Born in Hawaii, Jake Shimabukuro first got his hands on a ukulele at the ripe old age of four. He took a keen interest in it almost immediately, playing several hours a day. We have no doubt that his family encouraged him somewhat. His mother was already an accomplished player and could teach him a lot. However, even from a young age, it was clear that Shimabukuro was a ukulele virtuoso. A person destined for fantastic things.
It wasn’t until 1998 that Shimabukuro was recognized for his talents. At the time, he was working at a music score but performing with his band, True Heart, of an evening. Their first album managed to net them four different Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. For those who are unaware, this is basically the Grammy Awards of Hawaiian music. The album is currently regarded as one of the best albums to ever be produced in Hawaii. This goes to show just how much talent the guys had. A few years after, they split.
Now, for any other ukulele player, this would be the end of the line. Let’s face it, ukulele is hardly ‘mainstream’ music. There was a different plan in store for Shimabukuro, however. In 2002, he secured a recording contract with Epic Records International. They are a division of Sony. Around this time, Shimabukuro started to tour extensively around Japan. To this day, this is where the majority of the fanbase of the ukulele virtuoso are. In fact, many of his albums can only be found in Japan.
YouTube, still in its early stages, was gaining a lot of attention from around the globe. Somebody decided to post Jake’s video cover of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. This was it. This was the moment Jake had been waiting for. As a result, he could crack the US. Almost overnight, some of the biggest names in show biz were praising him. You had Ziggy Marley, Cyndi Lauper, and Jimmy Buffett. The latter allowed him to play on several of his albums, as well as support him on numerous tours.
In 2008, Jake Shimabukuro joined Better Midler in the UK. He performed in front of the queen at the annual variety show. Since that point on, his career has gone from strength to strength. He has appeared in American TV numerous times, has had several documentaries made about him, and his tours are attracting more people than ever before. What was a niche instrument on the ‘world stage’ has become mainstream. So, it is all down to this fantastic ukulele virtuoso.
Jake has released a lot of albums. While you are encouraged to check out all of his music if you are new to this ukulele virtuoso, we suggest you start with these:
Where it all began. This was the album that catapulted him onto the ‘main stage’. Winner of numerous awards in Hawaii. Also, one of the greatest albums of all time. You can’t go wrong.
backed by a 29-piece orchestra, this is another magical album. One of the wonderful things about this album is that it was all recorded ‘live’ in the studio. There is no over-dubbing. It also introduces you to a plethora of different music styles. You will find the ukulele player cranking out classical, blues, rockabilly, and a bit of Flamenco.
this album hit the number one spot of the Billboard’s Top World Music Albums. If you love your covers, then go for this one. While My Guitar Gently Weeps makes an appearance, as well as an epic cover of Bohemian Rhapsody. There are a few originals thrown in for good measure too.
this was his first solo outing. One of the things that we loved about this album is the heavy metal compositions. They show just how versatile the ukulele is as an instrument.
by this album, he had managed to get into the swing of things quite well. Reviews praised Jake for crafting an album which ‘reimagined’ the sounds of the ukulele. His cover of Ave Maria has to be heard to be believed. Check out Jake Shimabukuro`s playlist.