Ia ora na Elvis! Can you introduce yourself please?
Ia ora na! My name is Elvis Tetiarahi, I am 34 years old and I work for myself in the tourism sector: I sell local products, in particular at the Papeete Market and on my website monoipolynesia.com.
What place does music have in your life?
It occupies an important place! As they say here, Polynesians (for the most part) have it in their blood. And this is my case. It's also a family story, because I have a family that really likes to hang out. With my father, we've been playing the ukulele together for years. Moreover in Polynesia, each family has its own way of "beating up": the styles of strikes are not the same. Some play in a modern way, others "in the cool", or even in the hula way, the Hawaiian style ... In my family, it is rather kaina and cool too! We don't play the ukulele like professionals, but Tahitian style. We play the notes simply, favoring the voice. It means that we don't fill our songs with the notes and the voice goes far: if you're there, she'll come and get you [laughs]! Moreover, often when we are invited to a party or a birthday party, we find ourselves doing the entertainment!
How did this love for the ukulele come about?
It was my father who gave me the desire to play this instrument. I grew up seeing him make music with his cousins. I remember that it always amazed me because it is so beautiful: the sounds of the ukuleles, the voices ... It is magnificent. Not to mention our nostalgic Polynesian songs, which bring a lot of emotions! The lyrics of local songs have many meanings: it can talk about nature, a woman, a child ... And if you understand the lyrics, it's really beautiful to hear because there are many messages who went through the songs.
How did you learn to play the ukulele?
I never took a course, I learned everything visually. It's a characteristic of our culture: we don't need to write because we learn by watching others do and then we do. Of course after there is a lot of practice behind, I've been playing for more than 10 years! I play with my family only and a lot with my father because it is the basis, and we have the same style. And when I find myself partying with other people whose typing styles are different, I will rather sing!
Do you have any inspirations, an artist that you particularly like?
My uncle, without hesitation! He is unprofessional but he sings from the heart. He sang in hotels for a very long time, doing musical entertainment. Today he no longer lives here but in New Caledonia. He was playing with his brother and I was inspired by their style. Kaina, truly authentic Polynesian music from the past. It's a rather fast way of playing the ukulele, with several different keystrokes. Because for us Polynesians, when there is musical entertainment, things have to move! People have to have fun, smile ... The basis of Polynesian music comes from there. Kaina music is also very much inspired by the paumotu strike (the style of the Tuamotu Islands). It's a style that comes from there, the word kaina is also a word paumotu.
Have you ever tried to compose songs?
Yes, I have already written texts in Tahitian. For me, writing songs in Tahitian is easy. What is much less is to compose a melody afterwards! You have to know how to give it the mark. For the moment it is not in my projects, it must be said that I am so taken too ... For me, music is like a hobby. I play for fun, at home ... and for occasions. And it is very well like that.
Thanks for this exchange Elvis! A last message to pass?
Yes, I would especially like to send a message to the Polynesian youth: do not lose your culture. For me, local music is part of my identity, it allows Polynesians to identify with all these styles that differ around the world. And what is sad is that more and more, on a global scale, the differences are being lost because everyone is doing the same thing (this is the case in Europe for example). In Polynesia, especially in terms of music, we have a fairly rich identity. So we must keep it, do not forget where we come from.
I find it unfortunate that some young people turn to crazy music, with insulting words ... It's not beautiful. Come back to culture because it is a real wealth. Learn to play the ukulele, to party, sing our songs ... so thanks to you the Polynesian culture will be able to last. Stay Polynesian, be proud of who you are. Like me, I'm proud to be Polynesian, it's all about happiness. Mauruuru!