Dazzling, breathtaking, dynamic
Ukulele virtuoso Taimane in motion at McCoy Studio Theater Saturday
British actor Martin Clunes began a new travel series on U.K. TV in February with a trip to Hawaii to explore our islands beyond the typical tourist world. Known to PBS viewers as the star of “Doc Martin,” Clunes met up with ukulele virtuoso Taimane on Oahu.
He was gob-smacked, as the Brits like to say when they are astonished by something, as Taimane dazzled him with her breathtaking virtuosity.
“A lot of people don’t expect much from this instrument, and when I play it becomes a different experience for them,” says Taimane.
Some Decca Records company executives in London who viewed the show were equally impressed and arranged to meet Taimane at her South by Southwest festival appearances in Texas in early March to discuss signing her up.
“Decca, which is part of the Universal label (and once recording home to the Rolling Stones), reached out to see if I needed any help,” she reports. “They said they would send some people to check me out. I’m very excited to see if anything comes of it.”
Phenomenally talented, Taimane employs a dramatic flamenco-inspired strumming technique with her hands often blurring in motion as she passionately strums while dancing around the stage.
Mesmerizing audiences across the globe, she most recently toured Israel as part of the nation’s Hot Jazz series and journeyed to Egypt where she played her song, “Neptune’s Storm,” in front of Cairo’s great pyramids.
“I loved it,” she says. “We went to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The people loved the shows. We went to Egypt for my 30th birthday and saw the pyramids and rode some camels.”
Picking up the ukulele at the age of 5, Taimane was soon amazing audiences with her prodigious talent. Busking on the streets of Waikiki, she was discovered by legendary entertainer Don Ho and became a featured performer in his show at the age of 13, playing with the show until Ho’s death.
Practicing religiously as a teenager, sometimes playing with a blindfold, she created novel song blends such as fusing Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” with Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”
At 15, Taimane recorded her first album of pop covers, “Loco Princess,” with Sony BMG, and set off on an extensive tour of Japan where she became famous after a TV appearance.
Infusing influences from across various genres, this innovative artist released the album “We Are Made of Stars” in 2015, which paid homage to our solar system’s planets.
Most recently, she produced “Elemental,” which continued her exploration of the natural and metaphysical worlds. Inspired by a dream, the recording features a song for each of the elements (“Water,” “Fire,” “Air,” “Earth” and “Ether”), as well as two mythological-related songs, “Hades (Pluto)” and “Atlantis.”
Transporting us on a wondrous, magical journey, musical influences on the album include passionate Spanish Gypsy flamenco on “Fire” and classical Baroque on “Ether,” while the delicate “Air” is flavored with bird songs. The most dramatic track, “Earth,” introduces her lovely voice on lyrics espousing her reverence for nature.
“Raised on Oahu, I really connect with nature,” she explains. “I like to personify what I write. If I’m writing about the moon, I would like to see what she would sound like, who she would be, what she would be feeling. So I kind of did the same thing with the elements. Where does fire come from? Passion. I went to Cuba and was inspired by their passion.”
A dynamic live performer, she becomes completely absorbed in the music, moving and dancing as she plays.
“It’s how I feel as my authentic self,” she notes. “It’s hard for me to stand around. I feel more connected to dance than actually playing music. It’s natural for me to dance with the music, and movement is a way for me to express the music.”
Taimane’s music caught the attention of actor Pierce Brosnan’s wife, Keely Shaye Brosnan, who used her instrumental, “The Sun,” in the award-winning documentary “Poisoning Paradise” about the impact of agro-chemical industry pesticides on Kauai.
The international Playing for Change Foundation has recorded several Taimane performances and released two videos featuring her playing “The Moon” (with 368,000 views) and “Pluto” last year. She is included in a forthcoming Foundation version of The Band’s “The Weight” with Robbie Robertson and John Cruz.
“I want to see how far I can take this music,” she concludes. “There will be a lot of touring — I’m going to Europe, and I hope to create a new album later this year.”
Taimane and her quartet, featuring Rachel Look (classical guitar, vocals), Jonathan Heraux (percussion) and Jake Staron (cello) play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in McCoy Studio Theater at Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului. A portion of each ticket sold supports Mana’o Radio.
A galaxy of island talent will entertain at Na Leo Pulama o Maui’s 32nd annual 2019 Ho’omau on Saturday at the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens. The lineup includes Mark Yamanaka, ‘Ahumanu, Blayne Asing, Amy Hanaiali’i Gilliom, Mana’o Company, Sudden Rush, Kuikawa and Halau Kamaluokaleihulu.
Featuring cultural demonstrations, craft vendors, a silent auction, awa booths and keiki games, the event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Tickets cost $15 in advance and $20 at the gate. Children aged 10 and younger are admitted free. Tickets are available through Punana Leo O Maui’s school and parents, all Minit Stop locations, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Native Intelligence and Kanilehua at the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center. For more information or to purchase tickets via telephone, call 244-5676.
One of the pioneers of the Jawaiian music movement, best known for local classics like “Coconut Girl,” “Are You Native” and “Pua Lane,” Brother Noland will join Henry Kapono for an “Artist 2 Artist” show at 7:30 p.m. Friday in McCoy Studio Theater at the MACC with special guest Blayne Asing.
Noland most recently released the album, “His Songs His Stories His Style,” which captured his electric style across genres, from the funky “Signs” and “Us Solution,” which verged into country territory, to the jazzy “Pua Lane”-style “Hokulea Hikianalia,” which paid tribute to Hawaii’s voyaging canoes.
A regular at slack key guitar festivals around the islands, Noland was honored in 2014 with a Lifetime Achievement in Music award by the state of Hawaii.
“Through the years my musical passion and focus has always been about elevating the contemporary imagery of Hawaii’s multi-cultural music,” he says.
• Tickets are $35, $45 and $65 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets or for more information, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or go online to www.mauiarts.org.
Hailed as “The Titan of The Telecaster” by Guitar Player magazine, Grammy-nominated musician Bill Kirchen brings his trio to the McCoy Studio Theater at 7:30 tonight. A founding member of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Kirchen played on such Cody hits as “Mama Hated Diesels,” “Swing Fever,” “Truck Stop at the End of the World” and “Hot-Rod Lincoln.”
Kirchen was a pioneer of the Americana format and a founding father of the “twangcore movement.” After the Commander Cody band broke up in 1976, he formed a swing orchestra called the Moonlighters, and began a decades-long collaboration with British musician Nick Lowe.
Lowe produced the Moonlighters’ second album, “Rush Hour,” and Kirchen toured with Lowe and joined him in the studio from time to time. During this period, Kirchen also worked on albums with Elvis Costello, Gene Vincent and Link Wray.
In 2016, Kirchen teamed with Austin de Lone for a hands-across-the-Atlantic album, “Transatlanticana.” De Lone is known for forming the pioneering British pub rock band Eggs over Easy.
Praised as “an American treasure” by Vintage Guitar Magazine, Kirchen is touring with drummer Steve Barbuto and bassist Tim Eschliman.
• Tickets are $38, $45 and $60 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets or for more information, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or go online to www.mauiarts.org.
The Vince Esquire Band will be rocking at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku on May 31 at 7:30 p.m., in a show billed as “Vince’s Birthday Jam.” He’s currently recording a new blues EP.
• Tickets range from $20 to $50. For tickets or more information, call 242-6969 or visit www.mauionstage.com.