Known Ukulele Artists

Teiva Hunter

Ia ora na, can you start with a little introduction?

Ia ora na, my name is Teiva Hunter, I am an author, composer and performer. I wrote my first songs when I was 15 when I learned the guitar in Tahiti. Today I live in France and I released my first EP last November.

Have you always been driven by music?

Yes I have always been passionate about music. As a child, I sat in front of the radio to listen to CDs. Later I wrote many poems and thus discovered my love for words, the choice of the perfect word. Then when I discovered that I was able to write a song, I never wrote lyrics again without a melody coming with it. 

So how do you create music?

The music and the text come to me at the same time, to which I then bring some arrangements if necessary. Like a cooking recipe, I add a few elements and make a song out of it. It's often a sentence or an emotion that comes to my mind, and the melody comes at the same time. It's quite difficult to describe and as a composer you don't necessarily want to understand these moments of inspiration, it's this mystery that is interesting. 

Besides, do you have any inspirations, musical references that you think of when you compose?

Less and less. I try to have my own style and tap into myself. But when I was younger, it's true that I had the reflex to ask myself if an artist would have done the chorus in the same way, for example. In fact, there are a lot of artists, whether international or Polynesian, that I listened to a lot and therefore referred to quite unconsciously. Well-known Polynesian groups influenced me, as did ukulele players I met in the street or in the trailers, with their beautiful melodies that rocked me. Now when I arrange a song I have the reflex to find these sounds of Polynesia and that's what makes my identity. I am thinking in particular of the percussion, the ukulele or the Tahitian lyrics. 

And when you compose music, do you listen to particular songs to inspire you?

I listened to so much music in my childhood that now I don't have to go looking for the songs that could help me, I just let my imagination and memories wander and then it comes back to me. I manage to find the sounds I'm looking for because they are still alive somewhere in my head. It's true that it's a bit like the hidden phase of music creation. There's actually a lot of the work that involves sitting in the studio thinking of a melody, then all of a sudden the inspiration comes and you create the music, and it's quite magical! But this is in fact the case in most arts, be it painting or even pottery for example.

Do you also think about reaching the metropolitan public by introducing them to Fenua?

Yes, that's kind of the point! My songs are still quite pop with this little ingredient from French Polynesia, but that doesn't take up all the space either. It can please everyone. People in mainland France listen to my music without necessarily realizing that there is a part of Tahiti in it.

Do you also have good feedback from Fenua?

Yes of course, it depends on the titles and their particularities. When I released my first single "Derrière moi" with urban pop tones with a universal subject, it was rather feedback from the metropolis that I had. However, when "Danser" was released, which was also shot in Tahiti and features strong Tahitian percussion, I received a lot of feedback on social media from Tahitians!

What messages are you trying to convey?

Through my first EP, I want to send messages of tolerance, love, tenderness towards loved ones, self-confidence and in particular to let go with the title "Dancing."

The eponymous title "Exile" for example tells the story of living an expatriation. For my part, when I arrived in metropolitan France after 16 years overseas, I was a little surprised by the violence of society towards minorities, which there was not necessarily in Tahiti, which is more pacifist. So that's how this song was born.

Why did you decide to release this album?

I had written dozens and dozens of songs, and when I met my manager in 2017, he advised me to make an album to introduce myself to the public. So I decided to gather among all my music either songs that had Polynesian sounds, or those that had nostalgia-themed lyrics.

Why choose nostalgia?

Tahiti reminds me of nostalgia as I grew up there. It's a good memory and when I think about it it's not with great sadness, but the emotion I feel makes me create a song. I don't live with nostalgia every day but I felt it strong enough to make beautiful songs, I hope. 

Is this your only job?

For a long time I worked in aviation but it's been more than a year now that I devote myself entirely to music. I released my first album and I am now preparing my 100% acoustic concert with the help of my guitarist. We are waiting for the end of the health crisis to be able to perform on stage. Music has become a full time thing for me and it's wonderful, I can compose and rehearse as much as I want.

Have you tried learning the ukulele?

I already play the guitar, and I would like to try the ukulele but I would be afraid of losing the chords of the guitar by learning those of the ukulele... Which is perhaps stupid, I should surely m put it! It's true that now that my guitarist plays the ukulele, it tickles me and from time to time he teaches me a few chords!

Despite the background as a young artist, isn't it too complicated for you to develop your notoriety?

In fact as long as I have time, I use it to produce music. So confinements allow me to prepare for the future. In that sense, it's not complicated because I can still do my job. You have to adapt because the life of an artist usually consists of being in the studio, releasing the album, promoting it and then doing the concerts. For example, there are many artists who released their album just before the confinement and therefore could not do their promotion or their concerts. So the current rhythm of a musician's work is rather to produce albums repeatedly. It may seem strange but we adapt as we can depending on the situation. We must continue to produce and patiently wait for the reopening of concert halls. With my guitarist we continue to rehearse despite everything and we tell ourselves that we will be all the more ready. 

Do you have other projects in progress?

No, for the moment I remain focused on producing music. In 2020 I finalized my album, made the music videos and so now I want to take the time to create new songs. Last year was very inspiring for me, because I write a song when I experience a very strong emotion (whether beautiful or less beautiful), and with the coronavirus everyone has experienced strong things. Life stopped a bit but life was also very intense for everyone, so I wrote songs to tell these stories and the inspirations that came to me. In 2021 I want to free up time to produce music and prepare for the future concert. Even if there are few because of the context, on the other hand I like to apply for all possible small castings such as musicals or TV shows in order to have new experiences.

Are you planning to return to Fenua 

I would love to, but the opportunity would have to arise! Today it is not possible to buy a plane ticket so it remains a waking dream. But I can't wait! I'll be back, I don't know when but I'll be back for sure.

Could you tell us more about the theme of your next songs?

Unfortunately I could not say because there is everything! But what is certain is that I want to concentrate on writing, I want to improve myself. It will be a little different because I don't like to do the same things, even if there will always be some sounds from Polynesia.

Thank you Teiva! A word for the end ?

Mauruuru Upa Upa Tahiti for this interview! I wish everyone a great musical year, better than the previous one at least!


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