Review: Taimane Shines Like a Diamond


Ukulele virtuoso Taimane’s packed pre-release concert last night at Hilo’s Palace Theatre was full of boundless energy and surprises. Not only did her loyal fans have the privilege of hearing tracks from the new Elemental CD performed live, they got to buy it six days before it drops on June 5.

During the concert, Taimane talked about her humble musical roots and revealed that her name means diamond in Samoan. As a teenager she busked on the streets of Waikiki before being discovered by Don Ho. The legendary crooner launched her professional career by including her in his show, and uke master Jake Shimabukuro taught her how to play flamenco.

Taimane, now 29, has come a long way. She now has six albums, over 6 million video views, and over 70,000 social media followers. After her Hawaii tour concludes, she heads to the States for a series of concerts.

Taimane (photo: Steve Roby)

Some at Thursday’s Palace concert had the urge to dance, and made their way pass confused ushers and the reserved section to a vacant dance floor in front of the stage. When they were escorted back to their seats, Taimane said, “I’m cool with dancers, and totally understand.” The chaos was resolved for the second set, and all were invited down to the dance floor.

It’s hard to stay still in your seat when Taimane cuts loose with blistering rhythms and her signature classic rock/flamenco mash-ups. As she takes a heavy metal guitarist stance (body arched back with the back foot anchored to the stage), her fingers become a blur as she flails on her custom-built Kamaka ukulele. Taimane takes quick rock detours in her medleys with licks from Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” or Ozzy’s “Crazy Train.” She say’s that influence came from her father’s taste in music.

Occasionally Taimane extends her right arm extend while a note sustains. Aimed at the audience, her hand gently dances and sways before returning to her instrument. It’s a mesmerizing element of her show to watch.

Taimane was joined on stage by percussionist Jonathan Heraux on cajon (and forks). The native New Yorker brought a strong Jazz and Afro-Cuban influence to the show. During “Hades,” Heraux whipped out a pair of white plastic forks and played percussion on the bottom half of the ukulele while Taimane fingered chords.

The talented Jazzy Jazz (Jasmine Skurtu) backs up Taimane on acoustic rhythm guitar and vocals. She teaches at the University of Hawaii and has traveled the world accompanying Taimane for the past 5 years.

Before her last tune, Taimane acknowledged those victims who have experienced devastation from the recent Kilauea lava flows. “I know you’ve been going through a lot hard times here,” she said adding, “we’re here to help and heal for you as Pele does her thing.” Taimane then dedicated her version of Simon & Garfunkel’s classic “Scarborough Fair” to all who were affected.

On Friday, Taimane gave a free concert for lava evacuees at the Pahoa Community Center.

Set I
Stairway to Heaven/ Für Elise | Jupiter | Fire | Moon| Carmen/Phantom of the Opera | Wicked Game/Pink Floyd Medley/Bodysurfing |Water

Set II
Pluto/Surf Medley (featuring Miserlou and Wipe Out) | Hades | Regulators/ Havana/ James Bond Theme| Iron Man/ Crazy Train/Ladybird | Mars | Neptune’s Storm | Pluto

Scarborough Fair /Yoga

For the latest tour and music info, visit Taimane’s official site:

All photos:  © 2018 Steve Roby.


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