CARLSBAD — At 15, Hawaiian Brittni Paiva secured her place on the leading edge of a global groundswell in renewed popularity for the ukulele by adapting it from Island music to classical, jazz, world beat, pop, Flamenco and Latin.
Six weeks ago she was invited by Carlos Santana to play his iconic “Samba Pa Ti” at a sold-out concert in Oahu. As concert footage on YouTube demonstrates, the crowd went wild.At 2 p.m. April 13 Paiva will perform at the “Sincerely, Ukulele” show at the Museum of Making Music. The program will kick off with a brief talk and book singing by Jim Tranquada about his new release, “The Ukulele: A History,” written in collaboration with John King. Tranquada will discuss how an obscure small, four-string, folk guitar from Portugal became the national instrument of Hawaii and went on to experience the global resurgence.Paiva will follow up with a concert that will include original songs from her award-winning CDs as well as covers from Katy Perry, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Santana and “other surprises” she says.
Raised in Hilo, Paiva began learning the piano at age 4. At 11, her grandfather gave her a ukulele.
“From the first moment I played it I knew I would like it,” she remembered. After two years of lessons, she decided to quit and teach herself.
“I wanted to learn modern stuff, solo-intensive types of music,” she recalled. “That’s when I decided to branch out on my own. I had a dream to do a CD and after a couple of years I had an opportunity to record a demo for contacts in the Hawaiian music industry. Someone at the studio said, ‘While you are here you might as well do a full CD.’”
Only 15, her 14-track CD titled “Brittni x 3” won the prestigious Na Hoku Hanohano Award from the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts for Most Promising Artist of the Year in 2005.
Within the year she produced and released a 12-track recording titled “Hear,” which won Ukulele Album of the Year at the Hawaii Music Awards, otherwise known as Hawaii’s People’s Choice Awards, the Na Hoku Hanohano Award for Best Instrumental Album of the Year and Favorite Entertainer of the Year.
Simply titled “Brittni,” her third self-produced album won Ukulele Album of the Year in the Hawaii Music Awards in 2007 and was nominated for two Na Hoku Hanohano Awards.
Paiva’s success continued with a fourth CD titled, “Four Strings: The Fire Within,” which included “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” made popular again by the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. It won nominations for Best Instrumental Album of the Year 2010, Na Hoku Hanohano Awards and Ukulele Album of the year 2010, Hawaii Music Awards.
Grammy-award winner Tom Scott produced “Tell U What” last July, which gives insight into Pavai’s affection for jazz, R&B, pop, funk reggae and classical. “With the release of this CD, Brittni will have earned a place among the finest instrumental soloists of today,” he said.
Also last year, Paiva’s “Living Ukulele” DVD, which features footage of performances, interviews, lessons and music videos filmed on location in Hawaii and Australia earned her the award of 2011 Entertainer of the Year at MauiFest Hawaii.
Paiva attributes her musical influences to guitarist Orianthi, who played on Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” tour before he passed away, Santana and bass player Tal Wilkenfeld.
When she’s not on concert tours, she’s teaching ukulele at home in Hilo or jamming with friends.
“Our goals are the same and we have different styles in approaching the instrument,” she said. “The way I approach the ukulele is completely different than the way a friend will play. It’s like ‘iron sharpening iron’ — we all learn from each other.
“A lot of ukulele players here in Hawaii take the ukulele to the next level and put it in same class as guitar or another high-class solo instrument. It has fewer strings and fewer octaves, but it can do anything a guitar can do. It’s just a matter of how you are going to pull it off. I have a lot of fun taking it to the next level and enjoy the surprise people have.”
Paiva, who will turn 25 this year, continues to march to the beat of her own drum, in and out of the recording studio.
“I love working on my car and drag racing in my spare time,” she said. “I enjoy modifying my car to make it go faster and faster! Once you’re bitten by the turbo bug, you’ll most likely never be cured!”
Ticket prices are $15 for museum members and $20 for non-members and can be purchased online at museumofmakingmusic.org or by calling (760) 438-5996. For more information, visit brittnipaiva.com.