Streetlight Cadence


If you’ve gone to a local community event lately, or walked through Waikīkī at night, you’ve probably heard indie-folk rockers Streetlight Cadence perform.

“We literally started on the sidewalk,” says Jesse Shiroma, accordionist and foot percussionist for the band. Four years later, they still play on the streets of Waikīkī weekly. “Hawai‘i hasn’t really gotten to know us through traditional means.”

Which makes sense, considering how delightfully unusual this quartet is. In addition to Shiroma’s accordion, Brian Webb plays the cello while standing (so he can rock out), vocalist Jonathon Franklin often strums the violin like an ‘ukulele (an improvisation after he broke his arm and couldn’t hold it up to bow) and guitarist Chaz Umamoto dresses to impress. “We do get a lot of remarks about our novelty,” Shiroma says, but the band’s accolades prove it’s not about gimmicks.

Streetlight Cadence – Folk Rock Group Extraordinaire

In 2013, Streetlight Cadence won The Republik’s Bacardi Oakheart Iron Battle of the Bands. This year, the band won the Honolulu Hard Rock Rising Battle of the Bands and placed 13th in the global competition, which had 10,000 entries, and took home the grand prize in the annual Mai Tai Rumble at Ala Moana Center. Not bad for a bunch of guys from Hilo, Kalihi, Houston and San Diego. “We were kind of blown away,” Shiroma says. “To know that we came as a bunch of college kids on the sidewalks playing for grocery money, and now we literally have an international fan base and we’re able to compete and write and arrange these songs people like—look how far things have come.”

The band formed in 2010 when Franklin, who was attending HPU, and another musician friend put an ad on Craigslist to start a band. Shiroma, a student at UH Mānoa, responded, and soon they roped in a few other college friends. There have been lineup changes over time, but the current members are planning on turning Streetlight Cadence into an LLC and pursuing music as their full-time jobs. They even give lessons on how to play their respective instruments.

The group, none of whose members studied music in college, plays everything from Pachelbel’s Canon to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and “Royals” by Lorde, as well as original compositions, some of which made it onto their recent EP, After the War. “[That] was our first successful Kickstarter project,” Shiroma says. “As a band, we’re totally self-managed; we’re not going through any middleman. Now that we got our feet wet, we want to push forward.” They’re currently working on their next album, which they hope to again fund through Kickstarter and produce on the West Coast. It will include revamped versions of the songs on After the War as well as some new tracks. Though they put out a full-length album before, “[it] was at a past stage of the band, before Chaz joined. Ultimately, we hope this new project will be a defining start to what is Streetlight Cadence.”



If there is a genre in Honolulu called ‘island rock,’ it’s been redefined by Tavana McMoore. Quick to smile, humble and dead serious about his work, Tavana twists at his long black curls as he ponders how long he’s been making a living playing music in Honolulu. ‘Well,’ he says from beneath a stylish felt hat, ‘My last day job was back in 2000.’

That adds up to well over a thousand gigs, most of which have seen him alone onstage with his acoustic guitar and a mike stand. Playing five to seven nights a week at places like Tsunami’s, Holokai Grill and Sparky’s, Tavana has become a solo fixture in Waikiki. He’s recently made inroads into the thriving Chinatown scene, attracting a faithful gaggle on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at O’Toole’s Irish Pub. With a sound that’s part Sublime, part Ben Harper and a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Tavana has forged a musical identity that attracts, all at once, the ladies, the braddahs and the military.

His new and self-released full-length album Only for the Light Hearted captures that essence, a journeyman’s humility and an artist’s peculiar devotion to his art. He picked up the guitar at 13, learning the pop songs that would be expected of a Kaiser ’97 grad. ‘I was into Bob Marley early on,’ Tavana recalls. ‘But I moved to Clapton and Stevie Ray pretty quickly.’

The way he plays belies the fact that he comes from a family with a rich Polynesian musical heritage. His grandfather was the force behind Tavana’s ‘Polynesian Spectacular,’ for many years a Waikiki staple that astonished tourists and locals alike. Both parents are musicians. His sister Tepairu McMoore performed with the Polynesian revue ‘Tihati’ for a decade and his brother Malala was part of Hawai’i’s first genuine hip-hop outfit Ho’omanakaz.

Tavana – Redefininer Of Island Rock

Probably because he was destined to, Tavana ended up studying music, completing first the guitar performance and then the recording arts programs at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles. He played coffee shop gigs to make ends meet while he was there, and that’s where his love for songwriting and performance began to blossom. ‘I was into shredding at first,’ he says, mimicking an eyes-closed math rocker with an air guitar. ‘But after I started playing those solo gigs, I started backing away from the scholastics of music and started writing.’

It’s never been easy for anyone to make it as a working musician in Honolulu. Tavana knows it. ‘I lived in the mountains over Hawai’i Kai for months when things got lean for a while,’ he confesses. He’s kept gigs with the roots reggae outfit Melodious Solutions, and performs regularly in Waikiki with the bar rock group BTR. But he recoils at the notion that he’s a band slut. ‘I play as much as I can more out of a loyalty to making music than to a paycheck.’

His many gigs over the years brought him working relationships with some of our most respected local musicians. That helped when he was recruiting talent for his album. Only for the Light Hearted features Justin James on drums, John Hawes on bass and percussion genius Lopaka Colon. Freesound guitarist Keith Batlin also sat in. The record’s tracks were well chosen, and reflect the broad range of influences that have shaped Tavana’s sound. Recorded here and mixed and mastered at Prairie Sun in the Bay Area, Only for the Light Hearted is a lucid aural demonstration of what’s going on in Tavana’s head. The songs are all his, and they’re all him.

And while selling records is generally the point of making them, Tavana remains committed to the gigs that have given him the resources to record. He plays like a savage, attacking his battered six-string with a focused abandon that is as fascinating to watch as it is to hear. Even when he’s covering a lilting Ben Harper favorite, it’s intense. He has recently enlisted the sing-along services of his girlfriend Kona Surento, a velvety counterpoint to his powerful lead vocals. There’s usually a guest on the djembe or the harmonica. Few seem willing to pick up a guitar next to him.

He is one of few local troubadours who have a real following. That is to say, there are a lot of people who show up whenever and wherever he’s playing. They know all of the material, and they request his original songs nine times out of 10. It’s the new ones who request Sublime, Ben Harper and Dave Matthews. Not that Tavana minds. ‘I love those songs, man.’

Having completed his solo debut, Tavana is now focused on the future, with plans for what he calls a Polynesian-fusion-rock revue. It seems that he is rediscovering his musical heritage. ‘I’m working on putting together rock with a Polynesian focus,’ he explains. ‘I want to incorporate Tahitian drums and dancers with a rock show.’ It’s an ambitious endeavor, but one to which he is most certainly suited. The guava doesn’t fall far from the tree. 



Talented, versatile Ginai steps up with a new CD, Jazz Island, that is a perfect showcase. If you’ve never been into jazz, this album could change your mind her way. They knew her father was black, even if they had never seen him, and kids can be cruel.

Despite this, Ginai still views the West side as home.

“Whenever I can see those gorilla heads on the side of the mountain, I know I am home,” she says, referring to the rock outcroppings on Maile Point.

The seeds of music her mother planted came to fruition at an early age. In seventh grade she won a talent contest with her version of Roberta Flack’s First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. At 16, she joined the professional world in a group named Nostalgia that toured the military bases doing covers from the ‘50s.

By age 18 she was ready for the big time, moving to the Bay Area and helping form a nine-piece funk band named Mo Dog. They opened for Huey Lewis and the News, hired a manager and were set to blow up. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame – the band fell apart. Members got married, got “real jobs” and moved past their childhood dreams.

But not Ginai.

She traveled the Mainland, from the lights of Vegas to the isolation of Montana, making a living singing covers and making the music she loved. But it all got too lonely in the wide expanse of America, so she returned home in 1981 to make her mark here in the Islands.

Once home, she found lots of work entertaining tourists in revue shows like Aloha Las Vegas, and working conventions, still never giving up the dream of making music for herself.

Ginai – Showcasing Her Island Jazz Roots

She found a niche as a Whitney Houston impersonator, with the strength of voice to match the pop star and the good looks to host the shows. So she spent a decade imitating what she so longed to become. But rather than have it turn her bitter, she saw herself as the lucky one.

“You can take Whitney Houston’s career and make it go away, as far as I’m concerned,” says Ginai. “Because I think my career has been much more to talk about. I actually got to make a living in Hawaii as a singer, while functioning as a mother and a wife. I actually have a life. I surf, I live in paradise. Houston ain’t got nothing on me.”

As you can see, music hasn’t been her only focus. She has three kids, Nichele (21), Joli (14) and young Aidan (2), from three different marriages, finally finding the right one, she says, in big-wave surfer Ted Curti four years ago.

While love has been rough at times, the jilting she received from producer Oliver Wendell was the one that almost crushed her.

Wendell came to her to produce an album for the Japanese market, he altered the spelling of her name to Genai and promised to make her a big success on the other side of the pond.

So she gave him her money, her trust and her voice. It was her big break that would catapult her from the review shows to the world. But he went to Japan and never returned.

Soon Genai albums were popping up all over in Japan, seven in all, as a Hawaiian Jazz group. He brought in new singers while still using leftover tracks of Ginai’s vocals from their recordings in 1999. As for her compensation or fame, well, she was just another casualty to the music industry machine.

“I deeply regret letting that happen to me,” says Ginai. “I spent all these years thinking I needed to wait around for a record company or producer to find me. And when they did find me, they took advantage of me.”

At first she considered legal action – after all, it was her name and music he was selling – but the costs and intricacies of international law were prohibitive.

“I could have gotten frustrated and just spun my wheels, just been angry and bitter inside,” says Ginai. “But I decided to move on with this CD and I realized I didn’t need him. I didn’t need him at all.”

So she approached John Kolivas of the Honolulu Jazz Quartet about making an album – not just any album, but an introduction to jazz for the local community, a Jazz 101.

“It’s a struggle, because so many people in Hawaii don’t know what jazz is,” says Ginai. “I would like to straighten them out. Consider this a starter’s course covering melody, lyrics, improv and execution. Improv is the key to what distinguishes jazz from other genres of music.”

The album has a little bit of everything, including the Hawaiian song Puamana fused with the music of All Blues by Miles Davis. So far, it seems to be working. In just the preliminary releases she is already receiving feedback from not just the Mainland, but Europe as well.

But to Ginai, it still all comes down to making the music here at home.

“I wanted to start this here in Hawaii, first because it’s home,” says Ginai, who now resides in Wahiawa. “But also because I have so many fans here who have been waiting, they have fallen asleep waiting for Ginai to do something on a solo basis. And lastly because I thought we could make a real splash coming from Hawaii.”



IF the city truly wants to be rid of the most obnoxious of Waikiki’s street performers, all our government officials need to do is put them on a trolley and drop them off in front of the Pacific Beach Hotel after 9 p.m. on a Friday night.

There, at the corner of Kalakaua and Liliuokalani avenues, the sounds emanating from Taimane Gardner’s electric ukulele and her voice should send all the not-ready-for-street-corner players running home in shame, or at least for more practice.

At sweet 16, Taimane’s got them beat. It is not unusual to see those who have walked briskly past dozens of wannabe entertainers suddenly stop to join a crowd of 75 or more gathered around the teenager as she sings “Brown-Eyed Girl,” wields her ukulele à la Jake Shimabukuro while catching the groove of “Wipeout,” or plays it behind her head à la Jimi Hendrix.

She is young enough not to take issue with such comparisons: “I don’t mind; I’m very honored to be called the female Jake because he’s not only a great uke player, but an awesome guy. He was one of my teachers, and he has a really good heart. So I’m fine with that.”

It is not difficult to imagine a day when even younger uke players start striving to be like Taimane, whose name means “diamond” in the Samoan language, reflecting her mother Pelepa’s heritage.

Roy Sakuma, director of Roy Sakuma Productions, where Taimane studied ukulele, said: “I’m really impressed by her showmanship and her drive to learn all the different styles of music. She’s really on the right track. She’s got personality and stage presence; she could be the next Jake.”

ACCORDING TO Taimane’s father, Jack Gardner, genetics had nothing to do with it.”I have zero musical talent,” said the retired Punahou teacher. “I told myself if I ever have children, I would get them started in music early because it’s such a special gift, and I found the ukulele is perfect for a child because it’s so small.”

Taimane – Ukulele Virtuoso

Gardner had a hard time finding any teacher who would take a 5-year-old, but found a supportive and patient teacher in Mike Vasquez. When Taimane showed aptitude and a passion for music, she doubled her schedule with lessons at Sakuma’s school as well.

“The funny part of it was that I tried to start when she did, but to be honest, I was holding her back,” Gardner said. “She would catch on instantly and I was just the opposite. One time, Mike asked us to close our eyes, and he would pluck his uke and ask if a second note was higher or lower than the first, and Taimane, at 5 1/2, would whisper to me, ‘Dad, it’s higher.’ …

“I learned my place is just to carry the equipment and restring the ukulele.”

Because of the experience Taimane has gained from Waikiki’s audience interaction and support, Gardner is a proponent of allowing Waikiki’s street performers to continue.

“After a while, practicing at home gets boring,” he said. “We started using the street experience as practice. It worked the way I was thinking it might, allowing her to develop to a whole other level, playing in front of people who were standing so close. She had to be focused because people would be watching.

“It was a unique opportunity to have an instant audience that’s very complimentary, very supportive. Thousands of people from all parts of the world walk down Kalakaua. She was discovered by a person from New Jersey who flew her to New York and Florida to record.”

Another offer from BMG Japan led to the release of Taimane’s disc, “Loco Princess,” last summer, and a supporting tour of Japan. A local disc of original material is in the works.

Stage fright was never an issue, Taimane said: “I always liked attention, so it was like a little game, getting people to stop and watch me.”

Gardner remembers that when she first started, she was prepared to perform in a first-grade program but forgot her uke at home. “I felt so bad for her, but she just went up and sang a song a cappella.”While many professional performers tend to stick to a rigid set list, six years of performing on the streets of Waikiki have taught the teenager how to read a crowd and gear her song choices accordingly.

“I make it up as I go along,” she said. “Most audiences are different. If they’re younger, I’ll play faster songs. The older people are more into slower songs and oldies.”

“Wipeout,” one of the first songs she learned, continues to be one of the most popular. “Everyone loves it, and they get into it because it’s so upbeat,” she said.

Carlos Santana’s “Europa” is another big draw, and after playing some songs for 10 years — a career for some — she experiments by embellishing and adding her own twists. She has written songs on the piano and transposed them to the uke since she was 8, when her first song was “I’m a Duckie, Duckie, Duckie.”

On the street, Taimane displays all the fierceness of a rock ‘n’ roller attacking her instrument, or the sweet optimism of a balladeer, whatever a song calls for. She credits Shimabukuro for opening her eyes to music as a performance art.

“I definitely learned showmanship from watching Jake in concert a lot,” Taimane said. “He’d jump around and get into it. That inspired me to get into my music more.

“Jake taught with a lot of energy and passion. He was always into his music. I thought that was funny,” she said. “His brother Bruce is more of a teacher. He was more disciplined and stayed on track more. He’s a great guy and just as good as his brother. He just doesn’t jump around.”

More recently, she has been enthralled by other “oldies” acts, including the Beatles and Led Zeppelin: “I’m really getting into Billy Idol, AC/DC and Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd has a lot of weird things in their music, and that’s what I like about them.”

Don Ho is another of her local heroes. He invited her to join his show, as well as perform during his appearances in Las Vegas, Palm Springs, New York and New Jersey.

“Don’s a great person and knows every aspect of entertaining,” Taimane said. “From him I learned to play with aloha. He told me never give up, keep going, and I would always have a home with him at the Don Ho show.”

She looks forward to joining him onstage again three times a week beginning Jan. 15, when he is expected to resume his schedule at the Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel after recuperating from heart treatment.

Taimane is a junior at Waldorf School, where, she says, “I do have some problems with time management for school, but I’ve been doing this for so long I can balance school and music. I’ve learned to treat both as equals.”

Her visits to Japan and the mainland have shown her a vast world to conquer. If all goes according to plan, she wants to tour the world after graduating in 2007 and before tackling college — a must to appease her educator dad.

“Next year, if my music rockets off, I’ll definitely travel the world,” Taimane said. “I’d love to share my music, and I’d like to get more people to look at the ukulele not just as an old, traditional instrument for Hawaiian music, but as a serious instrument for every kind of music.”

A plus for her parents is that Taimane’s focus on music leaves little time for dating, and when the subject comes up, she says, “I’m not even interested.”

ON THE STREET, Taimane looks like she is backed by family, and while she is sometimes joined by younger sister Teuila, the others represent her adopted musical family, three of whom she met while sharing the same street corner when she was 10.

Although the adult musicians befriended the cute little girl from the start, they quickly learned that she was a big attraction and that tips piled up whenever Taimane was playing. It is clear that she has since become the leader, calling the shots.

“To me, that’s as Hawaiian as you can get, seeing strangers come together to make music in the open air,” Gardner said. “I’d hate to see that sort of thing disappear. To me, it adds a whole dimension to Waikiki.”

Ashley Lilinoe


Musician Ashley Lilinoe shares her love through her music – a clear, soulful voice accompanied by acoustic guitar that stirs the heart. At 21 years old, this accomplished singer/ songwriter is now meeting a national audience as one of the contestants on American Idol (FOX).

“The producers found me online, because I post my music videos. They asked me to audition, but the first couple times I ignored their emails because a television competition just didn’t resonate with me. It’s not my calling,” she remembers. “The third time, the producer said, ‘I believe in you and want you to try out.’ I felt his heart and I decided to do it. What have I got to lose, right?”

She’s right; she has nothing to lose and everything to gain. When the show debuted in mid-January, her Facebook page went wild. “I got hundreds of notifications every five minutes. It was crazy,” she laughs. She’s definitely on a bigger stage now.

Lilinoe also learned about the business of show-biz. “Presence is important. I saw how I was portrayed through the process. I also realized being myself is exactly what I needed to do. I stuck to my true self.”

Who is the true Ashely Lilinoe? The born and bred Kaneohe girl is a stunning mixture of eleven ethnicities: Predominantly Filipino, but also Native Hawaiian, Native American, Swedish, and Chinese.

Ashley Lilinoe – An American Idol With Soul-Filling Music

Her last name is Swedish: it’s Soderberg, and Lilinoe is a stage name, derived from part of her incredibly long Hawaiian middle name. “It means ‘the misty lei that lays upon the flower of the heavens.’ Lilinoe is ‘fine mist,'” she enlightens.

“What I really am, though, is universal. I don’t connect with just one culture,” she clarifies.

Lilinoe grew up in a musical family in Kaneohe. “We live on a lane with lots of families, and when someone comes out to celebrate something, we’d all go out and play music. I’d be in the garage watching, and then I’d practice what I heard. My parents, my angels – they guided me to practice. My ear was my teacher,” she recalls.

She was about six when she first picked up an ukulele. At Castle High School, she started playing the guitar.

“I love how music makes me feel and how it can make others feel. Everything is a song: The ocean, the environment, the blue sky,” she breathes as she looks up at the clear lazuline sky of a Honolulu winter.

In fact, it’s the Earth that inspires her through its wordlessness. “I’m learning to unlearn traditional songwriting techniques. It doesn’t have to be ‘verse, chorus, bridge. It’s not necessary. My heart says to listen to the silence.”

She is lovely and thoughtful, gentle and poised. She seems unconcerned about fame and fortune, instead focused on a metaphysical goal of unconditional love for self and others, living in the moment, surrendering to life. She strikes me as wise beyond her years.

Lilinoe says she needs the silence more than ever in the overwhelming “aftermath” of American Idol. It was a high-intensity, non-stop experience. “I’m still observing with my heart. There are no words to describe it right now,” she decides.

“Yes, it opened doors for my career. More importantly, it opened doors to peoples’ hearts, to let them connect with me and see there’s another human being like me in this world,” she smiles.

Actually, she says she didn’t really know what her music sounded like until a year ago. She was too busy playing gigs to stop and listen to herself, and then it was a powerful moment for her. “What I have to share – my love – is so great. It’s a lot of power. I was afraid of it, and I’m still learning to gently introduce it to this world,” she announces.

This means she doesn’t have a regular gig. Not that she’s lacking for offers, but she’s spontaneous and has certain preferences. For instance, “I like playing where children are allowed. I like to entertain at places where everyone can be together,” she expands.

“I love children. I love how they inspire, stretch my imagination, and guide me to my heart,” she says. “I am a child. They remind me to love, to play.”

Play is how she answers the question, What do you do for a living? “I flow day to day. Music provides me the monetary exchange, but I surrender to life.”

As for the practical questions, she shrugs. “I’m know I’m taken care of greatly. I’ve given the amount I need, which is small. I’m a minimalist and an alchemist; I will recycle and upcycle things. My Earth Mother will take care of me, my friends support me. I’m always provided for.”

Lilinoe’s typical day is… atypical. The commonality is that it usually starts without a jarring alarm clock, and with the luxury of a slow rising from bed. “I greet myself, I greet the new day, and I welcome what comes.”

As you may be able to guess by now, Lilinoe eschews labeling her music with any one genre. For purposes of print, she acquiesces to give me some kind of description: neo-soul/blues/jazz/R&B/funk. However, she prefers to call it “soul-filling music.” If you hear her sing, you’ll understand.

Lilinoe has no plans set in stone for the future. When I ask where she sees herself in five years, she chuckles. “Five years? I don’t even know what tomorrow brings.”

She does, however, know this: “I honor myself deeply. I show up for life, and I navigate life through my heart. I live by feeling, and if it feels good, I do it.”

While her calling may be as a musician that sings emotion into people’s hearts, she says her soul-mission is “to return to self. To be into my heart so that I can truly hear the voices who call for help.”

Lilinoe leaves me with a parting thought for you all: “Wherever I am, everyone is my family.”

Johnny Helm


A few weeks ago we in TGIF did a spread on 23-year-old Maui native Anuhea, whose self-titled CD reached No. 7 on iTunes’ most-downloaded-albums list.

Here’s another one to watch: singer/guitarist Johnny Helm. We’re not saying the 36-year-old Connecticut transplant is about to go viral Anuhea-style, but we will tell you he is a hidden gem on the Waikiki circuit who may be on the verge of something big.

Helm recently recorded five demos at the Great Divide Recording Studios in Aspen, Colo., and at Nightbird Recording Studios in Los Angeles with Jed Leiber and drummer John Michel, who has played with, among others, Billy Joel and John Oates.

Johnny Helm – Hidden Gem Of The Waikiki Circuit

“The initial plan was to shop the demos to booking agents on the Mainland, but the response has been so good we’re heading back to the recording studio to cut five more songs and have an album ready to go, hopefully for this fall,” Helm said. “You could say we’re heavily invested in this project and it’s going to go ahead.”

It’s been a long time coming for Helm. He came to O’ahu in 1993 for college and has been a fixture on the music scene ever since. He’s also huge into surfing, and his first two CDs are definitely of the easy-listening variety. The simplicity of them was as much because of resources — or lack of — as it was because of his style.

“They were done with zero budget and from my bedroom,” Helm said, laughing. “You can still get them at Borders and after my shows, but with Jed and John on board, we bought some serious studio time. I’ve got more of a world sound. They’ve made the songs better. I think one track, ‘Charity,’ is going to hit home for Hawai’i.”

If all goes well, Helm’s story of catching a break will start with Michel contacting him after a performance at Tiki’s Grill & Bar, one of Helm’s regular Waikiki gigs. Michel was so impressed with Helm’s sound he introduced him to Leiber and the trio first recorded in L.A., then Aspen. The Leiber name carries a lot of weight in the music industry. Jed is the son of legendary songwriter Jerry Leiber, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for writing songs like “Hound Dog” and other Elvis Presley hits, as well as “Stand By Me” and dozens of other golden oldies.

While Helm’s future looks bright, you can still catch him at 9 p.m. Thursdays and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays at Tiki’s, 8 p.m. Mondays at Lulu’s Restaurant and Bar, and at The Cheesecake Factory on Fridays and Sundays at 8 p.m. He’ll do mostly covers while he plays in Waikiki, but if you ask him to play his originals, he’s more than happy to oblige.

You also can check him out on Facebook, under Johnny Helm.