Ia ora na! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your musical journey?
Ia ora na! My name is Moana and I am half Polynesian, originally from the island of Bora Bora on the maternal side. I spent a few years in France (hence my accent [laughs]) and in 2010 I chose to return to Polynesia to find my roots.
As for my musical background, I come from hip-hop culture: I released a first album in France which was 100% rap and hip-hop. But when I came back to Tahiti, I realized that people did not listen to this style of music at all: here reggae is much more appreciated. So I made mixed music: rap parties on reggae music, a rather original concept!
Since then, I released a few singles: among others, Loin from here (which is really reggae) and Iaorana featuring Jmi Sissoko, a French artist, against a background of ukulele from elsewhere!
What is the story of this song, Iaorana?
It's a song that talks about the Polynesian postcard. For the little anecdote, Jmi Sissoko arrived from France, with a Parisian state of mind: it was the discovery of the place for him. We finally made a song of it: the title describes the peculiarities of Tahiti to someone who has never seen the place. It talks about the population, the smiles, the looks, the fact that we are on familiar terms, the settings that are around us (the paradisiacal lagoon, the mountain ...).
It's a title that I will qualify as world music, because it is very mixed: the bit is a bit reggaeton, we find this ukulele strike which is typically Polynesian and we have these parts rapped and sung. The success he had here was a bit unexpected: the locals really appreciated it!
What kind of musician are you?
I was born in the computer age: I would describe myself as a computer musician, who plays the mouse [laughs]! In the culture of hip-hop there is what is called the sample: it is the fact of taking certain parts of a song, of adapting the tempo or the key to replace them and transform them. This is what I do, working by ear because I don't read music theory.
How do you see the influences of local music?
Concretely, I think that Polynesian musical culture has different facets. The first that everyone thinks of course is this festive and very appreciable aspect, which we find in the binges. Then, although I am not a very religious person, the hold of religion here in Polynesia still has a rather positive consequence: most people can sing and that's very cool!
On the other hand, there is also something quite deplorable about fenua: for years, a company by the name of Sacem has regulated copyright issues. The artists did not receive their rights at all and because of that, we missed a whole decade of composers. People stopped composing, the recording studios were too expensive ... So today, we have a lot of people who sing very well but do covers. And that's a real shame because the culture of a country goes through a lot of things, but also and above all through music. In my opinion, we really missed something historic, precisely because of this problem: from that period, there really are very few composers left. Today, there is another wave of talented artists: young people are getting started and it's beautiful to see! I hope that it will continue to develop because we realized that with the rise of Ori Tahiti in the world, people are asking for new songs!
Are there any Polynesian artists that you particularly appreciate?
I really like Sabrina Laughlin. I really like her voice, she has a really special tone. In addition, she is an adorable person, of great sensitivity.
More recently, we started working with Reva Juventin, a rough diamond with a very special voice too! She has been practicing for years, scouring the stages of the island and we are happy to work with her.
Obviously then there are the classics: the songs of Angelo and Bobby that everyone knows and which are really incredible, very well produced and performed.
And then we also have very good musicians here: I am thinking in particular of my friend Vatea Le Gayic, who is an exceptional bass player. He really has a lot of talent, maybe even too much for such a small place!
Mauruuru Moana! And finally, what are your plans for the future !
Since the release of my second album in 2014, I've put music aside a bit: at the moment I'm much more focused on photography. I think I will come back to this later. You should not force it, the main thing is to let yourself be guided by desire and instinct. I am more in a personal approach than a commercial one, I do not make music for a living, but for passion and to please myself.
I still have a duet with my friend and associate Charlie (aka "Didjelirium"): it's called AraMata and it's based on hip-hop music.
On the solo level, I also work with composers from metropolitan France who have done very beautiful things. These titles will certainly come out over time, when I will have crossed my forties and I have new things to say ... With a little pressure anyway because the success that Iaorana had obscures everything: since this title , I released about ten other songs but nobody knows them! [laughs]
Thanks to you Upa Upa Tahiti!