About Jake Shimabukuro
Jake Shimabukuro is an Japanese-American ukulele virtuoso and composer known for his fast and complex finger work. His music combines elements of jazz, blues, funk, rock, bluegrass, classical, folk, and flamenco. Shimabukuro has written numerous original compositions, including the entire soundtracks to two Japanese films, Hula Girls and Saidoweizu , the Japanese remake of Sideways.
Well known in Hawai’i and Japan during his early solo career in the early 2000s, Shimabukuro became famous internationally in 2006, when a video of him playing a virtuosic rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was posted on YouTube without his knowledge and became one of the first viral videos on that site. His concert engagements, collaborations with well-known musicians, media appearances, and music production have snowballed since then. In 2012, an award-winning documentary was released tracking his life, career, and music, titled Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings; it has screened in a variety of festivals, aired repeatedly on PBS, and been released on DVD.
Shimabukuro's mother gave him a ukulele at age four and he quickly took an interest in the instrument, playing it many hours a day. His mother, an accomplished ukulele player and singer, was his first teacher, and he also took lessons for seven years under Tami Akiyami at Roy Sakuma Studios.
A fifth-generation Japanese-American, Shimabukuro initially gained attention in Hawaii in 1998 as a member of Pure Heart, a trio with Lopaka Colón and Jon Yamasato . Shimabukuro was working at a music store in Honolulu when the group released its eponymous first album, which won them four Na Hoku Hanohano Awards from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts: Island Contemporary Album of the Year, Most Promising Artist, Album of the Year, and Favorite Entertainment of the Year, the latter determined by unrestricted public vote. The album, Pure Heart, was also named one of the Top 50 Hawaiian albums of all time by Honolulu Magazine.
The following year, they released Pure Heart 2, which earned them another Hoku award for Island Contemporary Album of the Year. Yamasato left the group, and Shimabukuro and Colón formed another group, Colón, named in honor of Colón's father, famed percussionist Augie Colón. The new guitarist/vocalist to replace Yamasato was Guy Cruz, and Andrew McLellan joined on bass. The new group Colón released one album, The Groove Machine , and won the Hoku Award for Favorite Entertainer of the Year in 2001.
Shimabukuro decided to pursue a solo career as Colón disbanded in early 2002. With the help of his newly acquired manager, Japanese native Kazusa Flanagan, in June 2002 he became the first Hawaii artist to sign a recording contract with Epic Records International, a division of Sony Music Japan International. Shimabukuro toured extensively in Japan – a practice he still continues – and from the start his albums received extensive airplay on various Japanese radio stations. He has also released numerous Japan-only CDs: Skyline , Haruyo Koi , Yeah , Ichigo Ichie , Annon , The Music of Sideways , Across the Universe , Aloha To You , Ukulele X: 10th Anniversary Collection , Ukulele Disney . In 2008, a 120-page biographical photo-book on Shimabukuro was published in Japan.
Sony Japan, however, only releases Shimabukuro's music in Japan, and to release the music in Hawaii, he created the Hitchhike Records label. Between 2002 and 2005, Shimabukuro released four U.S. albums as a solo performer: Sunday Morning , Crosscurrent , Walking Down Rainhill , and Dragon . All of them except Dragon won both Na Hoku Awards and Hawaii Music Awards, and Dragon won the Hawaii Music Award for Best Rock Album and peaked at #5 on Billboard's Top World Music Albums in 2005. As a solo artist, Shimabukuro experimented with using effect pedals to make new sounds that few would associate with an ukulele.
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