8Tracks Review: ‘Elemental’ by Taimane

Elemental by Taimane
independent, 2018

What’s your label?

Taimane Gardner’s new album dropped last week.  Elemental is a mostly instrumental blending of many styles, as one would expect from this ukulele virtuoso.  Her FB bio says,

Taimane translates to “diamond” from Samoan and perfectly reflects the different facets of her nature. Whether delicately finger-picking through Bach or radically ripping through Led Zeppelin, Taimane has the ability to morph genres – from classical to rock to flamenco – and stretch her instrument far beyond the familiar melodies of Hawaii, where she grew up.

She learned to play at age 5, first attending Roy Sakuma’s ukulele school, then taking lessons from Jake Shimabukuro.  Busking on the streets in Waikiki led to her discovery by Don Ho, who made her a regular in his Waikiki show when she was still in high school.  A nice feature in Ukulele Magazine about her then-recent We Are Made of Stars album, explains how her sound and performance style evolved next:

A close friend took her to Ong King Art Center, an underground art gallery in Honolulu’s Chinatown. “It was the complete opposite of Waikiki,” she says. “Improvising and creating on the spot was the hot thing. I was introduced to artists and musicians who looked at music and art differently. It was the moonlight compared to day.”

Prounounce it “ty-MAH-neh.”  And “oo-koo-LEH-leh,” not “yoo-kuh-LAY-lee.”

Only open eyes and ears and minds can hear

  1. Water (5:13)
  2. Fire (4:07)
  3. Air (4:40)
  4. Mother (Earth) (4:27)
  5. Hades (Pluto) (3:53)
  6. Ether (3:55)
  7. Atlantis (4:09)

Taimane Gardner: ukulele, vocals
Jazzy Jazz: guitar
Jonathan Heraux: cajon

Come on and listen

While Taimane delivers these seven element-themed songs with her usual cross-genre style, the dominating mood is atmospheric.  She’s at her best when she’s playing alone, without accompaniment, but there aren’t any bad or boring moments on the album.  Listen to “Air” and you’ll get a sense of the ukulele’s range of sounds in the hands of a competent musician.  The instrument has very little sustain without electronic help, but you hear how a mostly strummed style can provide a nice droning staccato and even some sweet harmonics for kind of an illusory sustenance.

I love how she occasionally, without overdoing it, will slide up or down the neck in a manner unusual for ukulele-playing.  There’s an approach here that some traditionalists criticize, attacking the instrument like a guitar to be shredded, rather than gently coaxing the music from the strings and fretboard, but I say there’s a time and place for good, musical shredding, and musicians like Jake Shimabukuro, Troy Fernandez, and Taimane Gardner carve out that time and place.

I never get tired of her playing.  Put this in your earbuds and lie down somewhere cool or warm, somewhere you can feel the ground you’re on and whatever breeze you can find.  People always associate ukulele-playing with the beach, but here’s an ukulele album that should work in any outdoorsy setting.  I’m serious!

She is here

Best song: “Ether,” a new-agey piece with some pretty accompaniment.
Second-best song: “Air.”
Meh: I really like the playing and vocals on “Mother (Earth),” but the lyrics are super uneven, sometimes distracting.
Song to make you wanna book that vacation to Hawaii (do it!) (and bring all your money!): “Fire.”
Song to make you wanna book a midnight Nightmarchers hike while there: “Atlantis.”
Best moment: I really like the strumming that picks up right after the short pause at about 2:44 in “Air” and goes to the end of the track.  Makes me want to break out my senior yearbook for some reason.
Rating: 7/10

Where are you?

site, twtter, ig, fb, amzn, itns, ytbe, sptfy, cdbby

see Taimane play her kinda famous surf medley at halftime at a Clippers game at the Staples Center.  Ignore the announcer’s bad pronunciation of her name.  It’s not his fault.

The meaning behind ‘Maile,’ the name of Tammy Duckworth’s new daughter

ICYMI: Senator Tammy Duckworth gave birth to her second child, a girl named Maile Pearl, April 9.  The junior senator from Illinois is the first member of the Senate to give birth while in office.  This past Wednesday, the Senate changed its rules to allow infants on the Senate floor during a vote, enabling Duckworth to stick close to her child while sticking close to the proceedings.

There’s some confusion out there about Maile’s name, and the explanations floating around are only partially correct, so here’s the straight dope.  Duckworth and Maile are going to pronounce it “MY-lee,” which sounds exactly like Miley Cyrus’s name, as explained in a pretty good Bustle article last week. However, a few gaps are worth filling.

It’s a fairly common name in Hawaiʻi, where Duckworth earned her high school diploma and her bachelor’s degree.  Every year (except one, for some reason) between 1967 and 2012, it was a top-100 most common feminine baby name in the state, usually ranking in the 60s and 70s.  There is pretty much nobody in Hawaiʻi who doesn’t know a few Mailes.

The name is the Hawaiian word for alyxia oliviformis, a twining, flowering plant in the dogbane family.  It’s native to Hawaiʻi and used to make leis.*  A lei is not necessarily the flower garland you see in Elvis movies; leis come in multiple variations. Here’s a photo of Daniel Dae Kim wearing a maile lei at the blessing for the sixth season of Hawaii Five-0, and here’s some video of Hawaiʻi Senator Mazie Hirono honoring the late Senator Dan Akaka, with a maile lei draped across her lectern.

And speaking of Akaka, Duckworth says the name was suggested by him.

Note that Maile is different from Malia, the Hawaiian name Barack and Michelle Obama gave their firstborn child.  Malia is the far more common name (in 2016, the 46th-most common feminine name in Hawaiʻi).

While “MY-lee” is the common pronunciation, the Hawaiian pronunciation is closer to “MY-le,” where the /e/ sound is like the E in “keg.”  You don’t usually hear someone pronounce it this way, but when someone does, nobody corrects it because we all know that’s how we should be saying it.  Maile Duckworth can pronounce her name any way she wishes, of course, but hopefully her mommy will make sure she understands its linguistically correct pronunciation as well.  I’m certain Dan Akaka would be proud.


* The use of the plural form “leis” has fallen out of favor in Hawaiʻi, as there is no plural form of the word in Hawaiian.  However, I insist (against massively popular opinion) that I’m not speaking in Hawaiian when I say it; I’m speaking in English, using a borrowed word, and will therefore use English language conventions.  Boy, do people get mad at me for this.

A Hawaiian Language Short: Until the Sun Sets

On 8asians, we have often talked about how are AAPI voices are not presented in mainstream media, but one voice that is seldom heard, whether in mainstream media or online, is that of Native Hawaiians.  That’s why Until The Sun Sets caught my eye.  It’s definitely not The Descendents, as it shows scenes of Hawaii before European contact.  For more information and a talk with the director Kenji Doughty, see this interview at YOMYOMF, as part of YOMYOMF’s short film series.

The Descendants Review: Justified Whitewashing?


I first heard about The Descendants movie from Susan‘s post that asked if this movie was a “whitewashed” version of Hawaii. After garnering attention with a Golden Globe Award and Oscar nominations, the Wife and I were intrigued.  George Clooney as a Hawaiian? How could this possibly work?  Why all the buzz? The Wife and I went to go see it, and this is what I thought about the movie.

Continue reading “The Descendants Review: Justified Whitewashing?”

Hawaiian Singer’s “Occupy” Song At Obama Summit

With the refrain, “We’ll occupy the streets, we’ll occupy the courts, we’ll occupy the offices of you, till you do the bidding of the many, not the few,” Hawaiian singer Makana’s song, “We Are The Many,” “turned a top-security dinner of Pacific Rim leaders hosted by President Barack Obama into a subtle protest with a song in support of the ‘Occupy’ movement.” The video was posted prior to the dinner on November 10 and though the roughly 400 protesters, including activists for native Hawaiian rights and those against globalization, initially planned to march towards the dinner site, they were changed their plans in light of the mass amounts of security.

Sarah Palin, Hawaii, and Our Imaginations

HawaiiBeachGirlsI’m not going to even comment on Sarah Palin. It is too easy. I try not to pick on people who are intellectually inferior. What I do want to discuss is her (and other people’s) conceptions of Hawaii.

First, let’s do a mind exercise. Imagine you are in Hawaii. Honeymoon. Vacation. Whatever. Look around you. What do you see? Palm trees? Beaches? Clear skies? Paradise, right? Now focus on the people. What do they look like? More specifically, what race are they?

According to the article, Sarah left Hawaii because “the presence of so many Asians and Pacific Islanders made her uncomfortable.” Now think back to my mind exercise. Clearly, before Sarah moved to Hawaii she must have imagined paradise full of Caucasian people. This made me think.

When most people close their eyes and imagine Hawaii, do they see it full of Caucasian people too? Or is this just a Sarah thing?

I’m afraid of the answer. I’m afraid that Sarah isn’t the only one. I’m afraid that most Americans are like her. The reality is of course that Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders/Hapas Americans make up more than half of the Hawaiian population. What a shock it must be when people who think like Sarah visit there. Do they feel like they are still in America? Or do they feel like they’ve left the country and are traveling in some far away (and dare I say, exotic) land?

Why does this happen? Simple. Look at movies, books, and/or television shows that take place in Hawaii. The Hawaii being portrayed is Sarah’s Hawaii and not the reality. I’m dreaming of a day when people will see Hawaii for what it is… a paradise full of people that look more like me than the Bradys.

Did “Asians Scare Sarah Palin Away” from Hawaii?

SarahPalinI never thought that we’d ever have a reason to write about Sarah Palin on this blog, but here it is. With the release of her book “Going Rogue,” come opportunities for her to put a few things out for the record– and for people to correct her.

In the New Yorker review of the book, Sam Tanenhaus writes that Palin’s own father suggested that Sarah left Hawaii because there were too many Asians. Not surprisingly, this contradicts Palin’s own description of her reasons for leaving college in Hawaii after only one semester.

Palin, though notoriously ill-traveled outside the United States, did journey far to the first of the four colleges she attended, in Hawaii. She and a friend who went with her lasted only one semester. “Hawaii was a little too perfect,” Palin writes. “Perpetual sunshine isn’t necessarily conducive to serious academics for eighteen-year-old Alaska girls.” Perhaps not. But Palin’s father, Chuck Heath, gave a different to account [Scott] Conroy and [Shushannah] Walshe [authors of another bio, “Sarah From Alaska”]. According to him, the presence of so many Asians and Pacific Islanders made her uncomfortable: “They were a minority type thing and it wasn’t glamorous, so she came home.” In any case, Palin reports that she much preferred her last stop, the University of Idaho, “because it was much like Alaska yet still ‘Outside.’ “

Two things to note about the passage above:
1) The italics above are from Isaac Chotiner of The New Republic, who was the first to point this out and ask “Why–and readers should weigh in–has this gotten absolutely no media attention?”
2) Most articles about this have been quoting the passage above without the final sentence, the one that reads: “In any case, Palin reports that she much preferred her last stop, the University of Idaho, “because it was much like Alaska yet still ‘Outside.’ ”

It’s that final sentence that I think tells the real story. It’s easy to write a headline like, “Sarah Palin is Racist Against Asians,” but the more accurate headline might actually be, “Sarah Palin Did Not Like Being a Minority.”

I’m no Sarah Palin fan– but I’m coming to the defense of Sarah Palin on this one. I don’t think that Sarah Palin left Hawaii because she was “afraid of Asians” or “racist against Asians.” I think that she didn’t like being in a place where “people like her” aren’t the norm. Railing against Sarah Palin about that— her unwillingness to live in a place where she could learn from people different than her– is a much better discussion than simply pulling the race card. I think the fact of the matter is, an 18-year-old Sarah Palin wouldn’t have wanted to live any place with a lot of people that were different from her– period. Just a guess, and I may not be giving Palin enough credit here, but she probably would have quit school if she’d gone to a school in a predominantly African-American area, too. Does that make her racist? Not necessarily.

When I visited Alaska for a couple of weeks last year for a governmental project I was working on (no, I did not work with the State of Alaska or have any dealings with the Governor herself), I took the opportunity to learn about the population of the state. A lot of people don’t realize this, but as a percentage of the state’s population, there are more people of Asian descent than in many other parts of the U.S. In fact, an Asian American (Scott Kawasaki), is a member of the Alaska House of Representatives. Outside of states with large Asian/Asian American populations, most states don’t have any Asian American representation. Although the vast majority of people in Alaska are indeed white, it’s not as if Hawaii was the first place she’d ever encountered an Asian American!

We all know that as most kids are growing up, they just like to “fit in” to their surroundings. Maybe Sarah Palin hadn’t outgrown that by the time she went off to college? Maybe she never did?

But that doesn’t necessarily make her “scared of Asians.”

Original photo by geerlingguy, used & modified under Creative Commons License

Asian-American Youth and Juvenile Diabetes

loco_mocoWhen Number One Son first started playing on a mostly Asian-American basketball team at his school, two out of 8 kids on his squad had diabetes and had to take insulin.   So after Tim forwarded this article from the Honolulu Star Bulletin that said juvenile diabetes hits more Asian and Pacific islanders who live in Hawaii and the rest of the US than those who live in Asia, I was both surprised and unsurprised.  Type 2 diabetes, typically caused from a sedentary lifestyle and a bad diet, was not a surprise, as immigrant adoption of the American diet usually correlates to poorer health and some Asian-American groups are particularly sedentary.  I personally know a lot of Asian-Americans who have diabetes, and my personal experience with Hawaiian food is that it isn’t the healthiest cuisine in the world (e.g. loco moco shown below with sides of fried saimin and macaroni salad).

What did surprise me was that Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition of unknown cause, was higher also.

Since while type 1 and gestational (pregancy related) diabetes are not preventable (well, sort of preventable for gestational diabetes), type 2 can be generally be prevented with a healthy diet and exercise – basically avoiding obesity and watching one’s weight.  That’s something we all, regardless of ethnicity or race, can take away from this.