Upa Upa Tahiti had the opportunity to interview Teiho Tetoofa, a complete Polynesian artist. Author, composer, singer and musician, meet this lover of Polynesian music and the ukulele!
Ia ora na Teiho! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
'Ia ora na! My name is Teiho Tetoofa, I am 24 years old and I am from the Tuamotu, precisely from Faaite Island. I have been a musician since the age of 7 and very curious because I have tested a bit of everything! I started by learning to play the ukulele, then the guitar and the drums. I also sing.
Where does your taste for music come from?
I think I received this gift from my paternal grandfather, who was a music teacher in the Protestant church in Bora Bora. In my family, I have brothers who play music but I am the only one who has always had as a goal to become a singer (and I am also the only one to have realized this dream). Music is part of my life projects: I have always wanted to become a great Polynesian singer! (laughs)
Through your texts, do you want to promote Polynesian culture?
Yes, I compose my music and I write my own songs, inspired by old texts that I read. For me, it's important to write in Paumotu (the language spoken in the Tuamotu archipelago) because it reflects my identity. I find it a very beautiful language and I try to promote it through my music.
Besides, I would like to send a little message: the more the years go by, the more young people forget their culture a little. Today, it is rare to hear young people who are able to formulate a correct sentence in Tahitian. It may not be their fault but through my music, I would like to show all these young people that it is important to keep our language. It is the identity of each of us.
You also have a group, Tuakana. How was it created?
With friends, we drew our motivation from already existing local groups. By dint of following these elders (like Maruao, Manavib's ...) and observing them on stage, it is a bit of them who formed us internally and allowed us to evolve in our work. And then one day, we decided to create our own band to be able to share this passion as much as possible. This is the story of our group! Today we are 4 musicians (whom I greet in passing!) And we are followed on the local scene.
What are your favorite songs to play?
We vary our repertoire a little depending on the audiences we have. But most of the time, we stick to local musical trends because we know that people really like such and such songs that made the buzz, so we take them back. Good atmosphere guaranteed during the evening!
Do you also compose?
It's something that we work on little by little. But for the moment, I've released songs in a personal way, outside of my band.
Besides, what is the story of your song "Marae Turaina"?
It is a legend of the Tuamotu, originally from Faaite, the island where I grew up and which I really appreciate. We do not know the author of this text. This writing comes from our ancestors: originally it was an 'orero that was transformed into a song.
It's about a bird that was raised by a king. At that time, the role of this bird was to fly over the route of the warriors in canoes: it was he who warned them of the approaching storm and even of the enemy. Over time, people started to appreciate this bird and that's how it became a fantastic story, told from generation to generation.
Do you prefer Tahitian ukulele or kamaka (the Hawaiian ukulele)?
I prefer kamakas! It is also an instrument that I would recommend to beginners because it is great for playing acoustic music. While the Tahitian ukulele is a beautiful instrument, it has a nice sound but it is more for the Polynesian binge.
Why did you choose to learn the ukulele as a child?
I think it was due to the fact that there are only 4 strings: it's easier to play. And for the little anecdote, when I was a child I remember that on my little island there were fashions: the marbles, the kite ... and one day it fell on the ukulele! Everyone got into it, the older ones taught the younger ones notes ... And that's how I started.
Mauruuru Teiho! Last question, do you think that you can easily play the ukulele without knowing music theory?
So compared to that, I think it depends on the will of each one. If you like to play the ukulele, you will definitely be able to improve. On the other hand, it will be something else if you don't like it ... Mauruuru to you!