Now Playing: Taimane’s ‘Hawaiki’

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Taimane
Image courtesy of Taimane



American ukulele virtuoso and Hawaii cultural ambassador Taimane has a new album out now. It’s titled Hawaiki. But first, for those of you not yet familiar with the artist in question, a bit o’ background.

Taimane

Taimane
Taimane /Photo by Justin Turkowski

Taimane (Gardner) is an American singer-songwriter, and musician. According to her official website, her name, Taimane, “translates to diamond from Samoan”. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, she is reportedly part Samoan, French, German, Irish, and Swedish.

She studied under the famous ukulele star Jake Shimabukuro and was discovered by entertainer Don Ho at the age of 13. Ho “invited her to join him as part of his venerable variety show at the Waikiki Beachcomber.” While she is a multi-instrumentalist, she is best known for playing a five-string Kamaka ukulele and most of the time performs barefoot.

Her rockin’ resume includes five previous platters including her debut disc, Loco Princess, which dropped in 2005. Taimane was also the first Hawaiian entertainer to perform on NPR Music’s popular Tiny Desk Concerts. She tours internationally as well.

Signature Sound

Taimane’s signature sound is a blend of multiple music genres including classical, flamenco, pop, rock, and more. She finger-picks the music of both Bach and Led Zeppelin and morphs music genres in her quest to “stretch her instrument far beyond the familiar melodies of Hawai`i.”    

Hawaiki 

Dedicated to her late mother Palepa Tauiliili Gardner, Hawaiki is her sixth release. It is a 10-track album of original material. It is both biographical and draws heavily on her Polynesian ancestry.

On the first track, Taimane states: “This is a story of Hawaiki. The spirit lands where gods came from. Where gods and goddesses live.”

She adds: “Hawaiki resides in the sky just above the horizon. Inside the green flash. This is a story of Maluhia, who has passed through Hawaiki to find her mana (life source)”.

Here Taimane leads the way on ukulele, acoustic guitar, steel tongue drum, and vocals. She is backed by an assortment of other artists including Rachel Look (electric and acoustic guitar, and supporting vocals); Alex Morrison (upright bass); Jonathan Heraux (drums and percussion); Jacob Staron (cello); Tino and Malie Moe of Tamatoa (Polynesian drums; and Jerome James (electronic beats). Bird calls are provided by Soundshawaiian.com.

Track by Track

The album opens on the title track “Hawaiki.” As previously mentioned, this is a song-story wherein Taimane tells the audience right from the start what is going on here. It sets the mood for what is to come but barely foreshadows her talents.  

The second selection is the instrumental “Ladybird.” This generally mid-tempo track has a fluid rhythm and a flamenco, world music vibe.   

“Pipeline’s Daughter” is the album’s lead single and truly has a retro surf rock feel. This instrumental is very reminiscent of something by Dick Dale or the Ventures. Taimane and company can certainly create their own version of surf music. This should be no surprise as she grew up groovin’ with Don Ho and can still be caught covering the Surfaris’ 1963 hit “Wipeout.”

The next number, “North Shore Party”, is another exceptional example of Taimane’s “island style” surf music. It features a fine example of her fantastic flamenco strumming techniques.

“Pulotu” follows. It is a bit more dramatic and rightfully so. “Pulotu” is a final resting place. It does include a subtle background chorus but largely focuses on Taimane’s instrumental work.

The sixth songful serving is “Maluhia.” Taimane’s vocals here are both welcoming and most welcome following the previous instrumentals. It is subtly bright and musically emphasizes the feeling of peace which is what the word maluhia means–peace.   

“Goddess Rising” once again showcases Taimane’s vocal work as well as the band’s ability to really work it. It features electronic beats by Jacob Gabriel.

“Bora Bora Sunset” is a beautiful song quite deserving of its accompanying music video. Again, the music sets a mood. Fun fact: the music video was actually shot on her birthday as they partied in the stunning sunset while aboard a Royal Hawaiian Catamaran.

Also included here is “Afterparty.” The airy, island feel is pleasantly obvious on this modestly titled piece. Like much of her music, it is soundtrack-ready.

The closing cut is the bonus “Goddess Rising (Acoustic).” The album endnote, as implied in the title, is an acoustic version of “Goddess Rising.” It works either way and listeners may enjoy noting the differences between the two tracks.  

Overall… 

Overall, this album is a thematic piece that perfectly exemplifies Taimane’s tuneful talents and where she is musically today. With a running time of 37 minutes, it has a more intimate, personal feel to it because the material largely draws from her roots. It has an upbeat, positive vibe and is encouraging but not at all overpowering. So, check out Taimane’s Hawaiki and experience the “Bora Bora Sunset.”

(Note: Care to hear more of her music? She will be performing live at Hallowbaloo in the Chinatown Arts District, Honolulu, Hawaii on October 29, 2022.)