Nov 10, 2011
CenterArts presents Jake Shimabukuro on Friday, December 2, 2011 at 8 p.m. in the Van Duzer Theatre, HSU.
Though many still have trouble pronouncing his last name and the instrument he plays, Hawaii’s Jake Shimabukuro (she-ma-BOO- koo-row) is widely recognized as one of the world’s top ukulele musicians. Renowned for lightning-fast fingers and revolutionary playing techniques, Jake views the ukulele as an “untapped source of music with unlimited potential.” His virtuosity defies label or category. Playing jazz, blues, funk, classical, bluegrass, folk, flamenco, and rock, Jake’s mission is to prove that the ukulele is capable of so much more than the traditional Hawaiian music many associate it with. Tickets are $35 general, $35 Senior/Child and $15 HSU students. Tickets are available at the University Ticket Office and at humboldt.edu/centerarts.
It’s rare for a young musician to earn comparisons to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. It’s even harder to find an artist who has entirely redefined an instrument by his early thirties. But Jake Shimabukuro has already accomplished these feats, and more, in a little over a decade of playing and recording music…on the ukulele.
Yes, the ukulele. In the hands of Shimabukuro, the traditional Hawaiian instrument of four strings and two octaves is stretched and molded into a complex and bold new musical force. On his most recent album Peace Love Ukulele, Jake and his “uke” effortlessly mix jazz, rock, classical, traditional Hawaiian music, and folk, creating a sound that’s both technically masterful and emotionally powerful…and utterly unique in the music world. No less than the New York Times recently noted his “buoyant musicianship” and “brisk proficiency,” adding, “the innovation in his style stems from an embrace of restrictions: the ukulele has only four strings and a limited range. He compensates with an adaptable combination of rhythmic strumming, classical-style finger-picking and fretboard tapping.” Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam who recently released his own album of ukulele songs had this to say about Jake: “Jake is taking the instrument to a place that I can’t see anybody else catching up with him.”
Originally raised on traditional Hawaiian music, Shimabukuro soon became entranced by the sounds of top 40 and rock. “I’d turn on the radio and try to play along to pop tunes,” he remembers.
Interestingly enough, his two biggest influences weren’t musicians. Sure, he looked to the likes of Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen for inspiration, but Shimabukuro credits Bruce Lee and Bill Cosby for creating the foundation of his art. “Bruce Lee’s philosophy on martial arts was that it was simply a form of human expression,” he says. “And he didn’t believe in sticking to one ‘style.’ He studied all forms and was open to everything. And Bill Cosby – now here was a performer who just sat in a chair with a microphone, and brought joy to millions with his stories. He connects with an audience like no other.”
Shimabukuro began his music career in earnest performing at local Honolulu venues and coffee shops. “I loved playing in those intimate coffee shops, and was very happy,” he remembers. “But when Sony Music Japan showed interest in signing me, I realized that maybe I had a chance to take it a bit furher.” Although a few well-received album releases helped the musician earn some fame in Hawaii, his career really skyrocketed when a YouTube clip of him performing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in Central Park went viral – over eight-million views and counting.
Despite the success, Jake remains humble and admittedly “awestruck” by how his love of the ukulele has propelled him to such great heights. For that, he gives full credit to the instrument he’s played with a passion since he was four years old. “If everyone played the ukulele, the world would be a better place,” says Shimabukuro.
For more information and credit card orders call CenterArts at 826-3928 or at humboldt.edu/centerarts.