Shimabukuro is a ukulele virtuoso who’s been compared to the likes of Yo Yo Ma, Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix.
From a young age, Shimabukuro was fascinated with the instrument. The ukulele is a 19th century Hawaiian instrument, and plays a central role in the traditional culture. Shimabukuro’s mother was an accomplished player, and she began to teach her son when he was just four years old.
But Shimabukuro almost didn’t pursue his dreams of playing the ukulele professionally.
“All through high school, and even my first few years at a small little college, I had no idea I was going to do music full-time….I thought I was going to be a school teacher, because I love working with kids, and I just didn’t think I would make it as an Ukulele player.”
Shimabukuro says that once he started to leave the Hawaiian islands, he realized that “people actually knew very little about the instrument.” And ukulele performers were overlooked as serious performers. But, Shimabukuro says, “It was always my passion.”
Luckily, there are some very successful performers who’ve helped to pave the way for other ukulele players to be taken seriously. The Beatles’ George Harrison famously loved the “uke”, and his songs have inspired musicians like Paul McCartney, Train, and Eddie Vedder.
So, is there a ukulele boom in the works?
“Oh yeah, you’re right on,” Shimabukuro says.
Well, Shimabukuro’s version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” certainly makes us hope for a ukulele hay-day in the near future.