Article: Ukulele Virtuoso, Taimane Gardner

This talented Hawaii artist needs to be on your playlist.

BY TIFFANY HILL

Each decade brings forth a new crop of talented Hawaii musicians. In the 1970s, Gabby Pahinui, the Sons of Hawaii and Sunday Manoa gave voice to the Hawaiian Renaissance, the movement sparking a revival of cultural identity for Native Hawaiians. The ’80s and ’90s were the Golden Age of contemporary Hawaiian music. Artists such as The Manao Company, Kapena, Israel Kamakawiwoole, Kealii Reichel, Hapa and the Kaau Crater Boys bestowed Hawaii, and the world, with their sweet melodies, vocal harmonies and thematic guitar and ukulele riffs.

Taimane Gardner.

Photo: Shaun Edward

From the expert:

Dave Kusumoto, the cofounder of Hawaii music show “HISessions," says Jake Shimabukuro was a mentor of Gardner’s, and she is one of the most animated ukulele performers.

Taimane Gardner remembers one of the first times she went on stage. It was for a ballet recital when she was 4 years old. She wasn’t nervous. “I’ve always been a ham, even before I had the ukulele in my hand,” she says with a laugh. More than two decades later, Gardner still has that confidence and the skills to back it up.

Like many Hawaii kids, Gardner started strumming an ukulele when she was little. But, unlike most of her peers, she became a virtuoso of the instrument. At age 11, she met one of the most innovative ukulele players, Jake Shimabukuro. “I was blessed to be taught by him,” she says. “Jake was a big influence in me playing songs that have never been played on an ukulele, such as classical music.”

The perpetual performer, at 13, Gardner took her skills to Kalakaua Avenue and played with Waikiki street buskers. That’s where one of Don Ho’s performers saw Gardner and introduced her to the “Tiny Bubbles” crooner. “He really started my career,” says Gardner. “He helped me connect with my audience and polish my performance.” She played weekly at the now closed Don Ho’s Island Grill in Aloha Tower.

Today, Gardner has performed on stages worldwide, and recently finished her first West Coast tour. She also plays regularly on Wednesdays at Hyatt Centric in Waikiki. Gardner still gets requests for songs she used to perform at Don Ho’s: “Wipe Out,” “Hawaii Five-O,” and classical songs, such as “Für Elise” and “Toccata.” Gardner also writes her own songs and sings. In 2015, she self-produced a full-length album, “We Are Made of Stars,” with original songs devoted to the planets.

Taimane - Wipeout Improv on da Beach

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