Known Ukulele Artists

Janse Wesson

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 my mother's 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 the 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 didn't listen to this style of music at all: reggae is much more appreciated here. So I made mixed music: rap parts on reggae music, a rather original concept!

Since then, I have released a few singles: among others, Far from here (which is really reggae) and Iaorana featuring Jmi Sissoko, a French artist, against a backdrop of ukulele!

What is the story of this song, Iaorana ?

It's a piece 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 it into a song: the title describes the particularities of Tahiti to someone who has never seen the place. It's about the population, the smiles, the looks, the fact that we talk to each other, the scenery around us (the paradisiacal lagoon, the mountain...).

It's a title that I would call world music, because it is very mixed: the bit is a bit reggaeton, we find this striking on the ukulele which is typically Polynesian and we have these rapped and sung parts. His success here was a bit unexpected: the locals really liked him!


What kind of musician are you?

I was born in the computer age: I would describe myself as a musician on a computer, playing the mouse [laughs] ! In hip-hop culture there is something called the sample : it is the fact of taking certain parts of a song, adapting the tempo or the key to replace and transform them. That's what I do, working by ear because I don't read music theory.


How do you view the influences of local music?

Concretely, I think that the 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 parties. Then, although I'm not a very religious person, the influence of religion here in Polynesia still has a fairly positive consequence: most people can sing and that's very cool!

On the other hand, there is also something rather deplorable in fenua: for years, a company called Sacem has regulated copyright issues. Artists weren't getting their rights at all and because of that, we missed out on a whole decade of composers. People stopped composing, the recording studios were too expensive... Which means that today, we have a lot of people who sing very well but who do covers. And that's really a shame because the culture of a country goes through many things, but also and above all through music. In my opinion, we've really missed out on something historic, precisely because of this problem: from that period, there are really very few composers left. Today, there is another wave of talented artists: young people are getting into it and it's beautiful to see! I hope 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 his voice, it has a really special timbre. In addition, he is an adorable person, of great sensitivity.

More recently, we started working with Reva Juventin, a rough diamond with a very special voice! She's been practicing for years, scouring the island's stages and we're happy to work with her.

Of course then there are the classics: the Angelo and Bobby songs that everyone knows and which are really amazing, 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'll come back to that later. Do not force it, the main thing is to let yourself be guided by desire and instinct. I'm more into a personal approach than a commercial one, I don't make music to make a living from it but out of passion and to please myself.

I still have a duet with my friend and associate Charlie (alias "Didjelirium"): it's called Ara Mata and it's based on hip-hop music.

On the solo level, I also work with composers from mainland France who have done very good things. These titles will certainly come out with the passage of time, when I will have crossed the quarantine and that I will have new things to say... With a little pressure all the same because the success that Iaorana hides everything: since this title, I have released a dozen other songs but no one knows them! [laughs]

Thank you Upa Upa Tahiti!

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