So much magic unfolded in such short order. Within the first moments of Taimane's stunning set, we hear her play fiery flamenco, a famous phrase from the opera Carmen, a touch of Bach and more than a nod to her Hawaiian homeland, all on her ukulele.
Taimane began playing ukulele at age five; these days, it's seemingly become an extension of her body. Her band includes guitarist Ramiro Marziani, violinist Melissa Baethoven and, on Cajon, Jonathan Heraux. Together they were impassioned and tight. Then along came a surprise. In what is a first at the Tiny Desk, a dancer named Li'o performed in a hau skirt made from dried lauhala leaves, with a lei of white conch wrapped around his neck. His Polynesian dance, along with the stick percussion, added to the beauty and the intensity. And that's just the first half.
Taimane chose to represent the elements of the earth on her latest album, Elemental, and she brought the most feisty of those elements to the Tiny Desk: "Fire." This music draws inspiration from Cuban traditions, with moments that are sensual as well as ecstatic. Taimane is a beautiful singer and a dynamic performer. I was fortunate enough to see her live performance last year at SXSW in Austin. It was as unforgettable then as it was here at the Tiny Desk.
- (Medley): "Carmen," "E Ala Ē," "Jupiter"
Taimane: ukulele, vocals; Jonathan Heraux: percussion; Ramiro Marziani: guitar; Melissa Baethoven: violin, vocals; Li'o: Polynesian dance
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative director: Bob Boilen; Audio engineer: Josh Rogosin; Editor: Melany Rochester; Videographers: CJ Riculan, Jack Corbett, Maia Stern, Melany Rochester; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Executive producer: Lauren Onkey; VP, programming: Anya Grundmann; Photo: Laura Beltran Villamizar/NPR