The Diamond of Waikiki

Her name means ‘diamond’ in Samoan, and Taimane Gardner is indeed one of Hawaii’s musical gems. Loaded with talent and oozing confidence, at 17 she’s on the verge of national stardom

Bill Mossman
Friday - July 14, 2006
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Taimane Gardner
Taimane Gardner
Taimane Gardner
Taimane Gardner
Taimane Gardner

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that Taimane Gardner, the sparkling young ukulele dynamo whose first name means “diamond” in Samoan, was made for the stage.

Cut from a maternal mold of flawless musical genes and polished to brilliance through years of performing in front of large audiences, she has developed into quite a gem among the Islands’ever-growing list of fledgling artists. There are no rough patches in her presentation - no imperfections in her command over crowds or the musical instrument she comfortably wields in her arms.

Care to see Taimane imitate the legendary Don Ho - complete with wineglass in hand, shades and, of course, slurred and undecipherable speech? Easy.

How about listen to her belt out the verses to
Johnny B. Goode, then follow that up with a smooth moonwalk across the stage? Done.

Or how about watch her strike a series of statuesque poses and smile naturally for onlookers while ripping through a gazil-lion notes on her ukulele - all of them with equal precision and performed in a state best described as controlled frenzy - that would make Messrs Ludwig van Beethoven and Jimmy Page proud? No problem.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 5,” says Taimane of her considerable showmanship talents. “I’ve never been afraid to perform in front of people. To me, the more people the better!”

About the only thing that makes her sweat - and turn ultra-secretive - these days is playing the lead role in an upcoming made-for-TV movie.

“I can’t really say anything more about the movie other than it’s a family movie and being done by the producer of the Duke Kahanamoku movie The Ride,” explains Taimane, who is credited with recording two songs for the 2003 movie soundtrack.

“But I am kind of nervous about it. I’ve never acted before.”

No, but how she can perform with an ukulele in hand. With flair oozing from her pores, Taimane has understandably attracted an ever-growing legion of fans, both here in the Islands and abroad.

“You were fantastic!” comments a tourist while shaking the ukulele virtuoso’s hand following yet another performance at the Don Ho Show in the Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel, where Taimane performs weekly.

Even actress Sean Young - in town to begin work on a movie called Hawaiian Legends - can now be counted among Taimane’s newest admirers. Following the 17-year-old’s recent ukulele pyrotechnics on stage, Young leans over to this writer and, shouting over the applause, exclaims, “We LOOOVE this girl! She’s amazing!”

Taimane and kid sister Teuila in Waikiki, backed by Joby Kaeo, Pava Junblut and Tahiti Dean
Taimane and kid sister Teuila in Waikiki, backed by Joby
Kaeo, Pava Junblut and Tahiti Dean

About the only time Taimane remembers receiving a negative response from the audience occurred about two years ago. That reaction came from one man - and he was completely intoxicated.

“I was performing center stage at Ala Moana and he kept yelling at me to get off,” the youngster remembers, chuckling at the memory. “But then everyone else started yelling back at him to be quiet and the security guards came and took him away.

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