Strum­min’ Siren

‘Ukulele vir­tu­oso Taimane will carry you away.

Waikiki Magazine - - IPLAY - By Ja­son Black

The sweet, sig­na­ture scent of plume­ria wafts through the air as her long dex­ter­ous fin­gers dance along the ‘ ukulele fret­board like sun­light play­ing across the rolling ocean waves. At the moment, 23-year-old ‘ukulele phe­nom Taimane, ac­com­pa­nied by clas­si­cal gui­tarist Jas­mine Skurtu, are jam­ming through a 20-minute med­ley of clas­sic 1960s surf mu­sic in­clud­ing Dick Dale, The Ven­tures, a smat­ter­ing of Ja­panese pop, and, fi­nally, the clas­sic Ven­tures’ 1969 hit “Hawaii Five-0” as a fi­nale. While strum­ming, she pas­sion­ately sways back and forth like a wild palm stand­ing bare­foot in a loose black jump­suit while clos­ing her eyes and, at times, los­ing her­self in the mu­sic.

Out in the comfy, open-air SWIM Bar, it’s a chal­leng­ing lis­ten for the merry mix of res­i­dents and vis­i­tors. But the crowd pays close at­ten­tion to the cas­cade of chord changes while en­joy­ing a ra­di­ant Waikiki sky­line and their happy-hour drink of choice: the Mai Tai.

Later, af­ter her loop­ing roller-coaster hour-long set, it’s clear how much she rel­ishes play­ing here at the Hy­att Re­gency. Over the past five years, it’s been her home and it shows. She’s poised. Con­fi­dent. Com­fort­able. “This was my very first show where I got to play for an hour,” re­mem­bers Taimane, smil­ing of her start. “That was a big deal for me at 18. And now, it feels like it’s my liv­ing room where I can try out new things. I al­ways en­joy see­ing fa­mil­iar faces of both vis­i­tors and lo­cals who al­ways come back.”

It’s no won­der she’s so at ease per­form­ing for mas­sive, ever-swirling crowds in Waikiki. She’s been do­ing it for al­most her en­tire life. Born and raised in Hawai‘i, Taimane (whose name means “di­a­mond” in Samoan) started strum­ming at the ten­der age of five. A year later, she won her first youth con­test. By age eight, she was a sea­soned pro­fes­sional, stand­ing out on world-fa­mous Kalakaua Av­enue, en­ter­tain­ing vis­i­tors and lo­cals pass­ing by on the street. The busy con­crete strip be­came an early prov­ing ground for this blos­som­ing mu­si­cian.

Ac­tu­ally, that’s where she met her des­tiny. One of Don Ho’s close friends saw her per­form­ing and in­vited her to meet the fa­mous Hawai­ian en­ter­tainer him­self. He liked what he heard and in­cor­po­rated her into his reg­u­lar show.

First, she contributed one song, then two. Soon, she was win­ning the crowd over with her youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance and steal­ing the show with her am­ple abil­ity. She was a nat­u­ral. But she’s quick to point out that she owes a lot to her tal­ented un­cle. “He taught me how to con­nect with the au­di­ence,” she fondly re­calls. “It’s really shaped the way I per­form and know­ing which songs will work.”

In ad­di­tion to her weekly Fri­day evenings at SWIM, you can catch Taimane and her mag­i­cal uke at the Hil­ton Hawai­ian Vil­lage, the Royal Hawai­ian Ho­tel and other se­lect venues through­out town. At her show, she fa­vors a broad spec­trum of mu­sic in­clud­ing Led Zep­pelin, Pink Floyd, Beethoven, Brazil­ian bossa nova, Phan­tom of the Opera flour­ishes, and even Span­ish fla­menco mu­sic. Taimane is quick to point out that her play­ing owes much to fla­menco’s en­er­getic, stac­cato style. “It de­pends on what kind of mood I’m in. But I’ve grown up play­ing in Waikiki so I know what works. My au­di­ence loves songs that are rec­og­niz­able and fa­mil­iar to them.”

Her tal­ent has also af­forded her the unique op­por­tu­nity to travel abroad ex­ten­sively. A few re­cent des­ti­na­tions in­clude Ja­pan, Canada and New York City. And she jets to the neigh­bor is­lands all the time for per­for­mances. Next up, she’s off to the main­land for the an­nual San Diego Uke Fes­ti­val. “I really en­joy trav­el­ing be­cause it’s al­ways an ad­ven­ture. But I al­ways love to re­turn home to Hawai‘i and my fam­ily.”

As if her rig­or­ous tour­ing sched­ule weren’t enough to keep her oc­cu­pied, she re­cently signed to lo­cal la­bel Moun­tain Ap­ple Records to pro­duce her re­cently re­leased al­bum ‘ Ukulele Dance and its com­pan­ion DVD. The al­bum is filled with half orig­i­nal ma­te­rial and half pop­u­lar cov­ers. Lately, she’s even been writ­ing songs for each planet in the so­lar sys­tem for a spe­cial per­for­mance en­ti­tled Taimane’s Uni­verse in Chi­na­town, Honolulu’s emerg­ing lo­cal arts and en­ter­tain­ment district. “I have a cou­ple orig­i­nal songs. I en­joy do­ing more vis­ual mu­sic and hav­ing a theme when I play. It’s fun and chal­leng­ing to put a story to it.”

For Taimane, it’s clear—the best is yet to be writ­ten.

Taimane is wear­ing Tori Richard and Tif­fany & Co. Tori Richard ‘Mu­rano’ long-sleeve wrap dress in Mediter­ranean $135 Tori Richard Hil­ton Hawai­ian Vil­lage 2005 Kalia Road [D:4 Waikiki Map] (808) 943-9472 Hy­att Re­gency Waikiki 2420 Kalakaua Ave. [C:9 Waikiki Map] (808) 924-1811 Royal Hawai­ian Ho­tel 2259 Kalakaua Ave. [C:8 Waikiki Map] (808) 921-2702 Tif­fany & Co. Frank Gehry ‘Fish’ neck­lace in ster­ling sil­ver with onyx, jade and wood $2,150 and Frank Gehry ‘Torque’ wide ban­gle in brown-banded agate $2,150 Tif­fany & Co. Lux­ury Row 2100 Kalakaua Ave. [B:6 Waikiki Map] (808) 926-2600

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.