Virtuoso, songwriter, singer and theater producer Taimane has established herself as one of the leading ukulele players in the world, known for her fierce and inventive style of play transcending traditional views of the instrument as a restricted device. Taimane’s musicality and approach to the stage further add to her draw. Through both beautiful originals and one-of-a-kind mashups (seemingly disparate songs (e.g. Led Zeppelin and Beethoven) merged into medleys with pop appeal), Taimane conjures a wide range of deep emotions smashing the notion of Hawaii’s music being light and simple. Seeing her perform live exponentially amplifies these feelings and makes clear that Taimane is an entertainer first and foremost.
With a take-no-prisoners attitude and carefully crafted shows that are the polar opposite of recitals, Taimane demands viewers’ attention every second of every performance, eliciting intense, “wow” reactions on cue while leading her audiences on a journey through a range of experiences – mystical, dark and playful. Add it all up, and it’s easy to see how this Hapa Samoan (part Caucasian and part indigenous Samoan) artist from a small island in the middle of the Pacific (Oahu, Hawaii) has garnered over 20 million video views and 300,000 social media followers to date. Hailing from a musical Polynesian family including her late mother, Palepa Tauiliili Gardner (Miss Samoa 1978), Taimane’s attraction to the four-string island staple began at age 5. By age 10, she regularly performed in public, busking in Waikiki every Friday night with her father holding down security duties and Waikiki Beach Boys (adults whose home & workplace was the beach) serving as her band. By age 13, Taimane landed a position in Don Ho’s show, literally playing in the spotlight every week until Ho’s passing. Ho was not only a Hawaii legend (his “Tiny Bubbles” hit remained on Billboard’s Hot 200 for over a year, making him world famous) but also a consummate entertainer who significantly influenced Taimane’s perspective on performance. Each night, when the typically full house turned its attention to the petite young girl suddenly anointed bandleader for a rendition of the surf classic “Wipeout,” it was time to rock.
Following her early years in Waikiki, Taimane walked away from its pop scene and leapt into a completely different world, the art houses of Honolulu’s Chinatown. There, she discovered audiences who valued original songs and began to develop her own style of music, eventually merging a wide array of genres, from Bach to rock, flamenco infernos to tribal hymns, into mesmerizing shows with universal appeal. Fast forward to today, and you have an artist who tours the world shining bright like a diamond (the Samoan translation of her name), renowned for taking the ukulele to new heights while blazing her own trail in the process.