Jake Shimabukuro says he would have never picked up the ukulele had he not been born and raised in Hawaii.

The ukulele is also from Hawaii and was created in the 19th century based on a small lute that was brought by immigrants from the Portuguese islands of Madeira and the Azores. It became extremely popular during the Jazz Age because of its small size and fairly easy learning curve. And while it is true that the ukulele, like its bigger cousin the guitar, has some simple chord patterns that a novice can learn, few people ever play the ukulele like Jake Shimabukuro.

His mother gave him his first uke at age 4 and he took to it immediately. He says he never thought he would be a professional because most ukulele players also sing. Shimabukuro gained internet fame with his cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and began recording and touring. He performs covers of songs that move him personally, as well as his own compositions. His own songs begin as simple ideas, rhythmic patterns, or event recipes.  Shimabukuro’s musical interests are broad – from jazz to rock. His covers of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” have also gone viral.

In addition to touring widely in the US and Japan, Shimabukuro heads a foundations that works with children using music as a tool for them to find their passion. He is also an advocate for drug free living and this is part of his community work. He has two young sons, ages 2 and 5, with the eldest already playing the ukele like his father.

Shimabukuro will perform two show at City Winery at Ponce City Market on Feb. 12 and 13. He will be joined by a guitarist and bass player and will be performing songs from his latest album “Nashville Sessions.” Among the new covers will be the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and the Zombies’ “Time of the Season.”

For tickets and information, visit citywinery.com.


Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist, writer and musician. His latest project is a double album of poems and songs called “Don’t Go Back To Sleep.”