Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Make you feel my love. . .

I wrote a song a very long time ago that had the same chord progressions featured in the verses of this song.  Written by Bob Dylan, this song has been covered by the likes of Bryan Ferry with his Dylanesque album, including various American Idol and Britain's Got Talent contestants, Ed Sheeran and Adele.  The cover of Make you feel my love by Adele speaks to me about how I can help others in my life.  How I can be the shoulder to cry on as I might be the only person in someone's life who they've come to rely on to be "their person".  Sometimes you don't know how much you mean to someone until something happens and they reveal it.

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

It is easy to think about the obvious romantic overtones of the song.  As a former teacher I think about the "duty of care", the position of "loco parentis" that I was placed in.  I think about the former students who came from broken homes and who didn't have positive role models for parents and how much they craved human kindness in their lives, especially if they were not getting the care from the adults who were meant to provide this in their young lives.  I quickly discovered that I would need to provide appropriate levels of support, to empower students from all ethnic backgrounds, from all walks of life - to make them feel if not my love, then at least that someone cared.

When the evening shadows and the starts appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

I also discovered that as soon as I had built relationships of trust with my students, that they would reveal their personal backgrounds that impeded their progress in school.  I often thought about how they were coping in other classes, especially when they would disclose information about not liking particular subjects or if they were in trouble with other subject teachers.  I felt that I had to act as an intermediary if not an advocate for such students - and not help them in a way where they would become dependent - but at least teach them "life skills" to cope with issues, just like I had been taught "life lessons" from influential teachers when I was growing up in high school.

I know you haven't made your mind up yet
But I will never do you wrong
I've known it from the moment that we met (harmony hits)
No doubt in my mind where you belong

Before I could establish those relationships of trust - I had to first of all gain their trust.
To do this, I had to reveal my own humanity to my students.
I'm not talking about sharing personal issues that are inappropriate - but being able to make connections and parallels with their own struggles growing up, giving examples of what life was like for me at their age - and if I didn't have reliable adults who I could confide in - at least teach them about what types of qualities to value in a person and to use the school's existing systems of pastoral care.  The problem persisted that students would still tell me their problems and issues because they trusted me and I made them feel safe and comfortable in class.  I became like an "aunt" or "mother" figure to these students.

I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue
I'd go crawling down the avenue
No there's nothing that I wouldn't do
To make you feel my love

Loma would often remind me - remember babe, you can't save the world, there's only so much you can do.  He supported my work with students and knew that I would do anything for my students to make them feel happy, healthy and safe at school, so that they could learn how to transition this into their everyday reality.  It was a huge mission, a massive undertaking, fraught with drama, sometimes unnecessary drama - but at the end of the day, I believe that I taught those students to be resilient, to rely on building yourself up with confidence and self-esteem because the world will try their damnedest to knock you down - it's life.

The string ensemble interlude plays for 16 bars before we reach the final stages of the song.
The strings symbolise for me how the music pulls at my heart strings.

The storm's are raging on the rolling seas
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain't seen nothing like me yet

To encourage students to believe that they can say to the world you ain't seen nothing like me yet  - to me is a very powerful statement.  In my own life, there have been times where I have afraid to be a pioneer to do things first, to put myself out there because I didn't know anybody else that was doing what I was doing.  I soon realised - that just because nobody had done it - it didn't mean that I should be afraid to do it first.

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn't do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
To make you feel my love

To make you feel my love

Moral of the story: whether you choose to be that rock, shoulder to cry on, hand to hold, hug to embrace, you need to give love to those who deserve it, those who need it, and those who most likely cannot survive without it.  The more love you give, the more you get back.  So I will love freely because I know the winds of change are blowing wild and free, you ain't seen nothing like me yet. . .

Somewhere over the rainbow (over the rainbow) . . .

Somewhere over the rainbow is normally associated with Judy Garland as Dorothy in the musical Wizard of Oz.  This simple yet beautiful song has enjoyed many cover versions over the years, each with the artist's unique style shining through.  Two notable ones for me are the ukulele inspired version by Hawaiian musician Israel Kamakawiwo'ole which appeared on various movie soundtracks such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Meet Joe Black, 50 First Dates and The Impossible - and today's featured artist - Eva Cassidy, whose version of the song was played on BBC radio.  Her rendition of Somewhere over the rainbow catapulted her posthumously into super stardom - with album sales on both sides of the Atlantic ensuring her position as a star in her own right.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There's a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby

The opening of the song instantly tells you that Eva Cassidy's version of Somewhere over the rainbow has a different feel to Judy Garland's original performance - the different time signature, the phrasing and the dynamic, textural quality of her singing make her sound as light as air, or facial spray mist that refreshes you.  I haven't heard honey tones in a voice like hers since Karen Carpenter.  

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

Sometimes we forget to dare ourselves to dream the dreams that we are entitled to dream.
We probably think too much about people would think and trap ourselves in that same pattern of self-sabotage.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I've been having some conversations lately with friends who feel that they are on the cusp of something huge in their lives, and they have lacked the confidence to commit themselves to a decision.  (Those same friends would probably say the same for me too haha - but settle Gretel, I'm completely on a path that is set for the next few years :-) ).

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
Is where you'll find me

Ok, so I've got plans for the next few years - what are your plans?  Commit to something, don't make a wish and hope it comes true.  Faith without deeds is meaningless, so get your hustle on.  Depending on how hard you want to work, you can push those clouds behind you today rather than some other vague time in the time continuum that you are unwilling to address and have even less power to control.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then oh why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Above the rainbow
Then why oh why can't I?

You know what rainbows are like.  They are fleeting, only appear at certain times, then disappear before you can find that pot of gold at the end of it.  So you can either keep marvelling at the illusion of rainbows or paint your world all of the brilliant colours of the rainbow.  Don't spend too much time wallowing in one colour - otherwise your world becomes a drab and boring colour that limits your imagination.  So come on - let's go and fly with the bluebirds.  Take my hand and we'll fly somewhere over the rainbow. . .

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

As the world falls down. . .

Labyrinth was one of my all-time favourite movies as a child and it was also my introduction to the musical genius of David Bowie.  His song As the world falls down in the movie is used to distract the main character Sarah, from trying to find her little brother Toby.  Jennifer Connelly plays Sarah and once you get past the creepiness of The Goblin King trying to seduce her (I didn't notice that until I watched the movie later as an adult, I think I was distracted by the bubbles in the scene to notice) - the song is really quite pretty, beautiful in fact, with an 80s treatment of a 50s love ballad, ah fusion.

There's such a sad look
In your eyes, a kind of pale jewel
Open and closed within your eyes
I see the sky in your eyes

The scene in which the song takes place is a dream sequence of a goblin's ball (although there are no goblins in sight, just the other human revellers at the ball).  They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and this explains why people place such heavy emphasis on eye contact and being able to see if people are telling the truth by looking at the size of pupils.  You can also usually tell if someone likes you or is really listening to you because their eyes smile when they talk to you.  Jewels and sky?  Ah... a dreamer. . .

There's such a fooled heart
Beating so fast in search of new dreams
A love that will last within your heart
I'll place the moon within your heart

I get the sense that Jareth the Goblin King is mocking Sarah in this verse. He seems to think that he has power over her and can manipulate her.  And he has - because she has let him.  Does he hope that by placing the moon in her heart that it will take up every inch of space so that her heart can still be fooled.  Probably over-thinking this one. . .

As the pain sweeps through
Makes no sense for you
Every thrill has gone
Wasn't too much fun at all
But I'll be there for you
As the world falls down

The drum kit helps to drive the song along while the descending three-note ocarina motif from the synthesiser I think The Goblin King knows that he needs to be careful as Sarah has the potential to snap out of the reverie that she is in.  His offer of support is of course not genuine, but hey Sarah doesn't know that, nothing makes sense to her right now, as he fills all her senses.

I'll paint you mornings of gold
I'll spin you Valentine evenings
Though we're strangers till now
We're choosing the path between the stars
I'll leave my love between the stars

Jareth talks about golden days and romantic nights, getting to know each other.  Empty promises?Hmmm.... the path between the stars and he's going to leave his love for her there.  She doesn't know much about love.  He needn't bother leaving his love between the stars because the only love she's know is between the pages of the books and the plays that she reads in her room.  There's nothing wrong with a fantasy world.  If you find yourself living too much fantasy and not enough of your reality - then you have two choices: 1) snap out of the fantasy and stay in your reality or 2) make your fantasy your current reality.

If you are somewhere trying to figure out what feelings you have (what are these feelings?!)
Just enjoy it.  Why do you feel the need to label it?
It could just be exactly what you need to heal you, to challenge you and know that you are loved.
If you fall down, your world falls down, enjoy the fall.

Makes no sense at all
Makes no sense to fall
As the world falls down . . .

Songbird. . .

Christine McVie from Fleetwood Mac wrote the beautiful Songbird.  It has been covered by Willie Nelson, Eva Cassidy (one of my favourite renditions with her honey-like voice) and Sol3 Mio amongst others.  It is very poignant - thinking about Eva Cassidy and her rendition, only because she passed away in 1996.  Her posthumously-released album enjoyed critical acclaim and success.  The Sol3 Mio version is featured on their album which debuted at number one on the New Zealand music charts, surpassing Lorde's Pure Heroine.

This song sounds like a love letter from beyond the grave.

For you, there'll be no more crying.
For you, the sun will be shining.
And I feel that when I'm with you,
It's alright, I know it's right.

"No more crying.  You'll ruin your makeup. If you miss me just a little, take comfort and know that I'm only a conversation away.  You can always talk to me, I'm everywhere you are, so don't feel that you can't say anything to me.  It hasn't stopped you before!  When you feel the sun shining, that's me smiling at you, so let the sun's rays warm your face from to time.  It's always best when you close your eyes and look up - you get the full effect that way."

To you, I'll give the world.
To you, I'll never be cold.
'Cause I feel that when I'm with you,
It's alright, I know it's right.

"Even though I'm gone, don't stop living.  There is so much of the world for you to see and do things that will help others.  I know how much you like helping people and doing things that make a difference in the world.  You know all those times that I used to tease you about, I was secretly quite proud of you.  I hope you can feel that.  I'm not meant to be following you around often though - you're supposed to figure things out for yourself."

And the songbirds are singing, like they know the score.
And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before.

"Every time you hear birds chirping, that's just me whistling at you.  Those birds will sing because they understand how important music is to you - so they'll sing every time you are near - I've given them the melody.  If they sing altogether, they're just jamming because they're reading off the chord chart."

And I wish you all the love in the world.
But most of all, I wish it from myself.

"I just want you to be happy.  You always looked beautiful when you were happy, so never stop being happy.  In those times when you're lonely and almost ready to give up - keep at it.  There are a lot of people counting on you to not only do right by them, but it's your destiny.  This is why you were born.  You know I would've loved to have been there to share in this journey with you, but it isn't my journey to travel.  Only yours alone.  Don't worry though, I'm cheering for you on this end."

"You will always be loved.  You will feel it from me and everyone else who has left this world.  You are loved by those that you are with.  You are also loved by those who live in faraway places, so don't be discouraged.  There's that saying that you like - you mean the world to someone - I can tell you that's true, even when you don't hear it, it's true.  You don't know how much other people are thinking about you.  Those powerful, positive feelings, far outweigh the negative thoughts that you think people carry.  Water off a duck's back. . . water off a duck's back."  

And the songbirds keep singing, like they know the score
And I love you, I love you, I love you
Like never before, like never before, like never before. . . 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Talkin' bout a revolution. . .

Talkin' bout a revolution by Tracy Chapman was released in 1988.  When this song was released, from what I recall - it was the age of Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Madonna, Aha, Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, Metallica, Guns N' Roses, INXS, U2, the list goes on.  The dance moves that were quite popular at the time was the "running man", the "cabbage patch" and the "roger rabbit".  See if you can find those dance moves online :-)

Don't you know
They're talkin' bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Don't you know
They're talkin' bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper

All it takes for a revolution to begin is a whisper - because a collection of whispers, once confidence grows, builds into a din that can no longer be ignored.  Do you think about how you can be part of a revolution?  I'm not suggesting that you break into your country's parliament buildings and try to force your government out of power.  I mean a self-revolution.  Revolt against the worst parts of yourself (how do you overthrow yourself?).  Hey Manu. . . that sounds suspiciously like evolution.  Well. . . maybe that's what you might need to do.  I think about that all the time. How can I be the best of me?  The best that I can be?

While they're standing in the welfare lines
Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation
Wasting time in the unemployment lines
Sitting around waiting for a promotion

When this verse hits, the texture changes because it signals for me that the lyrics talk about groups of people talkin' about a revolution with other people who are in similar socio-economic situations, similar work prospects (or lack thereof).  The use of the organ comes in waves as it washes over me, slyly hinting that something more substantial will happen - but we don't get to hear that until the drum kit kicks in during the "run run run run" section.

Poor people gonna rise up
And get theirs yeah
Poor people gonna rise up 
And take what's theirs

We always talk about the need for change - something that is better than what we currently have.
We talking a change of government, a change of local council, a change of system - these huge systemic changes that need to happen, right down to the a change of tyres, change of diet, change of lifestyle, change of partner or change of hair colour.  If we have too much change in our pockets it makes the pockets heavy, especially if you're just collecting change, I mean, that's what piggybanks are for - to hold and store that loose change.  What's tight change?

Don't you know 
You better run, run, run
Oh I said you better
Run, run, run

Maybe we better run - otherwise if we don't move fast enough, we get caught up in the faceless mob, pushed to the side, possibly fall over and then end up running in the wrong direction, away from where we need to be.  Where do you see yourself running towards?  Will you have the right people running alongside you, while you do more that talk about a revolution?

Finally the tables are starting to turn
Talkin' bout a revolution. . . 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

It's gonna be alright. . . on the nightshift. . .

I'm doing an all nighter tonight, only because I have some writing deadlines to meet and this is the only time of day to get it sorted.  To prepare me to get into the "writing zone", it can sometimes feel like a compulsion for me to write a blog post first (it's the way I'm wired I guess).  So I thought - what better song to accompany an all nighter but The Commodores singing their classic hit Nightshift.  

Marvin sang of the joy and pain
He opened up our minds
And I still can hear him say
Aw talk to me so you can see
What's goin on
Say you will sing your songs
Forevermore (evermore)

Jackie (Jackie, oh) you set the world on fire
You came and gifted us
Your love it lifted us
Higher and higher

The first couple of verses see us reminiscing about Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson, thinking about what they contributed to the music world, dropping titles of some of their famous hits and no doubt their songs have been some of your own favourites and you have associated memories with each of those songs - memories of family, friends, loved ones who have come and gone.

When you think about musicians, music artists, singers - whatever they like to be labelled - they all have that noble sentiment, that they want to make music and create music that fulfils them first as people, secondly to share with the rest of the world to make a difference and for us to enjoy who they are and what their "sound" is.  

The artists or bands that you like - how do you know that you like them?  What do you like about them?  Do you like them because of what they represent?  Is it all about the sound?  Does their music contribute to a cause that resonates with you as well?  

Gonna be a long night
It's gonna be alright
On the nightshift

For those of you work nightshifts, you know that nothing makes it go faster than when you're listening to your favourite music - something to pass the time (or make the time fly faster) - to dance, hum and bounce your head.  Whatever else that is happening in your life that makes you work nightshifts - whether by choice or it's what you have to do to get by - you do what you have to do.  

Keep it up
We'll be there 
At your side 

The thing I like the most about doing all nighters is the sense of tranquility that comes with being in your space doing "you".  I also take comfort in knowing that even if I am physically alone during these all nighters that I still have the hopes and well wishes of those who have gone before me, encouraging me from beyond to keep it up.

When you lose a loved one, take comfort in knowing that they do not forget you.
They have just found another home.  
Even though physically they're no longer here, they're always with you on your nightshift.

You found another home
I know you're not alone
On the nightshift. . . 

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Everywhere you go you always take the weather with you. . .

The unmistakable opening guitar riffs, the tambourine, the ascending and descending bass line, before the vocal harmonies hit - and you know you're listening to Crowded House singing Weather with you.

Now it's the same room but everything's different
You can fight the sleep but not the dream

These lines speak to me about how even though your surroundings may seem the same, but things have changed.  You may not have been responsible for those changes, but you need to think about how to manage those changes.  Maybe rather than manage, we can think about how we cope with those changes, reflect on those changes, ask ourselves why things are different - who changed them and why have they changed - were we able to contribute to that change?  I constantly think about the "dream" and what it is that makes me lose sleep.  And this is what has occupied my thinking space today . . .

Things ain't cooking in my kitchen
Strange affliction wash over me

The only thing that was cooking in my kitchen today was some 'angry pie' when I read a New Zealand Herald article entitled Hope for 'apopo' in weather forecast (which is actually the inspiration for today's blog post).  I was dismayed to read the poll that is attached to the article.  The last time I checked, about 73% voted to just have the word 'apopo' in English - which translates as 'tomorrow'.  It irks me because Te Reo Māori (Maori language, the indigenous language of Aotearoa) is one of three official languages in Aotearoa New Zealand (the other two being English and NZ Sign Language) - so it should be no big deal if we are going to add one more word to be used in weather forecasts by weather reporters.  More than half of the place names of towns in Aotearoa - are in Te Reo Māori anyway - so why the big fuss or reluctance to use 'apopo'?

Do I lie like a lounge room lizard
Or do I sing like a bird released?

These lines make me think about the options I have to make some changes of my own.  And the thing is, even if I do my part to support / tautoko te reo Māori in Aotearoa with whoever I speak to, because I believe it's an important part of my identity as a New Zealander - even when some New Zealanders think te reo Māori is a dead language or Māori culture is not part of their daily life or everyday world (but you quite happily perform the haka in a drunken stupor every time the All Blacks play?!).

I guess what I'm saying is - we can't be selective New Zealanders - you can't embrace the 'easy' parts of an indigenous culture, the easily consumed, almost 'tourist' culture of our indigenous people, of our tangata whenua because you find the language scary - or that it should be relegated to the national Māori broadcasting channel.  I thought we were much more progressive than this.

Moral of the story for me - I'm not going to be too fussed about online comments that show ignorance.  Patience must be had at all times.  We are all entitled to our opinions - they are all valid because everyone has the right to an opinion.  However, we do need to have all of the information to hand to make informed opinions that are based on evidence - but also take into account people's experiences and expertise.

Name calling, insults and abusive language do not fit in with logically presented arguments.  If anything I will be even more conscious of my civic and national duty to uphold my obligations to the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of our nation in my everyday life - and that includes supporting Te Reo Māori and Te Ao Māori in Aotearoa.  This will be the weather that I take with me everywhere.

Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you
Everywhere you go, you always take the weather
Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you
Everywhere you go, you always take the weather, take the weather, the weather with you . . . 

Friday, 25 July 2014

In our small way. . .

"Maybe you and I can't do great things
We may not change the world in one day
But we can still change some things today"
In our small way

When Michael opens the song by speaking the lines of the chorus, it gives me a central focus point to meditate on.  You know how you get when you meditate on words that people say; you repeat the words in your head, visual the words in your mind's eye, run them through your mind and I even visualise my hands running over the words as I'm saying them as if to feel the shape, texture and the weight of what those words mean.  Questions spring to mind like - what can we do in our small way?  Do we sometimes let the enormity of what's happening in the world overwhelm us that we think we can't make a difference?

Empty words are not enough
Where's there hurt we'll be a crush
Where there's thirst, we'll fill each other's cup
Because we care we love enough to share

Where words are not enough, it suggests that there needs to be action that accompanies the words to make more of an impact (but sometimes actions speak louder than words, depending on the situation - grand gestures and all that).

In despair we'll be the hope
And the prayer that frees the soul
And we'll be there to share each lonely road
Because we love I know
We care enough

This part of the song speaks to me about the power of being part of a collective, of unity being a strength to push through and not be lonely, not be alone anymore.

Just a little time is all it takes
What a difference just a smile can make you see
Love is all we need, yeah

Musically in the bridge, this is the most exciting part of the song for me - the changes in timbre, the melody and the interaction with the

You and I can't do great things
We may not change the world in one day
But we still can change some things today 
In our small way

For the final chorus, the key change hits and then Michael takes us to the last plane where he soars across and makes me believe that we can changes things today.  This is where you see the function of background vocals maintaining the melody line whilst singing in harmony as the artist shows off their technical vocal abilities.

Moral of the story, work on yourself first, think about what you can do, what part you can play to make a positive difference in the world you live in, find a partner in crime who is passionate about your life mission as you are and then find other like-minded people so that we may not change the world in one day, but we still can change some things today, in our small way.

Tangaroa Whakamautai. . .

To end Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori (Māori Language Week) I wanted to pay tribute to the land of my birth with this beautiful song Tangaroa Whakamautai by Maisey Rika.  

For those of you around the world who have not had the privilege of visiting our beautiful shores, you are definitely missing out.  If there is a country that you need to cross off your 'bucket list' to visit - be sure to make it New Zealand / Aotearoa.  Maisey's stunning music video captures the essence of the land, the serenity, the purity and the reason why you would sing about the god of the sea in Māori mythology - the music video says it all, it shows it all.

e ararau o Tangaroa
E rere ki te papaurunui

Māori have firm beliefs about everything having a source and an origin, everything has a place.

Tahora nui ātea
Te manawa o te moana
Te mauri o Tangaroa
Tangaroa whakamautai
Tangaroa whakamautai

You get a real sense of who Tangaroa is, what he does and his place in the pantheon of gods.
The song goes on to talk about the cries of the whales revealing the power of Tangaroa.

He kaitiaki
He taonga
He tipua
He ariki
He taniwha
He tipua
He kaitiaki
He taonga
He tipua
Tangaroa whakamautai

This songs speaks to me about honouring the environment that you live in.
If our children are to enjoy the benefits of a world with all of its natural beauty, we must set the example and look after it better than when we entered it.

Think about the indigenous people of the land that you live in.
How much do you know about their way of life?
How much do you value and honour what they treasure?
Maybe we can learn much from the sentiments of this song and be more like Tangaroa - become guardians of the lands that we live in so that our children, our precious treasures will come to know how to respect others and have the empathy to live their humanity.

You can find the English translation of this song and follow Maisey's work on her website.

We are Samoa. . .

I first heard We are Samoa by Jerome Grey growing up in a very nationalistic Samoan family.
I can recall as a child playing with the cassette covers and I do remember the Jerome Grey cassette cover.  The tape deck always held cassettes of Samoan music, songs that my parents loved to listen to and would hum along to, sing along to as they did their chores around the house.

Our Samoa, the greatest place of all
She is green and blue, lush with beauty
Hearts as pure as gold
Touch someone with tears of joy
Touch someone with smiles of love
Oh! What happy feelings from such happy people

When I think about this verse, it reminds me of many trips going to Samoa. The earliest trip I can remember quite vividly was going home for my paternal grandmother's funeral, my namesake.  Every time I go to Samoa I think about sitting on the back of a ute, driving at speed on a dirt road, with dirt flying in my face, the breeze whipping through my hair and laughing with my cousins, complete with sweat running down our backs from the heat and the type of smells that were so strong and pungent that you could taste Samoa.  You could taste the freshness of the food, the tangy Chinese lollies our aunties gave us, the coconut juice running down our chins, the sticky mangoes and pawpaw clinging to our fingers.  Hot, sweet and sticky.  Three words that remind me of Samoa.

Uso Samoa, fanau mai le la
Uso Samoa, manumanu ile upega
A'o i nu'u ese le loto alofa
Samoa mo oe, Samoa mo le Atua

Sol3 Mio performed We are Samoa for the funeral of the great rugby legend Peter Fatialofa.
A trio of opera singers, currently starring in opera productions in Europe and America, as well as touring with their multi-platinum self-titled album - the pride and joy of Samoa and New Zealand with their unique Samoan blend of humour and flawless singing.

We are Samoa, people from the sun
We are Samoa, and our heritage lives on
Teach the world humanity and hospitality
We are Samoa
And God we trust in thee

Be proud of you who are, where you come from.
Never forget your heritage - learn as much about it as you can so that you can move ahead and forge new paths and be new examples of light, love and happiness for the world.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Coming out of the dark . . .

I remember this song quite vividly.  Gloria Estefan had survived a major accident while on an album tour and she almost died.  She performed this song at an awards ceremony and I recall being in awe of her performance, she was flawless.  Coming out of the dark is a song that represents survival, the fact that even though you can go through potentially fatal if not tragic circumstances in your life and you can overcome.

Why be afraid if I'm not alone
Life is never easy the rest is unknown
And up to now for me it's been hands against stone
Spent each and every moment
Searching for what to believe

I imagine that Gloria's recovery would have been excruciatingly painful and difficult to deal with.  There would have been times when she would've wanted to give up her physical therapy and want to pack it in.  She would've wondered if there was any point to holding on to hope, when things would've seemed insurmountable.  How could she have overcome them?

Starting again is part of the pain
And I'll be much stronger holding your hand
Step by step I'll make it through I know I can
It may not make it easier but I have felt you
Near all the way

Having someone to hold your hand and keep you on the path to recovery is absolutely critical.  When things do seem insurmountable, it's breaking things down in manageable chunks and knowing how to sustain yourself, with the support of others, through your pain.  When you go to put yourself back on track, you might also feel a sense of guilt at having a second chance to start over.  You've always been taught to believe that life doesn't have second chances and life isn't fair.  But when life does deal you another hand - how do you cope with that?

Coming out of the dark, I finally see the light now
And it's shining on me
Coming out of the dark, I know the love that saved me
You're sharing with me

I guess the answer when you really think about it - is quite simple.
You must never lose sight of the end of the tunnel, the light that you need to stay focused on so that you can see its brightness from a distance and sustains you until you can bathe in its fullness.  I don't know about you, but when I think about how much work you need to put in to get to the result that you want - don't forget to enjoy that time when you're shining in the light.  Sometimes that time to shine in the light can be fleeting, so once you've experienced it and have developed a hunger for it - you're always on the lookout to feel that fullness of light - to bathe in that glow, how it looks on your skin, how it illuminates your features and then the fun begins.  Because once the rest of the world sees you bathing in that light - they'll want to bathe in it too. . .

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The gift of love. . .

I remember this song quite vividly.  The gift of love was released by Bette Midler in 1990, my first year of high school.  I remember coming across the sheet music in a brank spanking new Bette Midler tribute book, it was one of her greatest hits compilation I think, with a few new releases included; it even had her rendition The Beatles' In My Life, which I remember playing for my music teacher in my last year of high school, I accompanied my friend Mana while she sang (I played keys and harmonised).

You ask me what I want
You ask me what I need
It's nothing you can buy
My heart's not ruled by greed
I don't love a diamond
Diamonds you see through
I want you to hold me
I want you to be true

I think in the innocence of youth, before you have your first full blown emotional experiences of love with somebody really special, you have these pure thoughts of love.  You know what I'm talking about.  When holding hands is a big deal, when the first kiss - or getting anywhere near can almost make you lose the plot because the anticipation just kills you.  I think if I was to give advice to young people about love, I would say - don't be in such a hurry to grow up and experience what you think those irresponsible music videos are selling - it's not real.  Too often I saw in the classroom the damage that 'supposed' young love brought, the destruction of trying to be adults before their time and the complications that it brought too - unwanted pregnancies, difficult situations they couldn't get out of - sometimes even abusive and potentially fatal relationships.

Give me the gift of love
Look me in the eyes
Say I'm the one you're dreaming of
That'd be the best surprise
Give me the gift of your own sweet love
In the light of day
In the dark of night

This song was released two years after The Bangles released Eternal Flame and the music arrangement reminds me of that song, with the clustered chords, even with the guitar solo in the middle before the key change in the final chorus.  I can almost imagine the video montage of all the scenes where you would have received the gift of love - or at least the events that would lead up to it.

Like the colours of the sun
The feelings in your heart
It's all I want from you
And when the sky is dark
I'll have you beside me
Who could ask for more?
I'll just wear a smile
When you walk in the door. . .

For those who think they have lost their gift of love, don't despair.
Love is never lost.  It may disappear and then reappear in different forms, through different people.
I take heart from knowing that even though there may be heart pangs, where the heart catches its breath from time to time when a memory is triggered or a song triggers a moment that had almost escaped the recesses of my mind, I know that for those people who matter to me the most,  I will always wear a smile when they walk through my door.

Sunday, 20 July 2014


Don't you think it's time. . .

My last blog post was about Simon and Garfunkel.  
I've decided to stay in this folk 'feel' and the ideas around contemplation, reflection, meditation and ultimately - hope.

It's disrespectful to oversimplify the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
And believe me - I wouldn't even dare to.
There have been so many 'explanations' all over social media - people are starting to call them 'propaganda clips' - and it totally depends on which side you support as the clips reflect distinct Israeli or Palestinian views - and like all perspectives, the views presented are totally dependent on 'who' is making them.

But I think if there's a song that has captured my thoughts about what's been in the news lately and if I could sit down and play a song that could solve the problem - then I would play and sing Bob Evan's Don't you think it's time.  There is a lovely cover version of this song by The Twins (No Frills - Vanessa and Arna).  

It would be naive to think that a song can solve a problem.  It would be naive to think that a song could help to change people's minds.  But suspend your disbelief and cyncism for a few minutes while I take you through this song.

Musically the song reminds me of Billy Joel's Piano Man but it's not 6/8 - it's more of a medium 2 or fast 4.  It even has the harmonica in there that helps to give it that homely touch. The way that the lyrics are structured also remind me of The Byrds with Turn Turn Turn a song that featured heavily in the movie soundtrack of Forrest Gump also expressing anti-war sentiments along the lines of life moving even when people stall.

Don't you think it's time
Time to start anew
Time for changing views
Time for making up your mind

Don't you think it's time
Time for moving on
Time for growing strong
Time to leave the past behind

You can't erase the past.  The huge loss of life on both sides - those people. those families, the fabric of society - Israeli, Palestinians, Jewish states, non-Jewish states, Arab states, non-Arab states - most of the time is spent blaming each other and pointing the finger (and arms and bombs) to kill and destroy.

Don't you think it's time
Time for quelling fear
Time for a new year
Time for meaning what you say

Don't you think it's time
Time for easing doubt
Time for reaching out
Time to open up your eyes

It is tragic that peace talks have been classified in the news as not being "real peace talks".  I was thinking - is there such a thing as fake peace talks?  If you're going to talk about peace - isn't reaching peace the goal?  It is even more tragic when the motivations of others outside of the conflict - add fuel to the conflict.  Can we say that each side has exhibited hybris - as there really is no intention of gaining peace - only power, control and lauding fear over each other.

Don't you think it's time
Time for trusting more
Without keeping score
Time to let forgiveness out

Don't you think it's time
Time for showing grace
Time for having faith
Time to make more of this time. . .

I worry that after all is said and done, after all the time in the world has come to pass - what will become of Israel and Palestine?  What will the rest of the world have done to try and support them to gain peace?  Will they forever be that married couple that will always leave paths of destruction in their wake, continue to use their children as collateral damage?

How can we get to have time to make more of this time, to live in harmony, when they can't even have "real peace talks" . . .

The sound . . . of silence . . .

One of the most enduring folk duos of all time (in my humble opinion) are Simon & Garfunkel.

I remember singing The sound of silence in primary/elementary school, because the specialist music teacher was a huge fan of the 60s.  The teacher would play her guitar, strumming in her own restrained way.  I remember she didn't really didn't us the songs explicitly either.  She just sang the songs aloud and expected us to join in by listening and learn by osmosis.

Hello darkness my old friend
I've come to talk with you again

Sometimes we can be afraid of the dark.  It's a common fear of childhood that can often worsen when as you age, or diminish with the passing years.  I like the darkness.  It's often when you are enveloped in the darkness that you get your clearest moments of clarity.  Of course sitting alone in a dark room with the curtains open can also invite the shadows to dance along the walls - and that's pretty cool too.  Talking to the shadows that dance along the wall thanks to the car lights that speed by your house can give you hours of mindless entertainment (so I've heard).

Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping

Those seeds that are planted from a vision can grow to be something magnificent to behold if you are careful to nurture the vision.  I don't know about you, but I'm finding that as I get older, I totally understand how important sleep is.  Having enough hours sleep means that your body repairs and heals itself overnight, helping you to recharge your batteries and being ready to continue to build your vision and bring those seeds to life in the harsh light of day.

And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains 
Within the sound of silence

I equate silence with the time to let your mind meditate and reflect on what you are going through on a daily basis.  That act of enjoying silence and being 'still' is a great way to replenish your soul, as we live in a hectic world where everybody is in a rush to be somewhere to complete whatever they think is important - and letting their lives being dictated by time (or 'The Man' who creates this sense of urgency to distract us from serving our greater purpose).

And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning. . .

And the sign said "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls 
And tenement halls"
And whispered in the sounds of silence. . . 

At the time that this classic folk song was released, it was in a time where silence was not encouraged as it was time to stand up and speak out about the many injustices and human rights violations that peppered the Western world at this time (either the Western world inflicted this on other peoples or were victims of its own greed).

At this point in history right now, I actually welcome the silence, the sound of silence to sit and think about - what are we actually supposed to be doing.  In the sound of silence - we should be able to be in touch with our deepest sense of humanity - as we need it now more than ever. . .

Friday, 18 July 2014

Tell em that it's human nature. . .

Human Nature by Michael Jackson signifies to me a dreamy, modern bluesy song about getting out, stepping out to explore the world.   Getting yourself out there and in amongst the mix is important.  It's the only way that you can discover more about yourself, the only way that you should be living - to learn and make a positive difference in someone else's life.

Looking out 
Across the night time
The city winks a sleepless eye
Hear her voice
Shake my window
Sweet seducing sighs

Sometimes you can be scared to venture out or not think that you would be able to survive the potential challenges that may ahead.  It's important that you don't let fear rule your life and constantly thinking about the negative consequences.  If something happens, brush it off, pick yourself and continue on your journey.  If things were meant to be easy, I don't think we would be living in this world - the way that it is right now - with so much tragedy, war and futility.

Get me out 
Into the night time
Four walls won't hold me tonight
If this town
Is just an apple
Then let me take a bite

When you finally make the decision to venture out and do something - throw yourself into it, immerse yourself into it, submerge, then emerge and drink it all in.  Other people may not necessarily understand your new lease on life or understand why you think the way you do - they're on their own journey, at their own pace, with their own self-made and societal constraints (well let's be honest - they're restraints too aren't they, because you allowed them to place it there).

Looking out
Across the morning
The city's heart begins to beat
Reaching out
I touch her shoulder
I'm dreaming of the street

To me, dreaming of the street is when you start to reminisce about those real and lived experiences that have lead you to your present moment in time (I mean not reading this blog post, but where you are in your life right now) and the opportunities that now lay themselves at your feet.  I have been offered so many opportunities because of conversations and relationships with people, but more importantly, because of hard work, determination and sheer grit to be a productive person to give as much as possible to others.  I'm not one to blow my own trumpet (but if you know me, technically I can because I learned how to play classical and jazz trumpet lol), but I won't apologise for the passion and absolute sincerity of that passion - because it is what keeps me alive - and it's my ManuMission - something you need to check out if you're a recent follower of my blog.

If they say - 
Why why, tell 'em that it's human nature
Why why, does he do me that way
If they say - 
Why why, tell 'em that it's human nature
Why why, does he do me that way
I like livin' this way. . . 

Whatever is in your human nature, make sure that you value how you interact with other humans, it should be in our nature.

Colorblind. . .

Are we so different? Or are we the same?
Is it what we feel inside?
They say it's not ignorance
But when will it change?
Do we see in black and white?

Skin colour has always been a bone of contention through the ages, racial discrimination based on colour - it's really been based on people not understanding and valuing the unique identities, languages and cultures that accompany that skin colour that is different to their own (such a long sentence with no grammar means that I'm quite passionate about something!)

With the recent headlines in Aotearoa with racial profiling, especially in this day and age, it is still really disheartening.  Emily King's Colorblind springs to mind when I reflect on the events of the past week.  The strange thing is, I can recall incidents of racial profiling, experiencing it in different stages of my life.  It is not a nice experience and you do come away from it feeling worthless and humiliated, a second class citizen and second guessing if you are even allowed to live the freedoms that seem to only be afforded in the host society that your parents migrated to (excuse the lack of grammar and punctuation again).

And then one day it spoke to me
And said, "Use me to release what's on your mind"
Now I'm singin

It has always been a comfort to have music as a release, to use it as a creative yet therapeutic process to bring you back to a centre of focus.  It gives you a voice to speak and articulate how you feel about situations, about moments that polarise you and how you cope with these situations and moments that set you into motion (or not).

Using music for me, listening to it, making it, appreciating the intricacies of it, and using it to allow me to transport myself and lose myself in the music has been and always be - the safest place to be,

It happens everyday
Don't want to complicate 
These colors in my pictures I just find
See my view in life is different
Now I know and I can live it
But these questions must be answered all the time 

I often struggle to justify or rationalise at times why I do the things that I do that are part of my cultural values, belief systems and ways of being.  I struggle not because it is a burden to justify or rationalise - but because I continually have to do so.  

How excruciatingly frustrating it is to have to continue to explain why things are the way they are for my people because that is the way that is has been for my people since I have been taught them.  I now even think that the length of my sentences in my blog post reflect how long I feel that I have had to justify and rationalise this - my entire life it seems, and it will most likely continue to be so.

But I take comfort.  I must learn to be colorblind if only to show that I love all people the same.

Now I know and I can live it
But these questions must be answered all the time. . .

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Walk in my shoes . . .

 I just want to live my life
'Cos I wanna and I needed to
So don't be tryna steal my light
'Cos you don't know me, don't pretend to

Those pesky light stealers strike again!  You know the drill - the ones who take credit for all of the hard work and creativity and thought you put in.  It's human nature I guess.  There are those who are creators and those who are haters (haha).  The public face of pretending to know you and privately other things go on.

Sometimes I feel like the world is after me
Tryna get to me, tryna stop what I do
'Cos I'm the only one who looks out for me
Can be me and walk in my shoes

I wouldn't be so paranoid,  Even if the world is after you - just be prepared.  I wouldn't go so far as to keep looking over your shoulder, but have some plans in place so that if or when they try to you get you, or stop what you do - get them first, pre-empt what they will do.  So much emphasis on tactical manoeuvres and modus operandi - it becomes so intertwined that it's hard to tell the difference between what is genuine and what isn't.

Everyday there's somethin' that's new to me
I just gotta breathe, I don't know about you
But I'm the only one that looks out for me
Can be me and walk in my shoes

I totally agree with you.  Nobody can do you better than you.  
I wonder though, whether it would be a good idea to take off your shoes and let someone else at least attempt to try them on.

It ain't easy being Emily no,
But I don't wanna change my name
'Cos I ain't got to, I don't need to

I wouldn't change my name either.  There's something to be said about your name - the deeper meaning behind it, where it was gifted to you from and whether you would live up to someone's reputation if you're their namesake.  Conformity is designed to make you think that you are less than what you are - but don't go changing to please anybody (Billy Joel agrees with me on that one too).

See everyone's got their own problems
That they're goin through
I take it day by day, that's the only thing I can do
So I live for me, and you live for you
But you can't be me unless you walked in my shoes

Everybody hurts according to REM,  Everybody has their own private pain.
It's not a competition to see who is hurting the most and deserves the most sympathy.
But it is about understanding each other and spending time with each other to get to know what makes people unique, yet similar.  The universal truth is that we are all the same.  We see a shift here in the lyrics from earlier in the song where nobody else could walk in your shoes to - well - unless someone walked in your shoes - only then can they be you.

I hear you trying on the shoes now and trying to walk in them.
The steady tap tapping of your footsteps on the pavement. . .

Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk
Walk in my shoes,
Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk,
Walk in my shoes
You gon' do you and I'ma do me. . .

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

You don't have to try so hard. . .

Colbie Caillat's Try is a beautiful reminder of a woman's inner beauty.
A reminder that we don't need to add things, superficial layers that mask who we are because society demands it (indirectly and directly) and we feel the pressure to conform.

Put your make up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim so they like you, do they like you?

It is important to be able to relate to people.  Understanding the social cues that come with meeting new people, networking with potential customers in your line of work, it is natural that you get judged on your physical appearance and how well you've physically put yourself together i.e. clothes, hair, makeup, aesthetically pleasing build.  It gives weight to the old adage of 'first impressions last'.

You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

I believe that you don't have to try so hard to fit in with people, in the way that you are trying so hard to be more like them and lose who you really are.  It reminds me of Jim Cummins' references to bilingualism and second language learners - the ideas about being subtractive and additive - the removal of your own heritage language when you are learning how to speak English. You don't have to give it all away.

You don't have to try so hard 
You don't have to bend until you break
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing

You can often feel that constant bending in your life at crucial points.  Constant bending can lead you to break, lead you to breaking point, even multiple breaking points.  Sometimes a good cry or doing something therapeutic can heal you and restore your "inner you".  I think for myself with the constant bending, an action that you do when you are continually picking up the pieces of other people's messes or catching whatever they're dropping in the nick of time - it can mean that the constant bending builds up not only your muscle mass but it also increases your levels of resilience and helps shed dead weight as well.

I won't change anything to be too far removed from who I really am.
The only thing I will change is to always bring out the best of me - all the time.

Wait a second
Why should you care what they think of you?
When you're all alone, by yourself?
Do you like you?  Do you like you?

Thanks for asking +Colbie Caillat.
Try reminds me, that I do like me :-)

No one wants to be defeated. . .

They told him don't you ever come around here
Don't wanna see your face you better disappear
The fire's in their eyes and their words are really clear
So Beat It, Just Beat It. . .

I'm not advocating for gang violence.  This isn't the motivation for the selection of this song for today's blog post. I'm honouring a song request for Beat It by Michael Jackson from my brother in Prairievale, Fairfield City, NSW, Australia.

It's always a difficult situation to be in and you often wonder how do you handle it?
How do you handle being met with threats when your presence is not wanted or needed? (this excludes  being legally required to be there, the other party wouldn't have a choice)

When you are made to feel unwelcome, you might think - did I do something to offend that person?
You might go through your internal movie reel in your mind to try to retrace your steps to pinpoint the specific actions that has caused the situation.  Is it your fault, is it that other person's fault?  Whose fault is it?  Is there anybody at fault?  Is finding someone to blame going to solve the problem?

If you are intent on being tough - "beating it" may not be the answer to the problem.  Would you be prepared to stick it out and hang in there - maybe even try to reason with that other person. . .

You better run, you better do what you can
Don't wanna see no blood, don't be a macho man
You wanna be tough, better do what you can
So beat it, but you wanna be bad

But that's externally - but what about internally?
This verse makes me think about an internal dialogue with yourself, when you're feeling unsure in a situation so you're thinking about what it is you're going to decide - the duality of a situation and weighing up the pros and cons.  It's the classic 'should I stay' or 'should I go' - thinking about the consequences of your words and actions - will it inflame or deflate?

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated
Showin' how funky strong is your fight
It' doesn't matter who's wrong or right
Just beat it, beat it,
Beat it, beat it, beat it. . .

Whatever you decide to do - back yourself.
The only things that should 'beat it' is the uncertainty and doubt that rob you of a life worth living.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

When will my reflection show who I am inside. . .

When I first watched Disney's "Mulan" I didn't think at the time how much of an effect the song Reflection would have on me.  This track in my Spotify playlist "ManuScript" is taken directly from the movie version performed by Lea Salonga.

At the time, the sentiments of the song resonated with me, especially the part about playing a role that people expected me to play.  In some instances it was me trying to please everybody around me and making me think quite critically (and reflectively) about what people wanted me to do to make their lives better, at most likely the expense of me living my own life.

In Pasifika circles - these ideas sound selfish, self-centred and egotistical, because social norms in Pasifika circles dictate (actively promote is probably a better turn of phrase) that whatever actions, thoughts and words we say, do and feel - are representative of who we represent.

Look at me 
I will never pass for a perfect bride
Or the perfect daughter
Can it be 
I'm not meant to play this part?

The ideas that we have these defined roles based on the nature of our relationships - who we are to people - how we are connected - and the expectations at which we meet said roles, is an ongoing daily demand of our living.  Mulan understands the huge pressure of trying to be someone that she isn't - the type of girl that can be a wife for someone, or a child that brings honour to her family.

Now I see 
That if I were truly to be myself
I would break my family's heart

The idea that you can't live up to your family's expectation is not a new theme in today's society or in cultures alike.  The idea that your parents always want the best for you and may have even planned our your future for you right down to the details of you taking on the family business or profession - whether you have been consulted or not - have often been the cause of family disagreements and even estrangement.

Who is that girl I see?
Staring straight back at me?
Why is my reflection someone I don't know?

The realisation point when you finally admit to yourself that even though you dress up in the roles that have been defined for you - it doesn't truly feed your soul, your passion, nowhere near transforming your state of being from existing to living - this is when you can't reconcile what and how you are thinking - with the way that you look.  You want your outside to match your inside.  But more importantly - you want the world around you - both local and global - to see you and know you - for what you have chosen to be.

Somehow I cannot hide, who I am, though I've tried
When will my reflection show who I am inside?
When will my reflection show who I am inside?

Moral of the story:  Once you are comfortable in your skin - once your outside has matched your inside - only you will be able to "own" who you are.  The outside will automatically reflect the inside that you have always been, but people have failed to see.  I hope people will be able to see the real you - no need to hide anymore.