Composer Jake Shimabukuro to Return to Pepperdine

November 29, 2018  | 3 min read

Jake Shimabukuro Ukulele superstar Jake Shimabukuro, one of the most exceptional and innovative ukulele players in the history of the instrument, will bring his virtuosic talents to Pepperdine University's Smothers Theatre in Malibu on Saturday, December 1, at 8 PM, and on Sunday, December 2, at 2 PM. 

Every major artist has that one defining album or performance, but for ukulele master Shimabukuro, his entire career has been filled with such magical achievements. Shimabukuro’s wholly unique approach to the ukulele started early. As a youngster growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii, Shimabukuro started playing the instrument at the age of four, learning the basics from his mother, Carol, and then developing his craft further by studying the likes of musical masters such as Eddie Kamae, Ohta-San, and Peter Moon. As he matured, Shimabukuro also found inspiration from guitar players, drummers, pianists, and singers. Even athletes helped fuel the intensity of his artistic fire.

As a member of the group Pure Heart, Shimabukuro became a local phenomenon. From Hawaii, his fame next spread to Japan. He was signed to Epic Records (Sony/Japan) in 2001 as a solo artist. And in 2005, Shimabukuro became an international phenomenon when a video of him performing his deeply beautiful and original take on the George Harrison song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” went viral on YouTube.

As soon as music fans listened to Shimabukuro’s virtuosic approach to the ukulele, they were hooked. Throughout his rich and varied catalog of albums, Shimabukuro captures the many moods of the ukulele, fearlessly traversing boundaries and putting his inspired touch on everything from island standards, to popular tunes and classical symphonic concertos. Albums such as Gently WeepsPeace Love Ukulele, and Grand Ukulele are noted for their dazzling fretwork, ambitious repertoire, and wistful melodicism, and topped the Billboard World Music Charts. As a live performer Shimabukuro became one of the hottest tickets around, headlining the Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Center and the Sydney Opera House (he even performed for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II) while making frequent appearances on media outlets like The Today ShowGood Morning AmericaJimmy Kimmel Live!, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

He has collaborated with artists from Yo-Yo Ma, Jimmy Buffett, Jack Johnson, and Cyndi Lauper to Ziggy Marley, Dave Koz, Lyle Lovett, and Bette Midler, and wowed audiences at SXSW, Bonnaroo, the Playboy Jazz Festival, and the cutting-edge TED conference. This year he founded Shima Ukulele with his brother, a fellow artist and teacher, Bruce Shimabukuro, which aims to make quality ukuleles accessible for anyone interested in learning to play.

In 2016 Shimabukuro recorded the all-original Nashville Sessions at Music City’s famed Ronnie’s Place studio with producer R.S. Field (Steve Earle, Webb Wilder) and the ace rhythm section of bassist Nolan Verner and drummer Evan Hutchings. And now he’s returned to the same city and studio—and with the same gang, too (augmented by guitarist Dave Preston)—for his newest record, The Greatest Day, which was released on August 31, 2018.

The 12 studio tracks that comprise The Greatest Day feature some of Shimabukuro’s most imaginative and adventurous playing yet. Half of the album is devoted to originals, on which the instrumentalist reaches new heights of compositional distinction. And on the covers, Shimabukuro's prodigious skills allow him to transcend his material—no mean feat considering some of the classics and standards he’s tackling. 

Along with his tremendous professional achievements, Shimabukuro’s personal life is filled with riches: He’s a loving husband and proud father of two boys. While balancing career with family, he also remains firmly rooted in his commitment to community, frequently performing at schools in Hawaii and overseas, urging youngsters to find their passion and live drug-free. He has also played a key role in the current revival of interest in the ukulele.

Ticket prices range between $10 and $55. For additional information about the concerts, and to purchase tickets, visit the Center for the Arts website.