Ia ora na, can you start by introducing yourself?
Ia ora na, my name is Tumahai Roo, I'm 23 years old and I left university to help my father in his music school and so I took a liking to it. Since I was little I already loved music, we slept between two loudspeakers in the party! At first I gave beginners lessons and my father took care of intermediate and advanced levels. Many complimented me telling me that I was a good teacher so it gave me the confidence to continue. That's how I started giving lessons for a year at Tahiti International School for children. There too my work was popular, the children liked my teaching. Following that I wanted to open my own school, which I did with the help of my darling. We had the idea of naming it "Arearea Ukulele School" ("Arearea" which means carousing, having fun, laughing). We opened in June 2019 and we welcome everyone from 7 years old. Just call when you feel like it and I'm here! On the other hand, before the age of 7, 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 give lessons?
I give both private and group lessons. I started private lessons at the beginning of 2020 for people who want to progress 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 that I really appreciate because we always do it in fun, we laugh and we are not at all there to put pressure on ourselves. It really is a sharing. Otherwise I have a repertoire that includes 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 all that 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 which I still have by the way! I remember that before I didn't play much but over time, I wanted to participate more and more in parties and I really started playing when I was 17 years old. As soon as I started, I did 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'm made for it and it's true that I really like it.
Can we say that you have music in your skin then?
Indeed ! My dad is a musician and all his brothers can play an instrument well, and I grew up with these musical examples. And now with my cousins, we all play in turn, whether it's the ukulele, the guitar or even the tam-tam!
What is your favorite instrument you play?
Besides ukulele and kamaka, I play guitar. I choose the instrument according to the songs I play. I want to send a message so the way of playing and the instrument chosen will have a major role. So sometimes it's the guitar, and for other songs I prefer the ukulele! I use the kamaka especially when we are in a small group because with its soft notes we can hear the singing well, unlike the Polynesian ukulele which is more aggressive. Afterwards when we party I prefer the ukulele or the guitar. The choice of preference is difficult!
When you give lessons, are there basic steps to go through?
Yes, first I learn how to tune the ukulele, then the basic notes and the universal notes, etc. We really try to do it little by little, and over time we arrive at more complicated registers where a lot of notes follow each other, especially in Tahitian songs where sometimes on a word you can have three notes! We also come back to pieces that we have already seen in a simplified way, but we add notes or extra parts.
Can you learn hand dexterity?
It's mostly training. At first personally I had trouble, so my dad gave me exercises to help me work on the flexibility of my fingers. He made me work on it for almost a year, I who wanted to learn several pieces, I had to arm myself with patience! This is precisely what made me drop out at that age, then I took up the guitar at the end of high school, and then the ukulele.
For you, do you need to have notions of music theory?
Not necessarily, you just have to train a little every day. What I advise my students is to practice as soon as they have time. As soon as they come home from work or school, for example, take 5 minutes to practice. Many tell me that playing a little after work helps them feel calmer.
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 was turned upside down... For the moment we don't really know how it will go. However, we plan to do something for the end of the year celebrations like a Christmas snack.
Are you also part of a music group?
Not at all. Before, I didn't trust myself and it was only 2 years ago that while singing the ukulele my big 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 de la Maison de la Culture de Tahiti during a show and it's impressive but it's also these experiences that give confidence.
So what can we wish you for the future, your future projects?
My greatest wish would be to enlarge my room, my school and to 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 limited with the health barriers so we are maximum at 5 students.
Well we wish you all that! Thank you very much for your time!
Thank you Upa Upa Tahiti!