FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas – Jake Shimabukuro, an American ukulele virtuoso known for his fast, complex finger work, is returning to Walton Arts Center this month. Shimabukuro will perform on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 7 pm as the first show in the Land O’Lakes American Music Series.
Single tickets start at $15 and can be purchased in-person at the Walton Arts Center Box Office, by calling 479-443-5600 or by visiting waltonartscenter.org.
In 2005, Shimabukuro became an international phenomenon when a video of him performing the George Harrison song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” went viral on YouTube.
“At the time, I didn’t even know what YouTube was,” Shimabukuro laughs. “Nobody did, especially in Hawaii. But I had some friends who were going to college on the mainland and they sent me a link to the video. By the time I saw it, it already had millions of views. My name wasn’t even on it then. All it said was ‘Asian guy shreds on ukulele,’ or something like that. That’s what opened up the doors to touring in North America, Europe, Asia and beyond. It was a big turning point for me.”
By adapting a guitar hero anthem for the ukulele, Shimabukuro made a significant statement: the ukulele, with its humble four strings and modest two-octave range, is an instrument limited only by the imagination and creativity of the person playing it. Along with his own original compositions, Shimabukuro became noted for his solo uke arrangements of such varied pieces as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Schubert‘s “Ave Maria” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Widespread acclaim brought high-visibility collaborations with a wide range of artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Jimmy Buffett, Bette Midler, Cyndi Lauper, Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Dave Koz, Michael McDonald, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Tommy Emmanuel and Marty Friedman. Shimabukuro has topped Billboard’s World Music Chart on numerous occasions, and has sold out prestigious venues and festivals such as the Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Center, Sydney Opera House, Wolf Trap, Bonnaroo, SXSW and the Playboy Jazz Festival. He even played for Queen Elizabeth II at The Royal Variety Performance in Blackpool, England.
A husband and father of two, Shimabukuro balances his stellar career with family life and community service. He travels to schools around the world spreading positive messages to young people, encouraging them to live drug free and find their passion—just as he did at age four when his mother gave him his first ukulele lesson. In the time since then, he has played a key role in the current revival of interest in the ukulele.
Shimabukuro last played Walton Arts Center in the 2014-15 season as part of the 10×10 Arts Series.