If you’re wanting to take your ukulele playing to new heights, you can look to Taimane Gardner for inspiration. She’s been hailed a ukulele virtuoso, a prodigy who picked up the instrument as a young child and later studied under modern ukulele guru, Jake Shimabukuro. Gardner also writes and performs her own songs, and has released five albums as of 2018.

How did she get so good? In an interview, Gardner said she practiced a lot of scales. “That’s all I did, practice, practice, practice,” adding that she used to even practice blindfolded. She said this helped her play without having to look at the ukulele, which allowed her to look at the audience or at other things as she played. Now that’s a great tip for those who want to learn to play ukulele!

Early beginnings

Taimane Tauiliili Bobby Gardner was born on Feb. 13, 1989 in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is part indigenous Samoan and part Caucasian (Irish, German, Swedish and French). Her parents named her well – “taimane” is the word for diamond in the Samoan language, and Taimane Gardner truly shines wherever and whenever she plays.

At the tender age of 5, she picked up her first ukulele. The first song she ever learned was ‘Three Blind Mice.’ But even before she first held the ukulele, she was already a performer – Gardner would create little dance recitals for her parents and her dog at home.

By the age of 10, Gardner was already busking on the streets of Waikiki every Friday night, jamming with the beach boys. When she turned a year older, she started working on her first album at the longest-running music recording studio in Hawaii, Rendez-Vous Recording in Honolulu.

Gardner eventually met ukulele superstar Jake Shimabukuro, who expanded her music knowledge and taught her Spanish strums, flamenco chords and classical music on the uke.

It was during a performance in Waikiki when one of the performers from the Don Ho show saw the talented ukulele player, and he told the legendary entertainer about her. Gardner, then 13 years old, was soon invited to perform on the show, where she played week after week until Ho passed away in 2007. Gardner credits Ho for teaching her what it’s like to be a professional musician.

Growing career

Gardner’s popularity began to grow, and she received invitations to perform around the world. She has opened for big names such as Earth Wind and Fire, Chris Isaak and Chicago, among many others. She’s even played privately for Hollywood celebrities such as George Clooney and John Travolta, and has graced a number of TEDx Talks.

The talented ukulele player is known not only for her energetic and soulful performances and beautiful original compositions but also for mashing up different music genres, like rock and classical (Led Zeppelin and Beethoven!).

Gardner is a joy to watch when she plays and sings. She gives her all and puts her entire being into each performance. She has an awe-inspiring flamenco-inspired strumming and percussive technique that can truly take your breath away.

It’s no surprise that the ukulele virtuoso was hailed Favorite Entertainer of the Year in the Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards, the premier music awards in Hawaii, in 2019. It’s her first Hoku, and we daresay it won’t be her last.

We’re looking forward to seeing more of Taimane Gardner’s amazing work. Meanwhile, it’s back to practicing scales for us and doing our best to play blindfolded!

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