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 on my own in the tourism sector: I resell 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 we 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 likes to party a lot. With my father, we've been playing the ukulele together for years. Moreover in Polynesia, each family has its own way of "bringing": the styles of strikes are not the same. Some play in a modern way, others "cool", or hula way, the Hawaiian style... In my family, it's more kaina way and cool too! We don't play the ukulele like professionals, but the Tahitian way. 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, it will come and get you [laughs]! Besides, often when you are invited to a party or a birthday party, you find yourself doing the entertainment!
How did this love for the ukulele come about?
It was my father who made me want to play this instrument. I grew up watching him make music with his cousins. I remember that it always amazed me because it's so beautiful: the sounds of the ukuleles, the voices... It's magnificent. Not to mention our nostalgic Polynesian songs, which provide a lot of emotions! The texts 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 passed through the songs.
How did you learn to play the ukulele?
I never took lessons, 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 only play with my family and a lot with my father because it's the base, and we have the same style. And when I find myself partying with other people whose typing style is different, I'll sing instead!
Do you have any inspirations, an artist that you particularly like?
My uncle, without hesitation! He is not professional but he sings from the heart. He sang for a very long time in hotels, 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, the truly authentic Polynesian music of yesteryear. It's a rather fast way to play the ukulele, with several different strikes. 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 inspired a lot by the paumotu strike (the style of the Tuamotu Islands). It's a style that comes from there, the word kaina is also a paumotu word.
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 mark it. For the moment it's not in my plans, I must say that I'm so busy too... For me music is like a hobby. I play for fun, at home... and for occasions. And it's very good like that.
Thank you for this exchange Elvis! A last message to convey?
Yes, I would especially like to send a message to Polynesian youth: don't 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 you have to keep it, don't forget where you come from.
I find it unfortunate that some young people turn to delirious music, with insulting lyrics... It's not pretty. Come back to culture because it is a real wealth. Learn to play the ukulele, to party, sing our songs... that way, thanks to you, Polynesian culture can continue. Stay Polynesian, be proud of who you are. Like me, I'm proud to be Polynesian, it's just happiness. Mauruuru!