Game-Changers: Jake Shimabukuro (The 2016 NAMM Show)

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, “Breakfast of Champions” kicked off the 2016 NAMM Show. At this year’s session, NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond spoke with a rare and influential group, music industry game-changers, about the state of the industry and where it's going. Right after a high-energy musical performance, ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro sat down to discuss his career and the ukulele explosion.

Highlights from his interview with Lamond:

The Smartphone of Instruments
“It’s very easy to play right away,” Shimabukuro said of the ukulele. “You don’t feel like you have to be a musician to play the ukulele. It just looks like it’s a lot of fun.

“The other thing is I think it really fits in our modern lifestyle, with smartphones and tablets and everything getting smaller and more compact, more mobile. The ukulele is kind of like the smartphone of instruments. It’s tiny. You can do a lot with it. And it’s easy to travel with. It’s easy to just throw in your backpack or take on the airplane with you. You can just put it under the seat in front of you. It’s very low-maintenance, very affordable. I think people are liking that. I’ve found that even singer-songwriters are using the ukulele to write songs because the guitar is a little bulky and heavy. For example, if you want some inspiration and you want to go hike up a mountain, up a trail, for a couple miles, it’s hard to lug a guitar or another kind of instrument up there. But the ukulele fits right in the backpack, and it’s so light.”

P.E. for the Mind
“In schools, we have physical education—we have P.E. Every year, we have P.E. But the thing is, music and the arts, that’s really P.E. for the mind. And it’s so important that recognize that.”

A Serious Instrument
“Growing up in Hawaii, the ukulele is a big part of the culture, so it’s a very serious instrument. We even learn it in fourth and fifth grade. My mom played, so she would play for me all the time. When I was about four years old, she finally let me play her ukulele.

“She taught me a few chords, and I just fell in love with the instrument.

​“I never thought I’d be a musician because, growing up in Hawaii, there are so many great ukulele players."