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Jake Shimabukuro is an 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 (2007) and the Japanese remake of Sideways (2009).
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.
In 2009, Shimabukuro released his concert CD, Live, which captures him in performance at various venues around the world: New York, Chicago, Japan, and Hawaii. It peaked at number 5 in Billboard's Top World Music Albums in 2009 and 2010, won the Hoku for Instrumental Album of the Year, garnered Shimabukuro the award for Favorite Entertainer of the Year, and won the Hawaii Music Award for Best Ukulele Album. In November 2009, he accompanied fellow Hawaii-born Bette Midler at the Royal Variety Performance. They performed a rendition of the Beatles song "In My Life" as the first of Midler's three-song set, and afterwards they met Queen Elizabeth and shook her hand.
Peace Love Ukulele, Shimabukuro's 2011 CD, reached #1 in Billboard's Top World Music Albums in 2011 and 2012. It won the 2012 Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Instrumental Album of the Year, and also garnered Shimabukuro the Na Hoku Hanohano award for Favorite Entertainer of the Year. Shimabukuro created an original piece "Ukulele Five-O" as part of the soundtrack for the new Hawaii Five-0 television series. He capped off 2011 with several live performances on the New Year's Eve episode of A Prairie Home Companion, broadcast live from Hawaii.
Shimabukuro's 2012 album, Grand Ukulele, was produced by music producer/engineer Alan Parsons, at Parsons' request. It features a 29-piece orchestra and a rhythm section, with the ukulele soloing, and was recorded live with no over-dubbing. The album has reached #2 in Billboard's Top World Music Albums.
In 2012, a one-hour documentary film about Shimabukuro's life and career was released, titled Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings. The film won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Ashland Independent Film Festival, the Audience Award for Best Documentary Film and the Best Editor award at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, the Honorable Mention for Best Documentary Feature at the Urbanworld Film Festival, and the Best Medium Length/Essay Award at the DocuWest International Documentary Film Festival. The film aired nationally on PBS in May 2013. It was released on DVD July 2013.
Shimabukuro plays a custom-made 4 string tenor ukulele from Kamaka Ukulele. Early in his career he experimented with the use of effect pedals, but for the last eight years has relied on the natural sounds of the ukulele and avoided sound manipulation. For his Grand Ukulele Tour, he has added the use of a couple of effects pedals to his show. One of them is used to take a sound sample that he loops and accompanies.
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