Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro is a ukulele player. But that’s like saying Les Paul liked to monkey around with guitars.

“Jake is taking the instrument to a place that I can’t see anybody else catching up with him,” Eddie Vedder recently told Rolling Stone. It’s a compliment that Shimabukuro manager Kazusa Flanagan brought up when talking to Pollstar. Jake’s had a lot of compliments over the years, but they just seem to be growing in number and strength.

Photo: Sencame

When Jake’s not touring solo, he can be seen alongside acts like Jimmy Buffett, Victor Wooten and Bela Fleck. The Hawaiian native’s profile rose in 2005 when he uploaded a cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to YouTube, showing that a four-string guitar that mainlanders associate with novelty can be transformed into an instrument that can be part of a symphony. Maybe that’s why Shimabukuro cites his biggest influences as Bruce Lee and Bill Cosby – innovators, rather than musicians. To that effect, Jake has been invited to the TED conference as such an innovator.

Shimabukuro usually tours the mainland alone and prefers the peaceful rooms.

“It’s always a very respectful listening audience,” he recently told Pollstar. “The real beauty of the instrument is heard in a very subtle, quiet environment. That’s when the true voice of the instrument comes out to me.”

Meanwhile, Shimabukuro has a brief respite from touring.

“He just got married two weeks ago so he has a bit of a slow schedule this year,” Flanagan said. “But next year we’ll probably do more of a European tour, then Asia. Jake went to Hong Kong last year and had really good feedback and responses.

Photo: Sencame

“We’re now getting interest from Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and all of that. He has about a 10-date tour in the United States next month. Then he’s going to go to Japan for August-October, then back to mainland U.S. in November.”