Taimane Gardner, Waikiki’s princess of ‘ukulele, has taken her mean talent from the corner of Kalakaua and Lili’uokalani Avenues and committed it to disc. Anyone who’s cruised the strip on a Friday night knows that the ocean of people gathered outside the Pacific Beach Hotel isn’t there for the silver guy–they’re there to catch 16-year-old Gardner rip on her electric uke to the tune of Pink Floyd and AC/DC. Though her debut album, Loco Princess, doesn’t include any of those songs, it’s a perfect sampling of Gardner’s versatility as an artist and performer.
She opens with ‘Surfin’ Medley,’ a trio of ‘Johnny B. Good,’ ‘Surfin’ USA,’ and, of course, ‘Wipe Out.’ Her fast fingers don’t miss a thing and the medley comes together like a barrel and a short board. She closes the album with her self-arranged version of ‘Carol of the Bells.’ An odd choice, perhaps, but a wise one for an artist whose versatility–as much as her pure musical talent–is what makes her a stand-out in the saturated local market. Sometimes (and not often), the album suffers from that common local-music affliction: over production. Tracks like ‘Moloka’i Slide’ and Carlos Santana’s ‘Europa’ are a touch too glossy, but those flaws are overshadowed by Gardner’s magic fingers. Her traditional ‘Nani Wai’ale’ale,’ her mellow, island-style version of Lloyd William’s ‘Shama Lama Ding Dong,’ her serene ‘For Elise’ and her jazzy, downtempo version of the Jesse Harris/Nora Jones hit ‘Don’t Know Why’ all confirm what her street fans already knew–Gardner is a star.
We’re just sorry we can’t watch her play her ‘ukulele behind her head a la Jimmy Hendrix while we listen to Loco Princess in the car.
Toto, we’re not in Kingston anymore. Once in a great while, at least locally, an artist comes along who makes you appreciate music again, especially when that genre of music has been churning out groups faster than you can say reggae.
One Day Maybe is the debut album of self-produced artist Sashamon. Maybe that day is now. It’s a reggae album, but not in the traditional sense. And not in the Jawaiian sense. Sashamon takes his listeners on a musical journey. It’s whimsical, fun and all over the place melodically–a new breed of reggae surf music. There is no raga filler with the fake Jamaican accent, though Sashamon’s vocal stylings do take on the occasional rootsy-mon lilt.
The first song on the album, ‘Jah Roots,’ is a light, easy tune with one-drop beats to appeal to the purists. ‘Necta (Butterfly)’ is the album’s sing-along track about Sashamon’s charming infatuation with a girl. On ‘Japanese Squeeze’ (resist the urge to be offended, we like our ethnic categorizations here) we’re told of a memorable Waikiki encounter with a Japanese girl.
But Sashamon’s not all butterflies and bikinis–he’s got a message and the demonstrative ‘Peaceizafiya’ and ‘Herbal Criminal’ give the album some edge. One Day Maybe is one for everyone–even if you’ve sworn off of reggae. This album is simply good fun, kick-back music. Jack Johnson to a calypso off-beat? Hardly. Sashamon’s got his own thing going–and it’s a good thing.-Emma Sang