Flamenco, Hawaiian, classical, metal — Taimane, a homegrown ukulele virtuoso who is breaking the bounds previously imposed on her instrument, has been known to pick out any and all of these genres.
“Aloha, my name’s Taimane. I’ve been playing the ukulele since I was 5 years old, but it’s not in the way that you would expect it,” she said, coolly.
“I normally like the music to do the explaining,” she added, smiling. “I’m not much of a talker, honestly — but if I had to talk, that’s probably how I would introduce myself to a new audience.”
The spirited ukulele virtuoso will likely introduce herself to both newer and longtime fans at her next gig, headlining a final, free “Sunset Sessions” concert for 2019 on Sunday at DECK, poolside on the third floor of the Queen Kapi‘olani Hotel.
That comes hot off the heels of a California tour from San Diego to Palo Alto, and a headlining show at Blue Note Hawaii in early November.
The multi-talented musician said she’s had an innate love for being on stage for as long as she can remember.
“Even before the ukulele, I’ve always loved just being on stage and performing,” she said. “I was always putting on dance recitals at my house for my dog, at a young age.
“My Dad gave me my first uke when I was 5 — and I played in front of the mirror pretending to be a rock star, loving it until I broke a string,” she said, laughing.
As a kid, her father put her in ukulele lessons with two different schools at the same time — studying with respected teachers Roy Sakuma and Mike Vasquez.
“So I started doing lessons, and then I would do mall gigs, or play at coffee shops or birthdays, because both of these schools kind of introduced you to performing,” she said. “Then I did my first contest at Ala Moana Center when I was 6, and I loved it. I didn’t feel like I did well, but I ended up winning it.
“I started playing contests, and then I played on the streets of Waikiki, and playing with the beach boys. We started to jam, so I would go to Kalakaua every Friday, it just became a normal thing.”
It’s a story that’s been often told, but it is still remarkable: With her dad nearby, Taimane busked in Waikiki with beach boys making up her backup band, gaining a following. When she was 13, she was “discovered,” and became part of the famous entertainer Don Ho’s variety show.
“One of the performers (Angel Pablo) from the Don Ho Show saw me perform and introduced me to Uncle Don,” Taimane related. “He liked what he saw, so I started playing a new show every week.”
TAIMANE’S UNIQUE musical style, paired with her love for a wide range of different genres, gives her the creative freedom to develop rare mash-ups, such as a Led Zeppelin- meets-Beethoven medley and an eclectic mix of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Für Elise.’
“The ukulele is the way I express myself,” she said. “I don’t think it has limits or boundaries, so I’ll play a hip-hop or metal song on it. Sometimes it comes out beautifully, and sometimes it doesn’t so I keep those songs for a different medley. It’s like a puzzle.”
Now 30, Taimane has released multiple albums. Just this year, she has sold out concerts in the islands and beyond, made her mark at the South by Southwest music festival in March, and was tapped by local filmmaker James Sereno to score the musical soundtrack for his film, “Haole,” which had its world premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival on Nov. 9.
The feisty yet elegant musician puts a spin on her compositions by personifying natural elements such as the moon and stars, or water and Earth.
“My first album, “We Are Made of Stars,” was all about the planets,” she said.
Her most recent album, 2018’s “Elemental,” “was all about the elements, earth, wind, fire, and water, she said.
“When I’m writing I like to personify elements like the moon. What would it be like if she was a person? I like to make mood music. So I’ll pick up water and then I try and create the mood of water through my music.”
Taimane took home her first Na Hoku Hanohano award in May of this year for Favorite Entertainer of the Year, though she was performing in Austria at the time. “I got all these text messages from my friends,” she said, smiling warmly. “It was very special.”
For more information on Taimane’s upcoming shows and new releases, go to taimane.com.
>> Where: DECK, Queen Kapiolani Hotel
>> When: 5-8 p.m. Sunday
>> Cost: Free; table reservations accepted
>> Info: deckwaikiki.com