1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Taimane Gardner. My artist name is Taimane. Taimane means "diamond" in Samoan.
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? I am a US citizen. I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. I am part Samoan and part Caucasian. My mother was born and raised in Apia, Samoa. My dad was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? My mother was a singer and toured locally in the Samoan islands with her family band. She also was a dancer and ran in the Miss Universe Pageant in 1978 as Miss Samoa. My dad is a business man and instilled how important a good work ethic to me as a young child.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. Growing up in Hawaii is very different from growing up on the mainland. Race is not a big issue here in the islands because most of us are mixed already. I'm thankful I was able to blossom and grow up with that as a mindset. We have a big asian influence here with food, music and culture since we're pretty close to Asia.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? I feel more connected to it recently than as a younger child. My mother passed in 2018 which led me to finding my Samoan roots in my own way to stay connected. She would take me to Samoa every couple years to hang with family and to be in the culture. As a child you're not really conscious of what your parents do for you until it's gone, so it's been up to me stay active and connected to my mother's Samoan culture.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? 6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? I started playing ukulele when I was 5 years old. Ukulele is also taught in elementary schools in Hawaii. I'm very lucky to have parents that supported me wholeheartedly in my musical journey. My dad would take me to Waikiki to play on the streets for the tourists as a young child. A famous singer by the name of Don Ho saw me and invited me to play in his show and gave me my first job at the age of 13. From there, I started playing in Luau shows, corporate events and ukulele festivals.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse.
Recent Years: http://www.rootsmusichawaii.com/taimane-fire-m
[including NPR Tiny Desk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXUCJKto68Q and 50 million+ video views and over 400,000+ social media followers]
Career Bio: http://www.rootsmusichawaii.com/taimane-bio
8. Describe to me your dream project. [unanswered; my best guess is that she's already living it :)]
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? Most people do not find the ukulele to be a "serious instrument" such as a guitar or piano. However, this gives me the chance to change a person's perspective on this underdog instrument and stretch the boundaries of what the ukulele is known for.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? I love The Weeknd [non AAPI] and how he is an artist 100%. It inspires me to see artists be engulfed in their art and to attach themselves to their projects and passions.
Manaola is a local clothing designer here in the islands who uses Hawaiian culture inspirations in his clothing and makes it modern.
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? I love seeing artists incorporate their culture in their own special perspective and bring it to the present. Seeing culture in a fresh and modern way while respecting where one comes from is inspiring from a roots perspective, while also being in the present. It educates and also inspires.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? Don't allow others negative and critical opinions stop you from reaching your full potential as an artist.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? I'm working on my next album which will be releasing by the end of the year. I'm also focusing on my social media presence as touring is a little tough right now.
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. I'm a huge yoga fan and have been practicing for over 10 years. It's a great skill for mental health and helps keep my body strong and flexible for tour. I also enjoy astrology for fun.
Photos provided by Taimane Gardner