire of the instrument.
* Has collaborated with Bette Midler and Yo-Yo Ma.