It is hard to believe that the music Taimane Gardner plays comes out of a tiny ukulele. Her playing convey the full sound of a guitar, albeit one that was left inside a dryer and shrunken due to a high heat setting. If you doubt me, here’s a quick video of her jamming backstage with Yamandu Costa:
Here she is performing a fusion of Led Zeppelin with Beethoven in a concert for John Travolta and Kelly Preston:
“Aside from the ukulele, I do play some guitar and piano and I can fiddle around with stringed instruments. I’ve always wanted to learn violin and the harp but getting a harp through TSA’s airport security would not be fun.”
Her repertoire extends in every direction. “I love playing flamenco and Spanish-style music because of the sound of the chords, but mostly I love passion of the music. It’s emotionally raw and moves me,” she says. “I also love classical music, particularly Bach, Beethoven, Mozart–his minor stuff–and I also really enjoy Erik Satie. At the same time, I love rock ‘n roll for its anything-goes, nonchalant attitude and the freedom movement it brought to the 1960s. Some amazing, experimental stuff happened at that time and I wish that could happen again.”
Taimane’s Toccatta by Bach on ukulele:
“They were really good at putting us in front of an audience at a young age so we could get used to it. I was ten years old when I started lessons with Jake Shimabukuro and I remained his student until he became too busy. He was such a great teacher,” she says.
“Then I met Don Ho when I was when I was 13. One of his performers saw me busking in Waikiki and asked me to play for him.”
On her Facebook Page, Taimane mentions that she started street performing when she was nine years old. She soon ran into some homeless beach boys who were busking on the same avenue and they were pleased to have her join them. The band, which started to earn hats full of tips from passersby, adopted the name of “Taimane & The Waikiki Street Band.” As it says on her page, “This experience showed Taimane the power of music and the ability to help others.”
Here she is performing with the band at The Mai Tai Rumble music competition:
When Gardner composes her own music, she starts with a riff and runs with it. “Recently, my dreams have had music in them and so when I wake up, I record it into my phone and then work off with that. Riffs are the easy part. It’s the finishing and arranging that takes most of the time,” she says.
Her original track, “Neptune’s Storm”:
“The advice I would give to others is simply to do what you’re passionate about. That is what life is about.”
Gardner currently owns seven ukuleles. “My favorite is Blackie but I had to retire him due to a gig in the rain and the fact that because my playing style is so aggressive, my ukuleles generally last for about only two years,” she says.
While Gardner is not a sponsored player of any particular make of instrument, she does have a preference for playing Kamaka ukuleles. “Kamaka has taken care of me since I was five years old and their ukuleles sound magical. What I’m looking for in any ukulele is a magical ring to it. I feel there’s a story in the wood that comes through when it’s strummed and that’s what I’m looking for,” she explains.
If you visit her website, there are several songbooks of Gardner’s ukulele music available for instant download and/or shipping. “The songbooks are written in ukulele tab,” she says. “It’s great for advanced players.”
She has recently completed writing a set of songs. “They are about the four elements, with one special fifth element,” Gardner says mysteriously. She plans to release it as an EP sometime in 2017.
For Taimane Gardner’s touring schedule: www.taimane.com
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Tedx Talk performance with Taimane performing on her recently retired “Blackie” ukulele: