A Hawaiian Born Ukulele Virtuoso
Andy Beth Miller | Feb 13, 2017
A Swirl of Smooth Jazz, Blues, Funk, Bluegrass, Classical, Folk, Flamenco
Sitting down to talk story with master musician Jake Shimabukuro is no small feat, as the Hawaiian-born ukulele virtuoso and composer is as hardworking and prolific with creating, producing and sharing his music as any recording artist I have seen. In the small amount of time that we etched out for our interview, Shimabukuro was somehow able to create an atmosphere of instant aloha.
The ability to establish such friendly and open communication so effortlessly and quickly isn’t the only thing speedy about Shimabukuro, as the talented musician is also world famous for his fast and complex finger work that makes his ukulele sing. A delicious swirl of smooth jazz, the best of the blues, a little bit of funk, and a dash of bluegrass, classical, folk and even flamenco, music connoisseurs of all types delight in hearing a little bit of everything in Shimabukuro’s tunes.
Starting his exploration into music early on (his mother gifted him his first ukulele at the tender age of four), Shimabukuro remembers growing up in Hawaiʻi with extreme fondness. And one of his warmest memories, according to the artist himself, “As kids and teenagers, we grew up spending a lot of time at the 7-Eleven—it was the perfect place to get a bite to eat, and very affordable,” Shimabukuro recalls. “The nachos—those ones with the cheese wiz-like cheese and the little compartments for all the toppings—were among my favorites!”
Sharing childhood memories of 7-Eleven is yet another touchpoint that allows us to connect and find common ground so quickly in the interview—which is exactly why the brand is so universally beloved. Shimabukuro’s self-professed fascination with the unique offerings at Hawaiʻi’s 7-Eleven stores in particular is another musing we shared. “They carry a lot of unique things like Spam Musubi and Manapua that you just can’t find anywhere else,” he says. “I’ve eaten probably thousands of musubi in my life. In fact, I went through this whole period of time when I used to eat one every day for lunch!”
Shimabukuro is quick to share his love for spearfishing and all things ocean. “I’m a beach person, and love fishing and diving”
Some of His Favorite Things
Shimabukuro still samples 7-Eleven’s offerings. He has branched out from the musubi; and now to include a much wider variety of things. “I go to the one on King St. often to pick up ice and snacks and things if I’m on my way to a party or potluck especially,” he says. “It’s a great place to get a quality meal that’s fresh, and it also has a lot of options.”
When asked what he enjoys most about Hawai'i, Shimabukuro is quick to share his love for spearfishing and all things ocean. “I’m a beach person, and love fishing and diving,” he says, the intense affection and enthusiasm evident in his voice. “My favorite is the Big Island, but the beaches on Oʻahu’s west side are amazing as well.”
Rivaling the grandeur of Hawai'i’s beaches and ocean, is the equally appealing beauty of its inhabitants, according to Shimabukuro. “The people are what make Hawaiʻi so special—that small community mentality, where everyone knows everyone and neighbors care about one another,” he shares.
Shimabukuro explains how grateful and excited he is to be doing what he does for a living, which will include an exciting 130-show tour across Japan, the UK, and North America, as well as the debut of two new albums within the year.