Ia ora na, can you start by introducing yourself?
Ia ora na, my name is Tumahai Roo, I am 23 years old and I left university to help my father in his music school so I got a taste for it. Since I was very young I already liked music, we slept between two loudspeakers in the raves! At the beginning I gave the beginners lessons and my father took care of the intermediate and advanced levels. Many complimented me by telling me that I was a good teacher so it gave me confidence to continue. That's how I started giving lessons for a year at Tahiti International School for children. There also my work liked, the children liked my pedagogy. Following that I wanted to open my own school, which I did with the help of my darling. We had the idea to name it "Arearea Ukulele School" ("Arearea" which means binge, have fun, laugh). We opened in June 2019 and we welcome all audiences from 7 years old. Just call when you feel like it and I'm there! On the other hand, before 7 years old, children's fingers are quite fragile and therefore I advise against it because it will be complicated to teach them to play.
How do you teach?
I give private lessons as well as group lessons. I started private lessons in early 2020 for people who want to advance a little faster or who have never played before and who lack self-confidence. In these cases, I favor the choices of the student, that is to say the songs and musical genres he prefers. In group lessons, I also take the time to suggest that the students choose the songs they want. It's something I really appreciate because we always do it for fun, we laugh and we are not there to put pressure on ourselves at all. It really is a sharing. Otherwise, I have a repertoire that brings together famous songs, whether English, Tahitian, French or Hawaiian, with simple notes for beginners, then lesser-known songs with more complex notes. It allows you to discover the diversity of music and everything you can do with the ukulele. The ukulele allows you to play traditional songs but not only! It is an instrument that really invites you to travel, to escape.
How did you learn to play the ukulele?
I learned when I was 8 years old, I was offered a ukulele that I still have! I remember that before I didn't play a lot but over time I felt more and more inclined to participate in the binge and I really started playing when I was 17 years old. As soon as I started I did some research and my dad trained me. Now I'm really happy with what I'm doing, a lot of people tell me it looks like I was made for it and it's true that I really like it.
Can we say that you have the music in your skin then?
Effectively ! My dad is a musician and all his brothers know how to play an instrument well, and I grew up with these musical examples. And now with my cousins we all play our turn, whether it is the ukulele, the guitar or even the tom-tom!
What is your preference among the instruments you play?
In addition to the ukulele and the kamaka, I play the guitar. I choose the instrument according to the songs I play. I want to send a message so the way of playing and the chosen instrument will have a major role. So sometimes it's the guitar, and for other songs I prefer the ukulele! The kamaka I use it especially when you are in a small group because with its soft notes you can hear the song well, unlike the Polynesian ukulele which is more aggressive. Afterwards, when we have binges I prefer the ukulele or the guitar. The choice of preference is difficult!
When you teach, are there any basic steps you can take?
Yes, I learn to tune the ukulele first, then base notes and universal notes, etc. We try to really do it little by little, and over time we arrive at more complicated registers where a lot of notes follow one another, especially in Tahitian songs where sometimes on a word you can have three notes! We also come back to songs that we have already seen in a simplified way, but we add more notes or parts.
Can you learn hand dexterity?
It's mostly training. At first I personally had a hard time, so my dad gave me exercises to help me work on the flexibility of my fingers. He made me work on this for almost a year, I who wanted to learn several pieces, I had to be patient! This is precisely what made me quit at that age, then I took up the guitar at the end of high school, and after the ukulele.
Do you need to have some notions of music theory?
Not necessarily, you just have to train a little each day. What I advise my students is to practice when they have time. As soon as they come home from work or school for example, take 5 minutes to train. Many people tell me that playing a little after work helps them feel more peaceful.
At the end of the year do you organize a show?
We had planned to do it last year but with the health crisis everything has been turned upside down ... For the moment we do not really know how it will turn out. However, there are plans to do something for the holiday season like a Christmas snack.
Are you also part of a music group?
Not at all. Before I had no confidence in myself and it was only 2 years ago that while singing on the ukulele my older sister heard me for the first time, complimenting me. As well as all my family and my darling who are always present to support me and encourage me which helps me a lot. Once, I played at the Petit Théâtre of the Maison de la Culture de Tahiti during a show and it's impressive, but it's also these experiences that give you confidence.
What can we wish you then for the future, your future projects?
My biggest wish would be to expand my room, my school and be able to give lessons to more people. I would also like to rent another place where we can be more numerous. Currently we are quite restricted with health barriers so we are maximum 5 students.
Well we wish you all this! Thanks a lot for your time!
Thanks to you Upa Upa Tahiti!