Playing (and painting) the ukelele: Tamanna Kaul

Melbourne girl jazzes up musical instruments by painting mandalas and galaxies on them

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Melbourne-based Tamanna Kaul loves to create art and make music.

Merging the two worlds together, she’s found her very own superpower. She can jazz up your ukuleles and kalimbas to make them look craftier and more beautiful!

You’d be surprised to know that this niche hobby has quite a few takers. She is also not the only one doing it. Take for instance, Canadian artist Ilana Tavshunsky who paints famous works of renowned surrealist Salvador Dali and other great artists on musical instruments. There is also London-based Leonardo Frigo, who illustrates biographies and stories on violins and cellos. British vocalist Annie Haslam not only paints canvasses but also guitars.

And then there is Kaul, who is slowly entering this scene and is channelling her muse in a variety of ways.

“I love mandalas, flowers and glitter – all of which reflects in my works,” says Kaul, a singer, actor, dancer and an artist.

a ukelele painted with mandalas
Tamanna’s ‘mandalele ‘ – a ukelele painted with a mandala pattern (Source: Supplied)

The repeating patterns of mandalas, with symmetrical designs radiate out from a central point, have gained popularity across the world in the recent years. Their intricate and detailed decorations transfer beautifully on to Kaul’s musical instruments – such as in a  ‘mandalele’, to use a term coined by her!

“I’ve made 450 orders to date,” she smiles. “And it still feels like I’ve only just begun!”

A creative genius

Kaul moved to Australia in 2008 with her Kashmiri father and Kannadiga mother. While she is born in Bidar in Karnataka, she grew up in Pune.

A blend of various influences, this Indian-Australian’s flair for mixing genres is not surprising at all.

She realised she had artistic talent at a very young age.

“At school one day, my teacher asked the class to draw a camel from one of our textbooks. Mine turned out to be the best, and he showed it to my peers. In that moment, I got a validation and realised that I am pretty good at art,” she recalls.

But that wasn’t the only talent she possessed. She also grew up learning to sing and dance, performing in cultural functions and at school, always winning praise. “It was never about bagging a prize; I just loved to sing and dance.”

Picking theatre as a Year 12 subject was a no-brainer.

Today, she’s successfully doing both art and theatre.

“I continue to pursue my passion for art through my business Coral Flamingo, which I started in 2015 just after my VCE, and I’m also training in theatre professionally, currently in the second-year programme in music theatre,” says Kaul.

a painted kalimba
Bringing a kalimba to life with colour (Source: Supplied)

Art attack

The idea to handpaint musical instruments came to her when she watched another artist dabbling with this hobby online. By then, Tamanna Kaul had begun playing the ukulele and decided to give it a personalised touch. Her artistic style inspired her to do more, this time for others.

Today, Kaul says her work brings these musical instruments back to life, and they call out,  ‘come play with me’.

“In custom orders, I first design on my iPad, with the ideas explained by the client. Once approved, I begin the job of painting the instruments.”

A ukelele painted by Tamanna Kaul
Beach theme (Source: Supplied)

Some of her most favourite works are from the Disney movie Moana in which she illustrated the ocean and the heart necklace on a uke. Another design is from the movie Interstellar, in which she used spray and glitter to paint the galaxy.

“I use brushes, acrylic paint and posca markers. At the end, I spray it all with semi-gloss cement. Once I also painted the BTS band members, the result was amazing,” she smiles.

Painted musical instruments
Ocean theme from Moanna (Source: Supplied)

Sometimes customers post her their musical instruments for her to paint; other clients ask her to source one. “The instruments cost between $30 and $200. Shipping cost comes to $60-$80. Additionally, I charge $45 per hour to paint.”

There are many customers who simply order from her to use the musical instruments as décor items in their homes. Ask her where she wants to take her business next to, Tamanna Kaul simply says: “I would love to do workshops and teach people this art. But that’s for later, for now, I thoroughly enjoy splitting time between art and theatre.”

READ ALSO: Sam Evans: Australia’s first PhD in tabla


Prutha Chakraborty
Prutha Chakraborty
Prutha Bhosle Chakraborty is a freelance journalist. With over nine years of experience in different Indian newsrooms, she has worked both as a reporter and a copy editor. She writes on community, health, food and culture. She has widely covered the Indian diaspora, the expat community, embassies and consulates. Prutha is an alumna of the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bengaluru.

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