When Taimane and her quartet took the stage at Bing Concert Hall, she spoke only one word before she started to play.
Born of Polynesian descent and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Taimane is an up-and-coming ukulele player and singer who performed at Bing Concert Hall last Friday, in a concert originally scheduled for February 2021. She studied with renowned Hawaiian pop musician Don Ho since she was 13 years old, and performed at his weekly shows in Waikiki. In an interview with The Daily, she credited this as the source of her “first opportunity in the music industry in Honolulu, while also helping [her] develop as an artist.”
Two decades later, Taimane’s Tiny Desk Concert with NPR has racked up 1.3 million views. She described her work to The Daily as “cinematic flamenco with a touch of metal on ukulele.” Indeed, Taimane transcends the expectations of ukulele performance by combining the sweetness of the traditional sound with the intensity of the genre she plays. Her dancing, strumming and plucking strings faster than the speed of light, as well as the unconventional but overall stunningly complementary quartet — completed by Ramiro Marziani Guidone (guitar), Stefie Dominguez (percussion) and Melissa Folzenlogen (violin) — stole my attention for the night.
In an interview, Taimane had revealed that the song she was most excited to perform was “E ala E,” a Hawaiian sunrise chant to which she added chords. She described it as a “very spiritual sound.” The performance included dancer Norm Munoz so that “the audience at Stanford will hear and see Hawaii” — an immersion that can only be described as successful. The song was played in a medley with her original “Jupiter,” which blended dance, vocals, percussion and strings into an intense cacophony that left my heart pounding with every beat.
I have always admired string players who are quick and precise, showcasing mastery of the instrument by producing beautiful yet complicated sounds. Taimane’s medley of “The Phantom of the Opera” and Bizet’s “Habanera” from “Carmen” proved that and more. Her excited dancing and hopping around the stage during faster bits of the medley — all while also playing the ukulele — made it obvious that she loved what she was performing. The part of the medley that particularly stood out was the transition between “Habanera” and “Phantom,” which slowed down the tempo in a seamless way and added incredible vocals.
This review would not be complete without a quick shoutout to Taimane’s dress, which enhanced her presence on the stage. It was a silver gown that glittered when the lighting hit it just right. She pointed it out during one segment of the concert, earning applause from the audience. Although she said that it was difficult to move around in, it didn’t stop her from doing just that for the entire performance.
The performance of “Boda Boda Sunset” was also a change in pace in the show. Contrasting the previous rock covers and fast strumming, Taimane slowed it down with this original composition. Before playing, she explained that her artistic process involved “writing to images.” This song in particular was formed by imagining a vacation in Tahiti. The repetition of the lyric “lazy days” captured the essence of this soothing track.
The last song was a wave of nostalgia from a movie that featured surfing — it was a cover of “Surf Medley” by Junior Brown. Taimane recalled performing the song in Waikiki in front of the Pacific Beach hotel. Overall, it wrapped up the show quite nicely. Members of the quartet took turns delivering impassioned solos, ensuring the audience would remember the magic Taimane and her ensemble created that night.