In the hands of Shimabukuro, the ukulele 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’ (which debuted at #1 on the Billboard World Album Chart), Jake and his “uke” effortlessly (it seems) 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. It was an honor to have this Q&A approved for us and it explores a variety of questions about this famed musician. Read below for the full interview…
Your most recent album ‘Peace Love Ukulele’ was a huge breakthrough for you. What can we expect from you in 2012?
Jake: I’ll definitely be working on a new album and planning on releasing in the fall of this year. I also have a documentary coming out with PBS.
Who are some of your dream collaborations?
Jake: My dream would be to collaborate with symphonies all over the world someday. Have a stack of orchestral charts and perform with some of my favorite classical musicians.
What are you most excited for this year?
Jake: Looking forward to the release of my very first documentary film with PBS & CAAM, directed by Tadashi Nakamura. It’ll be appearing at a lot of the film festivals this year, starting with the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival.
How do you think you’ve changed as a musician this past year?
Jake: I definitely think I’m becoming more and more sensitive with the music I play. Especially the ballads. I find myself connecting with songs on a deeper level and adding more emotion to each note.
After taking on covers of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” & “Bohemian Rhapsody,” are there any other songs/artists you’re considering covering?
Jake: I would love to come up with a solo ukulele arrangement of the entire side B of Abbey Road.
What do you think when you hear that ukulele clubs are being formed across the country and that music stores are selling out of the instrument?
Jake: As a huge fan of the ukulele, I’m always thrilled to hear things like that. The ukulele is the underdog of musical instruments, and I always root for the underdog.
What’s your motto/advice for anyone who’s afraid to pick up the instrument?
Jake: The ukulele is the easiest instrument to play. Don’t be afraid to pick it up and sit with it for a few minutes. Play songs that you love and have fun.
With your new song book, you further cement the ukulele as less of a toy and more of a serious instrument. Why did you decide to put it together?
Jake: It was such an honor to work with Hal Leonard. They did an incredible job putting things together. Friends have urged me for years to put together a songbook with tablature – I’m glad I finally had the opportunity and support to make it happen.
Tell us about your upcoming documentary. What can audiences expect from it?
Jake: The PBS documentary will be covering all aspects of my career and personal life. It covers my relationship with my family and friends, and the people that have supported me throughout my career. Tadashi Nakamura directed the film, and we’ve become very dear friends over the two-year process of shooting the documentary. I hope audiences will gain a deeper understanding of my passion for the ukulele and why I’m so grateful to my family for supporting my music career.
Want to keep tabs on Jake’s music and videos? Follow his cookie crumb trail below:
To see Jake Shimabukuro in a city near you, check his tour dates and ticket information below: