Ia Ora Na Camellia! Can you please introduce yourself?
Ia ora na Upa Upa Tahiti, my name is U Mearii Camélia, I am a songwriter and performer and the winner of the 2019 Nescafé Star singing competition.
Have you always liked music?
Yes, I've been singing since I was little. I never took a course, I learned everything on my own. But I grew up in a family of musicians so I think that it helped me to have the ear, to understand why it is necessary to have breath to reach such note… I am the daughter of the Polynesian singer Charles U, then I 've followed his path a little. When I was a child, I often accompanied him when he did scenes and I always wanted to do the same, become a singer too!
However it was not easy at the beginning: for years, I had to face my own doubts but also to mockery and to the eyes of the others… Whether it is in college or on the networks, after my passages on Studio Live Station. When I was younger, I also did several competitions that I did not win (including Nescafé Star for the first time at the age of 16 where I was not selected from the first castings). Many times, I almost gave up on this dream of becoming a singer ... Because it takes willpower when you are alone to achieve your goal!
In 2019, you tried the Nescafé Star competition again. How did it go, what did this adventure bring you?
It wasn't easy at first either: I almost gave up because I didn't believe in myself. The competition was tough, the competitors were very talented and I sometimes wondered what I was doing there. But as the adventure progressed and with hard work, I regained my self-confidence and fought my limiting beliefs.
On the night of the final, I also had the chance to sing on To'ata and that scene was a dream for me. I used to go see my dad there and say to myself "someday, I'll be there". And I did it! Singing on the To'ata stage is something to experience, and it is so beautiful when your dream comes true! It was one of the best nights of my life, I am proud of this victory. By winning Nescafé Star, my doubts were lifted and I realized that I had my place in music, just like my dad. My victory was a bit of a revenge on life and it gave me the strength and even more motivation to really get into the song. My victory allowed me to gain notoriety, material, recording a song ... But the biggest reward was that it mostly changed the way I looked at myself. It gave me confidence and now I know what I'm worth. The criticisms no longer reach me!
Can you tell us about your song “Moemoea”, which you were able to record following your victory?
“Moemoea” means “dream” in Tahitian. It’s the story of a little girl who always wanted to sing but was laughed at by her friends. But despite everything, she will not give up: she will continue to work over and over again and in the end, she will realize her dream of being a singer. It actually tells my story. But this song also carries a message: I want to encourage all young people who have plans not to give up. Throughout my journey, I hope to be a motivation to all those who do not succeed the first time! Failures are sometimes beneficial because they allow us to understand that we need to work harder and be better prepared to be successful in what we do. And I'm happy because my song had the desired effect: when it came out, I received quite a few messages from people telling me that my song had helped them a lot and motivated them not to give up on their project!
Do you write and compose your own songs?
Yes, the song "Moemoea" is actually one of my compositions. It’s the only one that has come out in the open so far. I can easily compose in Tahitian. I always compose with my ukulele, by the sea. Being alone, hearing the sound of waves and birdsong, looking at the mountain… It inspires me! I always start by playing a few tunes, I record myself, I listen again then I write and I rectify this that… I am also inspired by the feeling that I have: for example if I am in love, I will write a song. love!
Is it important for you to sing and compose in Tahitian?
Yes, because not only does it come more easily to me than in French or English, but also because I want to perpetuate the language. I grew up in a family where the Tahitian language was important, I also went to Sunday school at the Protestant church where everything was in Tahitian and I also did a bachelor's degree in reo. I really have a passion for it: I love my language, I love hearing people speak Tahitian. It's a shame because we talk about it less and less, whether at home or with friends. So writing and singing in my language allows me to go back to basics because I don't have the chance to speak it on a daily basis, yet I would have liked!
How did you learn to play the ukulele?
I started when I was little, around 8-9 years old with my cousins! The one who knew how to play taught us. I quickly hooked up with this instrument, we were having fun! I grew up in a family where we used to party a lot before and I would often watch the grown-ups playing the ukulele, learning chords and hitting. I only know how to play in C but that's enough for me to compose my songs. But this year, my goal is to learn a little more to play the ukulele!
Do you have a preference for the ukulele over the guitar?
Yes, because it is an instrument that is easier to learn than the guitar, especially since it only has 4 wires. I have a preference for the ukulele because it's simple, small and light and you can take it anywhere. If I had to go around the world, I would leave with a ukulele! I also really like the sound of Hawaiian ukuleles because they are soft and relaxing.
What are your next projects?
Soon I will be part of the clip for the new Nescafé Star 2021 edition, alongside the candidates and other local singers. I will also speak at certain evenings, in order to motivate the candidates, send them good vibes and so that they can see what it feels like to be a winner: we are not forgotten. It will also be a way for me to come back on stage a bit because after my victory there was confinement ... I also wanted to be forgotten a bit because I was going through a somewhat complicated period personally. I chose a completely different career path because I opted for aesthetics so I spent more of my time on that than on music. So through these parties organized by Nescafé Star, I want to show that I am always present even if I cannot devote 100% of my time to song. I am aware that you have to have a profession on the side because it is complicated in Polynesia to live only from music. Here it is still small and unfortunately it does not win, it is very different from abroad.
This year I would like to come back little by little, especially during acoustic events. Otherwise I also have plans to release a new composition and its music video, on the theme of love.
Mauruuru roa for this moment U Mearii!
Thanks to you Upa Upa Tahiti for this moment of sharing!