Uma’s Ultimate Kona Konnection: Tavana


Uma’s Ultimate Kona Konnection is a weekly column covering the music scene of Kailua Kona. This week she focuses on Tavana, who has several dates coming up playing at Don’s Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Kona Resort. These include September 21, November 16th, and December 21st from 6:30-8:30 at the Royal Kona Resort. Mark your calendars and get ready for a heartfelt, amazing show.

While I’ve been trying to get out every week to catch new musicians in Kona, it’s not always easy to fit it in. Thankfully, people send me videos of events I may have missed. A big mahalo goes to my mother in law, Barbara Little, for videoing Tavana recently. I definitely will catch one of his upcoming Don’s Mai Tai Bar performances.

Tavana is a one-man band from Honolulu who uses electronic drum triggers to lay a variety of grooves with his feet. This backbeat provides the foundation for him to accompany himself on guitar, banjo, lap steel or ukulele while singing island-inspired soulful Rock & blues. He was the supporting act for Alabama Shakes, Shakey Graves, Kaleo & Xavier Rudd. Tavana has performed and recorded with John Cruz, Henry Kapono, Eddie Veder, Leon Mobley, Chris Chroney and many others. His 2017 album, “Aloha Spiritʻ was nominated for a Na Hoku Hano Hano Award for Best Contemporary Album of the year. Tavana completed a major tour last year which brought him to Canada, Japan and the US mainland.

I’ll get to meet with him in person next month and in the meantime, here’s what he had to say in response to my questions:

Any challenges and/or joys of playing music?

Music is my favorite challenge. It’s also one of my favorite joys. What’s great about music is it can be frustrating, soothing, uncomfortable, and fill you with love all in one sitting. All the stuff that goes with being a musician full time is no different. Spending weeks on end traveling to different cities and carrying gear in and out of endless venues is hard. But experiencing what it’s like to play for a full room of people, all of us waiting for the next note together, all of us being healed from the inside out. That is why we do what we do. It’s worth it.

When are you playing here on the Big Island?

September 21, November 16th, and December 21st at the Royal Kona Resort

What got you started playing music?

I remember seeing my mother’s friend perform a classical guitar piece at a party when I was 12. I was hooked. I couldn’t believe that humans could do this and I wanted to be one of them. I got my first guitar on my 13th Birthday. From then on it was rare to see me without my guitar.

About how many days in a month do you usually play?

It varies… anywhere from 15-30 I suppose.

Your biggest dream music-wise is…

In some ways you could say that I am living my dream. 6 years ago I remember thinking “I just want to be able to play more originals, and travel around the islands and mainland playing my music for fuller audiences” and now that is a reality. I think it’s important to stop and be thankful for how far we’ve come. All I want to do now is explore my music more and more. I just want to keep finding new ways to express myself through music. That makes me happy.

What inspires your music most?  

For me it’s difficult times and difficult emotions. It is the most effective thing that I have found to calm me down and get me back to center when things are tough. So you could say I am never short on inspiration since life has no shortage of difficulties. It isn’t a stretch for me to say that writing music has saved my life more than once.

Your proudest moment in music was…

When a father in the Canary Islands sent me a video of his 3-year-old son rocking out to my YouTube video I got overwhelmed with gratitude. That’s incredible to me. I feel so lucky to be in a position to inspire people all over the world.

Or when I got to share the same stage with Willie Nelson and his sons, or the Doobie Brothers, I am in disbelief at what my life has become and how lucky I am.

Seems like every week I am blown away all over again.

Any suggestions for aspiring musicians? 

Just be present in the music. If you want your audience to experience your music, you have to experience it yourself. Every note is yours to enjoy. Savor it. I would also say that there’s a starving artist in us all. Those who succeed in the arts are the ones who choose to feed the artist inside.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

To be able to heal people.

What TV show did you last binge watch?

Stranger Things.

Any closing thoughts, shout outs, mahalos, etc.? 

I want to thank everyone in the Big Island for coming out to my shows. Something about my Big Island shows feel special to me. Like it’s a spark and it’s growing into a fire.  Also thank you to my partner Jacquelyn and my kids Mavrik and Max for being my fuel. Henry Kapono, Dozer Dave, Ritchie Ward, Al Smith and Ronnie V for the help & support over there. And finally thank you at Big Island Music Magazine for taking the time to interview me.

To find out more about Tavana check out

Donʻs Mai Tai Bar is located at the Royal Kona Resort 73-5852 Alii Drive in Kailua Kona. Itʻs a lovely outdoor bar with excellent pupus and the relaxing sound of the ocean waves just steps away.

Love Guru Uma performs solo acoustic ukulele next Tuesday 8/27 at Foster’s Kitchen in Kona from 6-9pm. She also sings in the 4-piece Uma Zuma Band, which performs at the Korner Pocket in Kealakekua on 8/30 from 8-11pm and Laverne’s in Kona 8/31 from 7-10pm; she loves performing any chance she can, including a duo with her husband. Uma’s busy as a substitute teacher, Uber driver, Tour guide and self-published author. She just completed Book 2 in a series of adventure love story and self-help reads entitled Love is Crazy – Lessons in Love: Creating your own Happy Ever After and Love is Crazy Satisfying. More at


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