PODCAST: Ukulele virtuoso Taimane explores Polynesian roots through new music

"Hawaiki" album cover
"Hawaiki" album cover(Taimane)
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 4:03 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After Taimane Gardner’s mother died in 2018, she had a calling to return to her roots.

The ukulele virtuoso and composer packed up her bags and went on a solo trip to Samoa, where her mother was from.

“I went down there, I studied, I asked my family about the old traditional ways, and that was my inspiration of finding my connection, finding my Polynesian connection,” Taimane said.


Even though Taimane had gone there with her mom to visit family while she was growing up, this was her first trip to Samoa by herself. This time, she was focused on learning more about the ancient stories of Polynesian mythology.

That was also her last trip before the coronavirus pandemic started in 2020. After everything shut down, she used that time to hunker down, dive into her findings and start writing new music.

Four years later, Taimane released her newest album “Hawaiki” — paying homage to her mother and Polynesian heritage.

“I created this album called Hawaiki, which in Polynesia is a spiritual land where we came from, where we originated, and where we go when we return after death,” she said.

“It’s about a girl who’s trying to find her mana, or her inner strength, and she talks to the Polynesian gods and trying to find who she is.”

While listening to the album, you’ll hear some Samoan lyrics, Tahitian ukulele, Samoan fire knife drumming and more, she said.

“It really is just encapsulating me as my Polynesian side as an artist,” Taimane said.

She added that she gets her creative side from her mom — who was a dancer, singer and competed in the Miss Universe pageant as Miss Samoa. Meanwhile, she described her dad, who’s from Arizona, as being more business-like.

Taimane herself first picked up the ukulele at the age of 5, taking lessons at the Roy Sakuma ukulele school. Jake Shimabukuro was even one of her instructors.

“I played in front of the mirror, pretending like I was a rock star,” she said.

Since then, she’s gone on to record five albums, has toured around the world, and even sells her own line of clothing, jewelry and recently her own signature ukulele.

In the latest episode of Island Beat, Billy V catches up with Taimane to talk about her new album, her latest gigs and some of her favorite places in the world. Look for the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.