Anyone with a computer and access to the Internet is familiar with the following: Rickrolling. Dramatic Prairie Dog. Star Wars Kid. Autotune the News. Keyboard Cat. Justin Beiber. Jake Shimabukuro?
Though his name may not be instantly recognizable, Jake Shimabukuro is considered an Internet superstar, thanks to the popular video-sharing website, YouTube. Of the many videos of his performances, three have amassed more than 1 million views each. The most popular, a cover of the George Harrison-penned "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," has over 6.3 million views.
What is it about Jake Shimabukuro that spurred his viral online status? The ukulele. To say Shimabukuro is a virtuoso is almost an understatement.
At 33, Shimabukuro is a veteran plucker of the instrument native to his home state of Hawaii. Having played since the age of 4, he exercises his skill on the uke with ease. Shimabukuro is to the ukulele as Eddie Van Halen is to the guitar.
Peace Love Ukulele, Jake Shimabukuro's ninth album as a solo artist, will be released in January 2011. Due to the recent YouTube fame, his upcoming release is likely to be his best-selling.
As with any media medium, performers come and go, this already seen with the number of acts that have already disappeared shortly after bursts of popularity on MySpace and YouTube. The "15 minutes of fame" saying is still applicable in the modern world of new technology and social networking.
Peace Love Ukulele pushes Jake Shimabukuro past the 15-minute mark, transcending any barrier that may be put on his fame by an American populous with a short attention span. Peace Love Ukulele affirms why Shimabukuro has entranced millions online. He's one of the qualified few that have deservedly gained attention via the YouTube machine.
The clever title Peace Love Ukulele is a testament to Jake Shimabukuro's feelings about his instrument. "The ukulele is the instrument of peace," says Shimabukuro. "And if everyone played one, the world would be a better place."
An all-instrumental album, Peace Love Ukulele is appropriate listening material for those in desperate need of a night of relaxation. Shimabukuro's fingers float up and down the board of his ukulele, producing a calming effect. There aren't many instruments as bright and cheery as the ukulele.
Shimabukuro's art could turn any frown upside down.
Memories of the late Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, another widely-known ukulele player from Hawaii, resurface through the emergence of Jake Shimabukuro. Kamakawiwo'ole's medley of "Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World" brought him worldwide attention in 1993. Though Shimabukuro is not a singer, he uses his instrument to channel Kamakawiwo'ole in his covers of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Hallelujah."
Shimabukuro arranged all of the songs on Peace Love Ukulele as solo ukulele pieces, but performs only "Bohemian Rhapsody" alone. Even without vocals, the ukulele is able to match Freddie Mercury's charisma.
A band backs him on elsewhere on the album, with the uke front and center. The best use of the band comes on the booming "Bring Your Adz" and the Spanish-flavored "Trapped 2010."
A Japanese-American, Shimabukuro respectfully pays tribute to World War II veterans of like descent with "Go For Broke." "Boy Meets Girl" may be a tribute of another sort, to Super Mario Bros.
Peace Love Ukulele is not available for a few more months, but in the interim, Google "Jake Shimabukuro." Watch the man in action. His performance videos warrant more than just one view. Peace Love Ukulele will undoubtedly continue to earn Jake Shimabukuro and the ukulele ears around the world. Tiny Tim would be proud.
Jake Shimabukuro is online at JakeShimabukuro.com. He is touring the U.S. through April 2011.