With a blend of Polynesian roots, influences from a variety of genres and a stunning range of ukulele skills, Taimane has developed a bold style that's all her own. Fans of the Hawaii-born-and-raised musician find her shows riveting not only for the virtuosic playing but also for the way in which she involves elements of dance into her performance, seemingly putting body and soul into her music.
"I never was actually taught dance classically or formally, I've always just enjoyed dancing," she said. "It's hard not to dance while I play music. It's all part of the expression; they go hand in hand."
Locals have a chance to catch the uke sensation at her show at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto on Oct. 26.
Though globally she's a rising star, she's also been paying her dues on the music scene for quite some time. Taimane was first attracted to the ukulele as a child. From a young age she was busking for tourists on Waikiki Beach and as a teenager was championed by the legendary Don Ho, who put her in his variety show. Growing up, she was exposed to rock music and the reggae and traditional Hawaiian music popular in the islands, showing off her unique and quick-fingered style as she wowed crowds with her covers of surf songs and classical tunes. Uke master Jake Shimabukuro helped her hone her considerable skills even further.
Once Taimane reached college age, she discovered a more bohemian Honolulu scene, one that was "all about original music, art, improvisation," she told the Weekly in a recent interview. "My original music is inspired by that bohemian vibe." She also encountered new sounds from a variety of traditions -- flamenco, gypsy jazz and Middle Eastern -- and began experimenting with Eastern scales.
"I just enjoyed hearing those types of chords. It's not very big in Hawaii. I was really curious to hear more of this type of music," she said.
Audiences at her Palo Alto performance can expect to hear some of her intricate, ethereal originals (including selections from her most recent album, "Elemental") and a mix of her favorite covers and unexpected medlies; some instrumentals and some featuring her singing.
"It'll be a whole plethora, from old to very new," she said. "I just try to balance out my setlist. Instrumentals are beautiful but lyrics really help people connect with each other."
After years of defying ukulele stereotypes and expectations, she still values a connection to musical and cultural traditions. Lately, she's been more deeply exploring her Polynesian heritage, following the recent death of her mother, who was Samoan. Her newer material explores some more classic surf, Hawaiian and Samoan influences.
"I'm reconnecting with my roots as a half-Polynesian woman, getting more in touch with my Polynesian side," she said.
At her Palo Alto show, she'll be joined by classical guitarist Ramiro Marziani and cajon player Jonathan Heraux, as well as Polynesian/contemporary dancer Li'o. Uke strummers and fans will notice Taimane's instrument is a bit unusual she plays a custom five-string tenor version, utilizing two low G strings.
"I like the warmer sound," she explained.
Though she frequently tours in California, this will be her first, in her recollection, performance on the Peninsula.
"I'm a huge fan of Elon Musk," she said. "I'm excited to be in the area where a lot of the tech companies have grown."
What: Taimane in concert.
Where: Oshman Family JCC, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto.
When: Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7:30 p.m. San Jose singer-songwriter Adira Sharkey will perform at a pre-show reception at 6:45 p.m.