Taimane Gardner Band (USA)

With great excitement the Cairns Ukulele Festival announces its first headliner of the 2016 Cairns Ukulele Festival: Taimane Gardner and band.

“Hawaiian ukulele star Taimane is one of the most exciting ukulele performers today”, festival director Gaby Thomasz said. “I have been following Taimane online for years, but last year I finally had the opportunity to see her live in Hawaii. While her YouTube videos are great, seeing her perform live with her band is something else!”.

TaimaneBlending musical styles, theatre and dance seamlessly into a breathtaking performance, “[audiences] can expect to get their socks blown off by either talent or volume, or both!” Taimane said jokingly. “Kidding aside, they’ll see the ukulele played unconventionally and as a serious instrument. I like to call it visual music. I like to dance when I play and my original music is written to stories and images in my head”, she said.

Taimane is looking forward to her first ever performance in Australia with her band members Jasmine (guitar) and Jonathan (cajon).

Jonathan is born in New York but has traveled and lived in many countries including Panama, Haiti and Germany during his childhood as well as during his time serving in the US Army. Influenced heavily by Buddy Rich and Gene Kruppa, he has a strong Jazz and Latin background.

Jasmine Skurtu began singing before she could say sentences, and started winning music awards in Middle School. She began studying guitar at Kapiolani Community College, and earned a Bachelor of Music Degree in Guitar Performance from University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2008. She also is an accomplished vocalist, having been a part of the top choirs at UH.

Taimane said she can’t wait to do some sightseeing in and around Cairns. “I’ve heard its one of the biggest ukulele festivals in Australia and it’s a whole lotta fun!”

To read more about Taimane, head over to our friends at Ukulele Magazine for a great article. At the bottom of this blog post there’s one of Taimane’s wonderful videos, enjoy!

Candra Kirana (Indonesia)

4Candra Kirana is one of Indonesia’s premier string ensembles, coming to Cairns to bring their traditional acoustic keroncong (ukulele) outside of their homeland for the very first time. Ibu Lina is the lead singer and band leader of Candra Kirana, keeping the orchestra together for over 30 years with band members hailing from various Indonesian islands. The orchestra consists of six band members, with each band member coming from a family of musicians and has practiced the art of Keroncong folk music since childhood. The orchestra features vocals, cak tenor ukulele, ukulele, violin, cello and double bass. Keroncong music dates back to the Portuguese sailors following the spice trade in the early 1600s. They brought their stringed instruments with them during their travels. Keroncong music tells the tales of love, yearning, beauty and melancholy as well as an appreciation of the natural environment and countryside. Festival organiser Gaby Thomasz describes the music and the orchestra as “Indonesia’s answer to Cesaria Evora and the Buena Vista Social Club”, referring to the charismatic band leader with powerful operette like vocals and melodies and rhythms reminiscent of South American music, but with a distinctly Indonesian flavour.

Craig Chee (USA)

Craig CheeCraig Chee, originally from Hawaii, but now hailing from California, Craig is known for his boisterous laugh, party attitude, and of course his fantastic musicianship! Craig has become one of mainstays of the festival line-up. His energetic performances and educational workshops are always very popular and it is therefore no surprise that Craig is one of the most in-demand ukulele artists in the world, clocking up an enormous amount of miles travelling ukulele festivals, and teaching ukulele online to students everywhere.

Craig shall be performing as a lead artist as well as a duo with Sarah Maisel.

Sarah Maisel (USA)

Sarah MaiselClassically trained on the violin and piano, Sarah took a break from music in college, following her other passion, theatre. She studied at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where she received her BFA in Costume Technology. After graduating in 2004, she moved out to San Diego, California to work for the La Jolla Playhouse and the University of California San Diego Theatre Department.

In September 2006, Sarah and a friend went to check out a Ukulele group at a pizza parlour in Encinitas, CA. Little did she realize that it was going to be such a life changing event. As Sarah put it “It was so amazing to go to this place where there were at least 40 Ukuleles, everyone was so happy, the room was filled with such joy. I just had to be a part of it.”

Sarah performed at our festival in 2013 and was an instant favourite with the crowd. She didn’t mind spending some extra time with Craig Chee either, as the two had met not long before the Cairns festival and there was a definite chemistry in the air! Craig and Sarah married last year and have been taking the ukulele world together by storm! Sarah will be performing her jazz music as well as the repertoire she has been working on with Craig Chee.

Kainoa Kamaka (USA)

13076649_10153647162167339_7243147326587064226_nKainoa Kamaka was born and raised in Hilo, Hawai’i.  He has been an entertainer for over 20 years and credits his success to his parents. His mother is a talented hula dancer and father a gifted musician, a relationship that resulted in Kainoa’s entertainer instincts and on-stage charisma.  In 1993, Kainoa moved to the island of Kaua’i and started ‘Kainoa Ohana’, singing and playing the ‘ukulele with an amazing group of guys!  Kainoa Ohana soon became Kaua’i’s most popular band and had a cameo appearance in the 1998 Harrison Ford movie “Six Days, Seven Nights.” During a recent visit to Hawaii, Kainoa reconnected with his friend Greg Gabaylo who invited him to judge Johnny Kai’s “Brown Bags to Stardom” talent show contest along with other Hawai’i entertainers: Living Legend, Kimo Kahoano and Hawaiian Vocalist Kekoa Kane.  Each judge was asked to do one act and Kainoa performed his ‘Johnny B. Goode’ routine.  The performance was video recorded and shared on social media.  The video went viral and was shared on Stephanie Lum’s, Hawaii News Now anchor, social media page and on Hawaii local news.  This performance has led to a new relationship between Kainoa and the KoAloha ‘Ukulele family, an opportunity of which he is both excited and honoured to be a part of!

Nicky Bomba

Nicky BombaFestival favourite Nicky Bomba returns to the Cairns Ukulele Festival to join us on the Mystery Tour.

Nicky has built a solid reputation in the music industry via many projects including conducting the 30pce Melbourne Ska Orchestra to playing drums on John Butler’s award-winning ‘Sunrise over Sea’ to being the Artistic Producer for the Multicultural Arts Victoria “Visible” project. Over the years he has formed and played with bands purely for the love of the music and the adventures they create.

“I’m always aware of the active energy of a crowd. Believing in the moment and kind of steering that spontaneous beast can result in something really special. Absolute positive vibrations.”

Anyone that has seen Nicky in action knows that every performance is a party! From the early days with his band Bomba at Johno’s Blues Bar to recent performances at Reggaetown World Music Festival with the Nicky Bomba All Stars, and with John Butler at the Kuranda Amphitheatre, every time Nicky comes to town, Cairns smiles!

The Montgomery Brothers feat. Tiffany Ann Smith

IMG_9428-3.jpgRyo Montgomery, considered Australia’s leading ukulele player, fronts this exciting energetic young band with Maru on percussion (as well as uke and bass), and Warrigo on bass (as well as some percussion). The Montgomery Brothers know how to captivate an audience! Without fail, you’ll be left with a bad case of jaw drop after experiencing their performances. The Montgomery Brothers play in the style of Tommy & Phil Emmanuel, Chet Atkins, Django Reinhardt, George Benson, Brad Paisley, Joe Robinson, Ric Montgomery, and many other Jazz/Blues/Country greats. Singer Tiffany Ann Smith will be joining them on various occasions during the festival. Ryo regularly tours the world playing ukulele festivals all over Asia, Hawaii and plays all over Australia with his band. We’re lucky this band still calls Cairns their home!

Maton Songwriters on the Waterfront performers:

Dragon Uke

The Dragonuke Duo play original and contemporary uke greats ranging from folk-pop to jazz. Playing their new album on Tenor and Bass ukes, Dragonuke Duo are seasoned performers suitable in this lineup for more relaxed intimate settings. Performers are Anu Grace and Laurie Bycroft

Georgie Taylor

Georgie Taylor is a 14 year old emerging artist from Redland City who has a passion for songwriting, performing arts, playing guitar and strumming her beloved ukulele.  She likes to play contemporary music, putting a modern twist on ukulele performance. Her original songs are from the heart and she develops beautifully crafted songs, looking at the world as she sees it through a young person’s eyes.  She is a committed artist and has a rare ability to take her listeners on a journey with her captivating pure voice accompanied by the instrument of her choice. She fell in love with creating original music when she attended the Fretfest recording workshop and wrote her first original song ‘Seasons of Change’ which was a runner up in the 2015 Fretfest National Songwriting competition.

Cameron Murray

The publisher and editor of “KAMUKE” Ukulele Magazine, Cameron Murray has been playing ukulele and uke-banjo for more than half his life. A keen collector of vintage instruments and a proponent of the George Formby strumming style, he also enjoys performing classic tunes from the 1920s, Hawaiian hapa-haole hits and old-time country songs, but during the Maton Ukulele Songwriters on the Waterfront session Cameron will be performing his own material. Anyone who attended last year’s Australian Ukulele Showcase Dinner, will tell you what a skilful and engaging performer he is and we look forward to having him back this year!

 Megan Grant

Armed with a tiny guitar, a harmonica and a stomp box, Megan Grant brings to the stage her simple folk songs about things we can all relate to. Breaking up, cleaning, taking naps and bears. Having made the transition from music to stand-up comedy and back again, Megan has finally found a way to blend it all together into an act that will leave you feeling both tickled and a little touched.

Kalulu Uke Group Victoria

From Open Mic to the Big Stage they are regulars at the ukulele gigs held in Melbourne, particularly in the Dandenong Ranges were they all come from.

Community Concert Day performers:

Aunty Cessa’s Ukulele Gamas

Aunty Cessa Mills is the last surving Mills sister , a living legend from Coconut and Thursday Island , Torres Strait. This year, Aunty Cessa wants to bring a multicultural group of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Women (Gama’s) to the Cairns Ukulele Festival to celebrate cultural diversity and the performing art of Ukulele as a medium to share language, heritage and experience through storytelling and song. Their songs will be in language and feature original songs written by Aunty as well as other TI songs.

Bad Boys of Uke

Cairns’ illustrious ukulele trio the Bad Boys of Uke (ukulele, cajon, ukulele bass and vocals), will be hosting some rollicking jams in their favourite watering holes.

FN Ukes

A local group of bright older folk who have been playing together for 2 years based on the northern beaches of Cairns. They practice weekly at either Trinity Park Neighbourhood Centre or Centrals AFL Club and perform at a different Aged Care Homes every Friday.

Hardey McMurrick

Using loop pedal, beat boxing and an eclectic  collection small instruments including Ukulele, Harmonica, Jaw Harp and Kalimba, Hardey plays a collection of originals and covers inspired by vintage old time music, blues, hip hop and who knows what; quirky, raw and unexpected! Hardey also is a seasoned children’s performer, clown and busker. You’ll see him in various incarnations throughout the festival. 


Harvey Bay Ukulele Music Pickers and Strummers are a ukulele club that get together weekly for a strum and sing a long. They have been going for about 3 years and we have about 140 members. They love to play old time songs and encourage audience participation.

Kalulu Uke Group Victoria

From Open Mic to the Big Stage they are regulars at the ukulele gigs held in Melbourne, particularly in the Dandenong Ranges were they all come from.

Maleny Ukulele

Led by Tom Richter, a professional music teacher and performer, we are a ukulele collective from the beautiful Sunshine Coast Hinterland, which performs at festivals, clubs, cafes and other venues.

Mayfield Uke Group

Under guidance from Joan Robertson, this NSW ukulele ensemble meets weekly at Mayfield Bowling Club.

St Andrews Ukulele Angels

Local high school 5-piece ukulele group, who will be touring Japan and Hawaii after the festival.

Tablelands Ukulele Group

Community ukulele group on Atherton Tablelands, we meet up twice a month on the 1st and 3rd Saturday afternoons at the Uniting Church Hall and welcome all players from beginners to Advanced.

The Wild Women of Armidale

Cathy (Fast Fingers) Welsford and Angie (Random Chords) Smith are the riotous, radical, revolutionary, older Wild Women from the lunatic fringe. Joined by Ubass woman, Chris Dennis, and percussionist and gubal player, Jess Stocker, the intrepid quartet sally forth into the world of ukulele writing their own songs or fearlessly adapting others to their own style. Fast Fingers plays a range of instruments, while Random Chords firmly believes black dots on paper are probably stuck dead flies that can be picked ’n strummed to create totally hedonistic music. Their developing dementia adds a sense of the unexpected. Although there is never a guarantee of what will happen when they sashay on stage, audiences are guaranteed a good time!

Townsville Ukulele Club

The Townsville Ukulele Club has played at every single Cairns Ukulele Festival; thank you to our southern neighbours for making the trek up north each year!

Ukes on a Mission

A 6 piece Ukulele/Vocal group from Mission Beach/Tully/Innisfail area who for the past 2 – 3 years we have been playing each Friday evening at a Bistro/Bar in Mission Beach. The group also performs reguarly at cultural & community events.


A local Japanese ukulele group that meets weekly to play Japanese traditional and pop music. Anyone that has seen them perform in the past knows that their performances are colourful, mixing modern with traditional Japanese culture, dress and dance, all with Japanese precision!

Luna Australian Ukulele Showcase performers: 

Accidental Luddites

Accidental Luddites is a duo which plays covers of mostly rock and pop songs from the 60s to today. They tackle everything from The Eagles to Cold Chisel to Screaming Jets – with a side of Bowie on occasion. The Luddites think nothing sounds better than a uke version of Prisoner of Society or Pleasure and Pain.

Awomadah Fig

Awomadah fig is a whistler, singer songwriter, story teller, combining ukulele, distortion and wah wah pedal with a voice that lilts, growls, belts and soars. She plays gypsy jazz influenced,soul,folk original songs. She’s been performing as a soloist on guitar for nigh on 20 years. For the past 4 yrs she’s been performing with Melbourne 5 piece The Monday Project and engrossed in ukuleles. Writing new tunes, transcribing old tunes and transforming covers on her favourite tenor ukulele. Her voice has been described as playfully articulate in a non conventional way… timeless…hypnotic.
When given the time Awomadah likes to have the audience help build her set by means of paper aeroplanes. Song titles are written on the paper aeroplanes that Awomadah randomly selects (from her hat or uke case) and flies them out to the audience. The audience member calls out the song and the set is built. There may also be a ‘chatterbox’ or as she likes to call them, an ‘AwoomaGami’ to assist,with audience participation, in selecting a choice cover song or two to perform.

Girt by C

GIRT BY C is Peter Ransom’s take on our musical past via the ukulele. He began performing in Melbourne in the ‘60s, singing and playing guitar and banjo, graduating through folk music and jug bands to the world of traditional jazz. For many years he led his own jazz bands and played in others, with gigs all over Australia. Nowadays the ukulele, banjo and their evil offspring, the banjo uke, occupy much of his time and he’s developed a diverse and quirky repertoire. There’s early pop, rock, jazz, latin, blues and country plus classics from stage shows and movies of yesteryear. Beneath it all lurks an undercurrent of fun. So this is GIRT BY C: no original tunes and none of your Tipperary/Old Kit Bag/Vera Lynn/George Formby or Tiny Tim. Just seriously good songs from the past. If you’ve got a few miles on the clock you’ll enjoy a raft of songs that’ll have you remembering, smiling, singing and playing along – perhaps on stage! Come prepared!

Hannah Walker

Hannah first burst onto the ukulele scene in Cairns as a brave young girl with red uke busking at Rusty’s markets in 2010. She is now all grown up and still performs and writes her own music.

Nick Bennett

Nick Bennett is a Sydney ukulele player specialising in Kentucky Thumbstyle picking as played by the guitar greats Chet Atkins and Merle Travis.Then met Col Joye at a party about 15 years ago and Col mesmerised the crowd on ukulele. Nick’s transition to the dark side began that night with Col strumming a beautiful koa Kumale. Nick busks most sunny days at Circular Quay, enjoying the busking culture and camaraderie of the Quay buskers. He plays gigs on Sydney’s harbour and river cruises. He also teaches ukulele and plays plug in rhythm for the fabulous UkeEast Big Band. Nick has been busy in the studio too, and with a solo album ready for Cairns , is toey and ready to fire up his uke again in FNQ.

Robyn Locke

Robyn Locke loves bringing her music to others and looks forward to sharing music with all.  A great love of Australian modern music and music that works well on uke, let Robyn Locke take you on a mythical journey of life, love and adult whimsy.

Savoir Plunk

A 5 Piece band (2 girls, 3 guys), featuring ukuleles of various sizes, (including bass, banjouke, resonator, cajon, and a diverse range of percussion instruments (melodica, xylophone, shakers, vibraslap, tambourine, maracas, etc) with vocal harmonies. They play covers of many genres from the 60s and beyond, with the intention to entertain! “All killer, no filler!”

Sidney and Christian Ravoi

Sidney (8) and Christian (12) are our youngest showcase performers of this festival and we look forward to hearing them strut their stuff!

Terry Sasaki

Terry plays romantic instrumental music on a 5-string ukulele in Ohta-san style.He first performed in public at the Cairns Ukulele Festival in 2011, and since then has been well received at various festivals around the country. We look forward to welcoming him back on stage this year!