Saturday, 28 February 2015

I'm good. . .

                                       This song is dedicated to Rhia Taonui and +Anaru White 

I'm been spending a lot of time with people; people I've known for a long time (over 20 years), people I've known for a few years (work and recent friends) and even people I've only met yesterday (like literally, yesterday).  What resonates for me in this song I'm Good by The Mowglis is the sense of positivity within yourself, because if you're good being you - then the world should be able to relate to you, interact with you positively too.  Of course there might be people that will put you down or try to make you doubt yourself - pay no mind and pay no heed to what they think and say. As long as you're good - that's all good.  The song is part of an anti-bullying movement.

Trying to figure out who I am
Or who I'm supposed to be
Feel good about where I stand
So I can make the most of me
I'm coming back down from space
A million miles away
There's a lot of love in this place
(Oh and I'm just trying to say)

It's been a long time living this way
Worrying what people say
Feeling like I won't fit in
But I won't give up, no I won't give in
We're looking for something more
It's been with you since you were born
Since you were born

It is important to feel a sense of belonging, to know that you have roots somewhere and that you know where you come from.  We all go through life searching for fulfilment, to explore new places and plant some more roots and lay another foundation.  It's a fundamental part of being human.  We are nurtured when we are young, then when we are old enough to venture out, we go and explore new and foreign frontiers - somewhere where our forefathers have never been or established, because the desire is within us to make our mark on the world.  Are you good with that?  I'm good with that.

You only live once 
I'm good with myself  
I'm there with my friends 
Till the very end

If you know that you're only going to live once (past lives and future lives aside) - the living in the 'now' is all the more important.  Making connections and building relationships with people (those people you trust and call friends), sharing that sense of loyalty - backing each other up, telling each other what they need to hear even when they don't want to know - just being there for each other no matter what.  I get the sense in the song that if you only live once, then make sure that you live your best life possible.

I wanna see another love revolution
Find a way to be a better person
If we come together like we should
We could all be good

It can be hard to work with difficult people who you naturally would not click with.  How do we get around this?  In situations like that, I become like water (which can be a challenge for me, being a fire sign and all) and I need to fluid and cool like water, and possibly tone myself down a bit so that I can be less dominant than the other person.  Leos are natural performers and super confident but we're willing to put all of that aside when we want to work together towards a common good.

I'm good, I'm good, I'm good, I'm good
Living life just like I should
Wouldn't change it if I could
I'm good, I'm good, I'm good

I hope that whatever stage of development you're in, with respect to finding something more in your life (I always consider myself a work in progress, final submission when I die y'all), that you reach a plane of goodness.  Live your life the way that you think you should.  Only change if you think that you it would make you the best person to be in the world - with others.  We can steer ourselves into the danger zone where we don't want to change, but we may end up hurting others.  So in the spirit of harmony and being true to living your purpose, live life like you should, because if we come together like we should, we could all be good. . . .

Friday, 27 February 2015

Natural high. . .

This blog post is a song recommendation from SimonToa Samoa

I had the pleasure of meeting +Peter-Clinton Foaese and a few of his friends, Simon and Sam at the recent ACE Aotearoa Hui Fono in Christchurch.  One of the things I like most about meeting new people is the conversation and trying to find some common links to keep a conversation flowing.  I don't like using the term 'small talk' because I think if you can connect with people instantly, pretty soon we starting having some 'big talk' or 'real talk'.  There was some big talk that happened that night - not enough to make it overly cumbersome to manage, but just enough to get a sense of the people you had just met and the way that they think and what they value.  Most of the time when I meet new people, it's because we are introduced by someone mutual who thinks we need to meet because we're on the same wavelength, there might be something I can help with or they can help me with, or there is nothing pre-meditated at all and that chance encounter might develop into a frequent occurrence.  

The conversation of the evening turned to music (ah one of my favourite subjects) and we talked about the types of songs that people and better song choices.  Simon mentioned Natural high by Bloodstone as a song to listen to - because of the smooth lead vocal, generally the way the song is put together (that's when we started talking about song writing).

The wailing guitar in the introduction is accented by the chimes before the bassline signals the snare leading in the vocals.  The song belongs to that category of not necessarily unrequited love songs (because it would mean that the object of your affection would know that you love them but choose not to reciprocate, but might string you along so that you could do what they wanted), but more that the object of your affection doesn't even know you exist.  

If you have anything to do
Call me and I will do it for you
And I don't even know you

If I only had one wish to give
That wish would be for you
To live forever and ever
When I see you on the street
My heart skips a beat

There is a shift in the lyrics where the singer makes promises about what they would like to do, to gain your favour, to be in with a chance to be loved in return.  The electric guitar solo during the musical interlude has some textural support from the horns and strings before the vocal re-enters. The tempo change at the end of the song gives some rhythmic variety before the bongos and bass draw everything to a close.  There's something about hearing bongos in the song that is symbolic of r'n'b and pop music of this era.

And I'll take to the sky on a natural high 
(I want to take to the sky)
Loving you more till the day that I die
(on a natural high)
Take to the sky on a natural high
(Loving you more and I don't know you)
Loving you more. . . 

I hope that if you're in the market (you know, ready to put yourself out there) to be in a relationship, or you have somebody in mind that it might pay to disclose how you feel.  You might have instances in your life where you have been the subject of unwanted love or affection - how did you deal with it?  If you have "the feels" for somebody, sometimes it's better to know if the feelings are reciprocated, or stay on your natural high and keep it to yourself. . .  because feelings can change as the seasons do. . .  so be sure I guess, if that's what you want to do. . . 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Lonely people. . .

This blog post is dedicated to the lonely people who don't want to be labelled lonely anymore. . . 

The funny thing about being a widow is that people automatically assume that since you've been married before, that you must always want to stay married.  Granted circumstances changed because you lost a loved one, but that doesn't mean that you're looking for a replacement for that loved one anytime soon.  The transition period, moving from grief into happiness again, or some semblance of happiness, takes time, a willingness to heal and the ability to be resilient and the desire to continue living, even if that means there is a void where once love stood.

This is for all the lonely people

Thinking that life has passed them by
Don't give up
Until you drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky

This is for all the single people
Thinking that life has left them dry
Don't give up
Until you drink from the silver cup
You never know until you try

Similarly for single people who are expected to find a partner to share their life with, they also face the challenge of society urging them to not be lonely - to quickly find a partner otherwise you are considered strange, inept at being in a relationships and incapable of passionate love outside the realms of platonic relationships with your friends or familial love with your blood relatives.

Well I'm on my way
Yes I'm back to stay
Well, I'm on my way back home

I think once you've come to that conclusion or you're content or have strengthened your resolve to appreciate that yes, I'm on my way back home from the journey of self-discovery - and I'm quite happy with one of the following choices:

1) being alone until being lonely prompts me to be with someone else
2) enjoying being alone and not actually feeling lonely at all because being with somebody right now is not a priority or 
3) taking life as it comes one day at a time and if meeting someone new somewhere, someday happens - just go with the flow.

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don't give up
Until you drink from the silver cup
She'll never take you down or
Never give you up
You'll never know until you try. . . 

I hope that you appreciate everything that life throws at you.
I definitely use every single negative experience as a learning journey - there must be something that I need to learn in order to strengthen my character.  Don't get me wrong, I'm as human as the next homosapien and there will be times when I will wallow in self-pity and rage against someone who has done me wrong for as long as I need to vent the hell out of the frustration from my system, but I am confident and courageous.  I will give anything a go and I will always try anything once. Life is meant to be lived, so excuse me while I go on living and walk past that crowd of lonely people that you insist on making me join. . . 

Family ties. . . .

The silky tones of Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams sang to us weekly in Aotearoa on an 80s TV sitcom called Family Ties.  I have fond memories of this show.  I found Michael J. Fox's portrayal of Alex P. Keaton a stunning tribute to young Republicans everywhere.  I would recognise his character in many young men I became friends with in school growing up.  (There are some adults I recognise with the same character traits too).  I loved the show so much that I even adopted Meredith Baxter-Birney's name as a middle name for myself.  I remember this because I would write her name over and over on my class exercise books when daydreaming about being part of the Keaton family.

I bet we've been together
And I bet we'll be together for a million more
It's like I started dreaming on the night we kissed
And I can't remember what I ever did before

Family sitcoms taught us about life in families - the good times, the bad times and opportunities for us to learn about each other and more importantly ourselves.  The opening bars are distinctive anywhere I hear it.  I often play 80s TV theme competitions with friends and this is by far the most popular TV theme in the mix. I guess it has to do something with the rhythm guitar motif strumming away and the percussion that plays the syncopated answer segment.  But the ending gets me every time - sha la la la.  They don't write good songs like this anymore, particularly TV themes where you can sing along and

What'll we do baby without us?
What'll we do baby without us?
What will we do baby without us?
And there aint no nothing we can't love each other through (ooh ooh)
What will we do baby without us?
Sha la la la. . . 

I hope that you make the most of your family ties.
There will be times when you wish that you weren't related to your own family and design your own life that doesn't include them in it.  You could be forgiven for doing that, especially if they are super demanding and have no real understanding of what your passions are in life and how they can support you.  If that's the case, then I hope you take some time out and spend time away from them so taht you miss them and learn to appreciate them.

For others, they've been away too long and have learned to get on with their lives without us. . . 

Reasons. . .

This blog post is dedicated to those who struggle to see the reasons for their lives. . . 

The reasons for my life are in a million faces
Like aching promises I feel them in my bones
Slipping through my fingers to dance upon the road
The reasons for my life are more than I can hold
But oh, the sweet delight to sing with all my might
To spark the inner light of wonder burning bright
You're not alone
You're not alone

There are increasing expectations and demands on our lives, probably more so now than ever before.  I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that as you're reading these words, that you are becoming more conscious of how things are panning out in your own life - reflecting on the reasons for your life.  Are you confident about what those reasons are?  How did you decide what the reasons for your life would be?  Did you have some help along on the way - did someone decide for you?  Are there expectations for you to fulfil obligations that were arranged before you were born - do you know what your destiny is?  Sometimes I think about how we don't know what our destiny is until we arrive there.  But I think about "there" being not a specific place but a pause in time - where you are just starting to become aware of what this knowing is - for the reasons of your life.

The reasons for my life are buried in deep places
Words once could awaken them
These seeds that I have sown
Ringing through the madness to crash against the cold
The reasons for my life cannot be bought or sold

You can choose to make the reasons for your life very explicit and tell the entire world about it.  You could also hold tight to those reasons until they become more apparent. once they come to fruition, once you've gained the confidence that those reasons will be realised in due course.  Those deep places that hold these reasons - are they safe there?  Who is saving those reasons for you?  Can you trust that those reasons will be protected, be defended and be revealed to those who would treasure the priceless worth of them?

The top note that Riperton sings consistently throughout the song speaks to me about the struggle that we face to maintain our focus on our path.  This note symbolises the focus we need to maintain our inner light burning bright in the face of people trying to snuff out that light.  Musically in the song it is most apparent in the guitar solo that plays before the voice blends in with its surroundings.

The reasons for my life are filling all the spaces
Like rushing waters flow, they carry me along
Twisting through my memory to pull free from the load
The reasons for my life are more than I was told. . . 

Even with the greatest insights in the world that are revealed to you - the only sure thing we know is that time will reveal what those reasons are for your life, how they have helped to shape and colour the experiences that you value in your life and in particular how you interact with other sin the world who will eventually come to rely on you fulfilling the purpose, the mission, the journey that only you can take.

I hope that despite any setbacks that are presented to you - no matter what people do to you to detract and distract you from the reasons in your life - that you continue to push on ahead, that you continue to forge that path forward because you will not be able to know in the fullness of time - what the reasons for your life are - except for you.  We can only be told so much - but ultimately the knowledge that we come to know and are awakened to in the knowing of those reasons, that is when you know that you have truly lived indeed.

So fill those spaces with the reasons for your life.
Fill those voids that people want you fill with the reasons for your life.
But ultimately never forget - the only commitment you have is to yourself and being present in the reasons for your life.  Don't let anybody or anything take that away from you make you second guess or doubt the reasons for your life - because if you allow them to do this - you will have unwittingly assisted them to fulfil the reason for their life - to ruin yours.

So it comes down to this.
The reasons for your life - are yours and yours alone. . . 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Life is a song worth singing. . .

This blog post is dedicated to +Natalie Faitala 

Next week our organisation is going on a retreat.  It's a great opportunity to meet all of the new staff, to bond with everyone from all over the country and get a sense of moving forward, together as a family.  One of the cool things about getting together in this way, is that there is of course the obligatory themed night that happens.  Apparently, one of those nights is 70s themed - disco night.  So in the spirit of preparing myself mentally (and physically, gotta find a damn costume!) I decided to focus on Teddy Pendergrass and his super motivational track Life is a song worth singing. 

Life is a song worth singing
Why don't you sing it?
Life is a song worth singing
Why don't you sing it?

You hold the key in the palm of your hand, use it
Don't blame your life on the master plan, change it

I guess the message I have for today is for all of the haters out there.
My friends (and I'm sure you have friends who say this too, you might even say it yourself, heck even me too), we all know - everybody knows someone who secretly hates on them and their achievements, hates on them because of who they are, what they can do, sometimes there is no legitimate reason.  The haters can hail from a range of places - whether they are family members, co-workers, acquaintances or strangers that troll the comment sections of news stories all ready to give their five cents worth of insults to fellow churchgoers, people that you socialise with at your local sports club, that guy that stole your carpark just as you were about to parallel park, or even that lady who takes the last free muffin at morning tea.  Where do these haters get off?  Why are they in our lives?  Why aren't they happy people?  And if their lives are miserable, why are they spending so much time and energy trying to replicate the process with your life?  Have they nothing else better to do?  I mean seriously??? 

Only you generate the power
To decide what to do with your life
You're a fool if you think you're helpless
You control what you do with your life

Don't like the way you're living, too bad
Can't change your life 'cause it's out of your hand, so sad

Questions marks aside, the only thing I can share with you my friends (and even the haters too, cos I know you're reading this but won't comment, share, like or retweet). everybody has the power to change their life.  Whether they decide to get up off their backsides and go hustle a life of their own and do something constructive with your life rather than ruin other people's - that would be really awesome (no sarcasm implied).  We could stop feeling helpless about our situations and put some goals in place to counter the negative strikes that people make towards us and just focus on "yourself".  The more that you focus on you, your happiness, your career, your family, anything that is remotely connected to you - the less time you have to focus on other people, like your chorus of haters who publicly say hi to your face and wave at you with a fake smile while in the same breath muttering and calling your names, yet still within earshot (and most likely with foul smelling breath, oh the stench).

So you sit on your pants and holler
'Cause the world ain't been treating you right
Don't you know you contain the power
To control destiny with your mind

I hope that my friends reading this have been able to have a little chuckle at my far-fetched comparisons and references to ridiculous examples of haters.  I hope you had a little dance to this song while reading this blog post.  I know I did some shoulder dancing while I was writing this.

This is the thing isn't it though really - upon further reflection, I've decided, we should be lucky if we have haters.  They exist solely to let us know - that we're doing something right.  Their job is to ensure that we will always be the topic of envy, we will always be the topic of conversation and we will always feature in every secret email that is bandied about the office but will eventually find its way inadvertently to your inbox (happened to me a long time ago, true story, those people are now no longer my friends, but probably feature quite strongly in the trenches of the hater camp).  

I hope that the haters reading this will consider a change of career.  The thing about being a hater is that it's a voluntary position - everybody knows that, it's unpaid work and it's a complete waste of time.  You'd be better off working on your skills and trying to be good at something (other than hating) to really make a go of your own life and being proud to look in the mirror and shucks, maybe even one day, you would become a friend instead. . . 

Moral of the story: You're better off being a friend,  cos I laugh in the faces of haters. . . 

If I ever lose my faith in you. . .

This blog post is dedicated to everybody who has ever lost faith in someone or something. . . 

You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my faith in the holy church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could all of this and worse but

If I ever lose my faith in you 
There'd be nothing left for me to do

There have been a series of events that have caused me to lose faith in so many things.  The tricky thing is trying to pull yourself from that precipice and end up tumbling from that cliff.  It seemed for a time that the only direction I could envision going was down - deep deep down in a downward spiral in a downturn in the most downtown lowdown dirty part of town.

The chorus of the song is only two lines, deceptively simple in structure, but loaded with so much meaning.  If I ever lose my faith in you, There'd be nothing left for me to do. Actually there would be something left for me to do, I wouldn't place my faith in you anymore.  I would stop trusting you, stop confiding in you, stop relying on you, because you have shown what it is not to trust, to not confide, and to not rely.  That's all there is left - nothing.

Some would say I was a lost man in a lost world
You could say I lost my faith in people on TV
You could say I've lost my belief in our politicians
They all seemed like game show hosts to me

I could be lost inside their lies without a trace
But every time I close my eyes I see your face

I've written about Sting in a previous blog post (see Fields of gold).  Even though I'm writing thism I have managed to restore my faith and my hope in myself and in humanity.  But to see the world the way it is being so lost, particularly when we have politicians who think that sending troops into war, even if it's only 143 (why that specific number?  and 143 soldiers is 143 more than the number I would've sent to fight in a war that isn't ours to fight).  They do look like game show hosts to me, because they're playing with people's lives here, people's families - people.  Don't tell me it's not easy to send soldiers into war, even if those soldiers say that it was what they are trained to do.  If you want to go to war - then why don't you lead then and send yourself.    

I never saw no miracle of science
That didn't go from a blessing to a curse 
I never saw no military solution
That didn't always end up as something worse but
Let me say this first

If I ever lose my faith in you 
There'd be nothing left for me to do

I guess we will have to wait and see whether particular decisions and courses of action help to make some shift or some positive difference.  Losing faith is something hard to reclaim, but I'm thankful that all it takes sometime is a for a little ray of hope to shine through in the darkest of situations to appear after that cataclysm - why do we wait for disaster to hit?  Why don't we take preventative measures anymore, but instead go into situations to exacerbate issues and make things worse?  It's definitely a case of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.  Those fools have pretty big clown shoes.  And you know what they say about people who wear big shoes. . .  they have big socks.

So even when I've lost faith in you, I can at least smile and remember that I have faith in me. . .

Monday, 23 February 2015

Right now. . .

I have loved Mary J. Blige since my teenage years.  I fell in love with two albums in particular - My Life (1994) and Share my world (1997).  She has always been the queen of hip hop/r'n'b for me with her honest songs that can lay the soul bare.  Probably what strikes me most about her is her continual evolution as an artist and there's nothing that she has produced that I haven't liked.  Her artistry is impeccable - her voice is versatile, featuring on dance tracks and some gut-wrenching ballads.  Today's track is Right now which I think is a perfect blend of a dance track with some gut wrenching lyrics - it's the best of both worlds for me.

You take from me
So why you holding back? Boy why you holding back?
So vacantly
But you won't get away with it, no, you won't get away with that

I've had enough betrayal in my time.
The thing about betrayal though, is that just when you think you recognise it for what it is, you don't see it coming the next time it rears its ugly head, so you don't realise until it's too late and then it feels like it bested you - yet again.  This can be particularly vexatious when you feel like you've figured out a game plan in your mind about how to avoid betrayal.  You might even have figured out the symptoms of it and put in mechanisms to avoid being put in such a position again.  But you know what, you can't do a damn thing.  And you know why?  Because this is how betrayal works.  It lulls you into a false sense of security, gaining your trust, until it does a Trojan horse on you and jumps out of nowhere.

They don't see what you do to me
From the outside
This cant be what it used to be
From the outside

I'm telling you right now, I'm telling you right now
No, I won't play this game with you
I'm taking it back now, I'm turning it right round
My love won't be the same for you anymore
My love won't be the same for you anymore

The other thing about betrayal is that the betrayer is like a master ninja who moves with stealth.  They have multiple identities and is really good at either playing the fool, playing dumb or a combination of these traits to mask what their actual intentions are underneath.  They portray a public image, a facade that nobody sees because they are masters of disguise and very good at flying below the radar - doing just enough to be detected as being congenial and doing so little so that they actually don't help you with anything.

Don't wait for me
When you know you did me wrong, I've been holding on too long
I'll mend the heart

The heart will heal in time.  In friendship in particular, betrayal can be hard because you will find it hard to trust people again and know how to socialise with people again.  The greatest betrayals in your life will likely come from people that you least expected, it might come from people who you've invested time and energy in, thinking that they respected what you had to share and celebrated the good times with you.  But things inevitably come to a head when the betrayer decides they have had enough of your success and doesn't quite know how to deal with your success, with the recognition that you're getting, because they want the same.  Sadly, betrayers need to understand that they can't be famous by associating themselves with you - the world eventually sees through their artificial layers of lies.  So what can you do?  The best revenge is as follows:
No, never gonna give you the time
No, never gonna give you the time
No, never gonna give you the time
No, never gonna give you the time. . . 

I won't back down. . .

I first came across Tom Petty in 1989 with one of his solo albums Full Moon Fever.  I wasn't aware that he had enjoyed previous success as Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers until I listened to more of their music as an adult.  He produced music around the same time as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger. Today's track is I won't back down.

Well I won't back down, no I won't back down
You could stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won't back down

There will be moments in your life where you will need to dig your heels in and stand up for yourself.  You might be reluctant to do at first, particularly when you are not in the habit of doing so but purely for the fact that you will probably have to stand up for yourself and not back down, all by yourself.  Even with the threat of imminent danger, you would be willing to face your enemy or a challenge head on and rage against the wind (or the machine) and be prepared to watch the chips fall where they may.  I wonder what you will find once the dust starts to settle again?  Will you still be standing tall, standing your ground and not backing down?

Gonna stand my ground, won't be turned around
And I'll keep this world from dragging me down
Gonna stand my ground and I won't back down

Hey baby, there ain't no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won't back down

There's nothing worse than coming face to face with your deepest darkest fears.  They could take the shape of another human being or another force equally difficult to be reckoned with - but we all know that this is a necessary part of you growing in strength and character - it is a necessary rite of passage.   There is no easy way out when it comes to those pivotal moments - so why try to run away?  Everyone knows once you start to run, you'll be running for the rest of your life - or you could end up being a professional runner with all of that running that you're doing.   

Well I know what's right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin' me around
But I'll stand my ground and I won't back down

Everyone knows what's right for themselves.  I may not necessarily agree with people on how they choose to see things but I'm fine to agree to disagree.  One pet peeve I have noticed rising to the surface a bit more lately, has been other people's penchant to argue, for the sake of arguing - but there is no point to the debate or argument in question.  There is a purpose to everything and I find myself having little patience for people who can't explain the purpose of a debate or an argument - where there needn't be one.  So it begs the question - why are we arguing?  And why should I back down to you when you're constantly trying to push me around, when I've done nothing but be supportive and nurturing?  

Hey baby, there ain't no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won't back down
No, I won't back down. . . 

So for the record, if you're being pushed around, stand your ground.
I for one will not be prepared to back down, especially when situations or occasions call for me to stand my ground.  How I know it's time to stand my ground?  There comes a point when a woman decides - you know what - well I know what's right, I got just one life. . . 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Pule aoao le Atua (Mo'omo'oga alofa). . .

This blog post is dedicated to the memory of +Faimai Tuimauga 

I received some news that a great Samoan mother had gone to meet her Maker yesterday morning.  
A staunch advocate of Gagana Samoa (Samoan language) I knew that I had to pay tribute to her and that only a Samoan song would be a fitting way to acknowledge her work and say goodbye, so I chose Tiama'a and their beautiful pese Pule aoao le Atua (Mo'omo'oga alofa).

O matou mo'omo'oga alofa, 
Faimai ea leaga oe ua e sola
O ā nei ola, ua fa'aletonu
Talofa e, le uo sa fai toatolu

A e alu ea i luga?

Ae tia'i matou lau faigata
Se vaaia ua faanoanoa ai loto
Faimai ea pe toe sau ea se po?

I had the pleasure of working alongside Faimai Tuimauga on the Ministry of Education Northern Regional Pasifika Advisory Group between 2008 - 2012.  She was there to represent Early Childhood Education.  I was there to represent the Secondary sector as I was on the Komiti Pasifika of NZPPTA.  Over this period of time, I had the pleasure of sharing many laughs with this phenomenal woman.  If she didn't greet me with a kiss on the cheek or a huge bear hug, it would be a slap on the arm and a question about when I was going to have children.  In a world where honesty was becoming increasingly hard to come by, I could always rely on Faimai to always tell me the truth.

Ulufafo ae faafefea ea
La tatou Faimai ua e avea
Ua mamafa lenei avega
Ua leai nei saga toe aupega

A e alu ea i luga?
Ae tia'i matou lau faigata
Se vaaia ua faanoanoa i loto
Faimai ea pe toe sau ea se po?

I would run into Faimai at other Samoan or Pasifika events around Auckland.  It would most often be for Pasifika education events or for EFKS church events as we belonged to the same denomination, but different branch.  Every time she gave an opinion from her perspective, it was always with passion and a desire for the best outcomes for Pasifika learners.  She was also an advocate for Pasifika parents and championed the presence of Pasifika parents to be more involved in their children's level through greater participation in ECE services.  For secondary school Pasifika parents - she did one better, and translated a book that explained and unpacked NCEA for Samoan parents.  This great achievement is seen below with Mangere MP Su'a William Sio clutching the book that Faimai is responsible for producing.

Ulufale o mea lelei
U'u ia le alu nu'u lelei
Ofu ea le onosa'i
Faimai ia tatou feiloai ia le lagi

A e alu ea i luga?
Ae tia'i matou lau faigata
Se vaaia ua faanoanoa i loto
Faimai ea pe toe sau ea se po?

Faimai's most recent achievement was being honoured at last year's Queen's Birthday Honours, where she received an Honorary Queen's Service Medal for her contributions to the Pacific community and  education.  A stalwart of the preservation, maintenance and continuation of Gagana Samoa (Samoan language), Faimai always spoke about the importance of making provisions available for children to be able to learn their heritage languages.  This is still a vision that needs to stay at the forefront for Pasifika education if we want to never lose sight of our identity.  

Faimai ea pe toe sau ea se po?

I know we won't see you anymore, in all of the places that we have become accustomed to seeing you - advocating for our people.  I know you won't return to us in the evening, come back to us at night sometime as this final line of the song suggests.  But I will be thankful and forever grateful for the work that you have done for us.  We know we must carry it on and build on your legacy.

Manuia lou malaga Faimai.
Alofa tele atu ia Laine, Peter ma Loma.

Someday we'll all be free. . .

This blog post is dedicated to +Kanoa Lloyd 

Kanoa Lloyd has been the target of some negative feedback recently about her insistence on using te reo Māori in her work.  She frequently uses Māori kupu (Māori words) when referring to place names in TV3 weather reports.  The complaints have come from Radio New Zealand viewers (which I find hilarious as wouldn't you be a listener and not a viewer of a radio stations?)  Semantics aside, I have a bone to pick with Radio NZ anyway when a few years back they chose to broadcast snippets of music that I had written without my permission.  But this post isn't about me or Radio NZ.

It's about Kanoa Lloyd.

I don't know Kanoa personally, I've never had the pleasure of meeting her.
I am familiar with her TV work when she was a presenter on Sticky TV.  

When I thought about the criticism she was receiving for using te reo Māori in her work, I sent her a message on Twitter to tell her that I would be writing a blog post and that I was dedicating it to her.
Donny Hathaway's beautiful track Someday we'll all be free sprang to mind when I was thinking of a song to write through.

Hang on to the world as it spins around
Just don't let the spin hold you down
Think of moving fast
Hold on tight and you will last 

Don't worry about the media Kanoa.  It's a funny situation because they are the vehicle through which we hear (or see), learn about what's going on in our world.  I feel sorry for those Radio NZ viewers who can't see the relevance of the use of te reo Māori in weather reports.  You would think that slipping in those kupu would help to "normalise" the use of one of Aotearoa's three official languages (including English and NZ Sign Language).  I wonder if Radio NZ viewers would take offence if we changed the title Radio Aotearoa.  Personally, I think if it's acceptable to have a Māori version of the national anthem, the prevalent use of the haka before every sports game, then why worry about the use of Ika-a-Maui and Waipounamu.  Utterly ridiculous.

Give your self respect, your manly pride
Get yourself in gear
Keep your stride
Never mind your fears
Brighter days will soon be here
Take it from me, someday we'll all be free, yeah

Keep on walking tall
Hold your head up high
Lay your dreams right up to the sky
Sing your greatest song
And you'll keep going, going on

Rather than manly pride, I would say hold onto your womanly pride.
You have done nothing wrong and if anything, I hope that someday we will all be free to use te reo Māori openly without criticism.  It's not a difficult language to learn and I wish non-Māori would appreciate how beautiful it sounds.  We learned waiata and kupu all through primary school, we grew up understanding that it is a reo that we must honour.

I'm not Māori.  I'm Samoan, born in Aotearoa, but always acknowledge my place in this land, rich in its history and understanding the importance of acknowledging the tapestry of its identity, language and culture.

Take it from me, someday we'll all be free
Hey just wait and see, someday we'll all be free, yeah
Take it from me, someday we'll all be free
It won't be long, take it from me, someday we'll all be free
Take it from me, take it from me, take it from me. . . 

Thank you Kanoa for honouring the indigenous language of this land.
It encourages me as a non-Māori to seek better ways of supporting te reo Māori in all that I do - in my work with Māori learners, Māori kaiako, tumuaki, kainga, hapu and iwi.

Someday we'll all be free to not know how "wrong" it is to express what being Māori means in the way it is meant to be intended - in an embracing, loving and respectful way.

Kia ora Kanoa,
Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui :-)

Only when I'm dreaming. . .

Birds sing out of tune, songs with no refrain
Nested in purple trees, nothing seems to rhyme

Only when I'm dreaming
Is there harmony and meaning
Only when I'm dreaming with you

It's strange when you think about how your environment seems out of sync with what's going on in your mind.  When you look at things in your physical world, it's almost as if your eyes can't quite process what it is seeing, so your mind can't make sense of the messages that are relayed to your mind's eye.  The feeling of recognition and appreciation, particularly of someone that you care about, manifests itself in how your eyes light up when they enter the room or enter your line of vision. Being aware of visual cues, being open to how you can connect with the opportunities to interpret what you're seeing, allows you to continue to make sense and create knowledge.

So what happens when you have dreams?  When your physical world doesn't give you the same harmony or meaning, it's no wonder people value sleep so much (as well as it being a great way to lose weight - having enough sleep!) but everyone knows that your dreams tell you things that your conscious mind, might not dare say out loud.

Empty hour glass, running out of time
Yesterday is here
Now will never pass

Only when I'm dreaming
Is there harmony and meaning
I am only dreaming when I'm deeper in the arms
The arms of love
The arms of love

I love the instrumentation in this song, the way it comes together in the composition.  It is understated and comes across as fairly simple but you can't escape the flawlessness of Ripperton's vocal range.  I can imagine that she would've been a great musical influence for Mariah Carey for the range alone.
The bossanova beat helps to keep the song humming along at an easy shuffle before the horns play a more prominent role in this section of the song - particularly through the adventurous background vodals

Birds are now in tune
Since I'm with you
Songs have sweet refrain
Since I'm with you

I hope that whoever you spend time with, that you enjoy that time together.  Albeit briefly, as we don't know how much time we have on this earth, it certainly gives rise to the notion that, if you like the conversations and getting to know someone - don't overcomplicate it.  Enjoy it for what it is and don't get bogged down with labels or society's penchant for seeing you labelled because it's all about what makes sense for them - rather than what makes sense for you.

There will be the rare moments when the very things that happen only when I'm dreaming happen when I'm also awake. . .

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Home again. . .

This blog post is dedicated to people who are trying to get back home again

Elton John gives a total performance from beginning to end in Home Again. 
As a pianist, I enjoy listening to the touch of his hands on the piano, it's something that all pianists listen to when they hear a pianist play.  You can tell a lot about a person's technique and style of playing by the way they touch the piano.  You can tell even more by how they interact with the keys when they sing with the piano.  I've never been a fan of pianists that play too much ornamentation that detracts from the melody and provides no balance to the piece.  For me it's all about the dynamics, rather than the bass.

I'm counting on a memory to get me out of here
I'm waiting for the fog around this spooky little town to clear
All this time I've spent being someone else's friend
Just for one more time, for old time's sake I'd like to go back home again

Do you find yourself awaking from your reverie?  That dream-filled sleep where you thought the life you were living was exactly what you set out to live - but now understand, you must now set out to leave and go home again?  It can be a gradual realisation to come to this conclusion and I understand, it must not have been an easy one to make.  I often wonder if that might happen to me someday, when I am so far from home that I suddenly snap out of the perfect life that was actually a mirage.  Would I have the strength to go home again?  Even I returned home, what would I find and who would greet me?

The world had seven wonders once upon a time
It's sure enough the favored nations aided their decline
And all around me I've seen times like it was back when
But like back then, I'd say amen if I could get back again

There are some instances where the past is a good thing.  Where we tend to look at the situations of the now as being so far removed from the perceived simplicity and beauty of our past, that we spend our time reminiscing so much about the good 'ole days.  If the world no longer has these seven wonders - why is that?  What happened to cause the decline of the greatest wonders that we were meant to enjoy for eternity?  Does this mean that things don't last forever after all?  Even objects as significant as the seven wonders?

Could have been a jailbreak and spotlight hitting me
Or was I just some nightclub singer, back in 1963
In the old part of Valencia, on the coast of Spain
Never tiring once of hearing songs about going home again

Ah the memories of songs that remind you of home.  When you hear those songs, does it make you want to return home?  When I'm away from home, I often hear songs that make me think about how much I miss home and the people in it.  Beyond the home and the people in it, my mind wanders above the home and stretches across the ocean to another home where my ancestors come from and more songs rise up to meet my mind wandering in the night sky, as if to meet the stars of my ancestors who patrol the darkness that I look up into.  And above that sky, I think about another home that I hope to live in one day and rejoin those people that have gone before me, my loved ones whose memories I keep locked in my heart and in my mind, and how I take out and think about, play back movies in my mind's eye and smile about when nobody is watching.  This is why I never tire once of hearing songs about going home again.  I have so many homes to choose from. . .  

If I could go back home, if I could go back home
If I'd never left, I'd never have known
We all dream of leaving, but wind up in the end
Spending all our time trying to get back home again. . .  

I hope that one day, you will be brave and come home.
I hope that one day you will come home before it is too late and find nobody there to greet you.
I hope that one day you will realise that the home that you were so quick to leave, has been the place you have been searching for the whole time.

Come home again. . .

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Leave right now. . .

This blog post is an open letter dedicated to my past a.k.a. Mr. Past. . . 

I'm here just like I said
Though it's breaking every rule I've ever made
My racing heart is just the same
Why make it strong to break it once again?
And I'd love to say I do
Give everything to you
But I can never now be true
So I say. . . 

I don't know why you insist on showing up.  I didn't ask you to.  I thought we had sorted things out and we were moving forward.  But I think if you've come around again, there must be some sort of unfinished business that needs to be taken care of, or something else that needs to resolved.

I guess that's the luxury that you have over everyone don't you Mr. Past.  You show up unannounced, at the most inopportune times when everyone least expects it.  I guess it's hard for us to let bygones be bygones when you keep showing up in this way.  You've said yourself you can't be true, that's why I need to leave you behind where you belong.

I think I better leave right now
Before I fall any deeper
I think I better leave right now
Feeling weaker and weaker
Somebody better show me out
Before I fall any deeper
I think I'd better leave right now

I mean, if you can't give me everything then why insist on staying?  You can't do anything anyway because we're no longer in your time, we're in the now.  The thing about being in the now is that the actions we take will inform what our future looks like.  I guess spending time with you has lead me to today anyway. . .  gees I haven't thought about it that way before. . .

I'm here so please explain
Why you're opening a healing wound again
I'm a little more careful
Perhaps it shows
But if I lose the highs, at least I'm spared the lows

Now I tremble in your arms
What could be the harm
To feel my spirit calm
So I say. . . 

Woah, hang on there.  I didn't open your healing wounds.  It's the other way around.
You being here is threatening to open some healing wounds that leaving you behind allowed me to do.  You're the one who owes me a lot Mr. Past.  You may be in my history, but your memory isn't long term (which is quite ironic, considering the past is your forte and all that).  How can you have forgotten the destruction you've caused?  Did you expect to show up and see me broken and still on the floor?

I've thought long and hard about you Mr. Past.  If you choose to stay and linger then there's some things that you need to face.  If you're here because you need me to give you some clarity in choosing the path forward, then that's totally cool.  But you need to know you don't belong here.  You don't belong in the now.  The only thing I'm prepared to offer you is the truth; which is more than what I can say for the lies that you perpetuated in the past.  I don't think it's your place to stay here, you've overstayed your welcome.

I wouldn't know how to say
How good it feels seeing you today
I see you've got your smile back 
Like you say you're right on track
But you may never know why
Once bitten twice shy
If I'm proud perhaps I should explain
I couldn't bear to lose you again. . . 

So thanks for stopping by Mr. Past.  Don't get me wrong, there have been some great times with you too.  But I think you have served your purpose at this time.  I won't forget you though.  You've taught me a lot about myself and the person that looks in the mirror.  I've become more confident in who I am and where I'm heading.  You can't hold me back though, because I don't belong in the past - but you do though, it's where you're meant to be.  So let me just say, thanks for loving me, even through all of the bad and the ugly too - because it made me strong.

I hope that you understand that you need to lose me again, because this is the closure that you need to have.  Thanks for the memories again Mr. Past.  If I ever need to visit you again, I can revisit those memories in my mind and I'll know that's where I'll find you.

I've got my smile back and I can't let you steal that away from me. . . so you better leave right now. . . 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Ooh child. . .

The Five Stairsteps released this single in 1970.  The song although it seems quite simple in its construction, is a testament of the power of music, in that it has been covered by so many artists since its release - including Dusty Springfield, Hall and Oates and Kelly Rowland.  It has been sampled by both R. Kelly in Bump 'n' Grind and by Joe at the beginning of Better Days.  

Ooh-oo child, things are gonna get easier
Ooh-oo child, things will get brighter
Ooh-oo child, things are gonna get easier
Ooh-oo child, things will get brighter

It is human nature to completely lose the plot sometimes and scream out loud about how life is unfair - we've all been guilty of that.  Others might see it as being self-indulgent, others might see it as you reaching your breaking point.  I see it as - you know what - you're allowed to release that frustration and channel that futility into whatever emotion suits you best (for me it's anger, gut-wrenching sadness, followed by a return to happiness).

You can't get past the overwhelming sense of hope that emanates from this song.  I mean, it's a soft soul classic, it's been through so many treatments over the years and one thing that hasn't aged over time - is the need for mankind to hold onto that hope - especially in times when you need it the most and you're in danger of losing hope altogether.

Some day yeah, 
We'll get it together and we'll get it done
Some day
When your head is much lighter
Some day yeah
We'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun
Some day
When the world is much brighter

Songs such as these, particularly with the music that may across as deceptively simple and easy to play - hides the fact that the way in which it all combines together in a cohesive fashion, is probably what appeals to me most of all.  The drumming in this song is fantastic.  The drum patterns and drum fills almost seem like they encourage people to stand up and march on, to carry on regardless of the situation that you are in, as the drum fills become more complex as the song progresses.  The trumpets play motifs that appear more prominently in the chorus, while the bass guitar accompanies the opening female vocal in the first verse.  The drums become more prominent in the second verse when a male vocal takes over.

I hope that you continue to have hope in your world.
Hope is much easier to have when your head is much lighter. . . 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Suamalie / I Ain't Mad At You. . .

This blog post is dedicated to +Anthony Faitaua 

Tha Feelstyle burst onto the scene in 2004 with this very important track.  It's important because it  enjoyed funding from NZ on Air at the time of its release (but that's not what makes it important) and as one reviewer rightly pointed out, not since the release of Moana and the Moahunters (now Moana and The Tribe) had funding been provided to an artist for a non-English single release.  As a practising ethnomusicologist, the importance of indigenous languages featured in music is a huge plus for me :-)  Feelstyle's new album is in the process of launching.  No doubt he will be eligible for the Pacific Music Awards as entries close on Monday 16th February in Aotearoa - an opportunity for Pacific Island musicians to have their music celebrated.

The track talks about things that are "sweet" or suamalie in not only the Samoan way of life - fa'aSamoa - but Feelstyle also hints at the development of music, evolving out of the traditional music that our Samoan elders and chiefs still hold close to their hearts and revere, due to the rise of technology (but also Western influence as well).

What I like most about the track is his flow, his commentary on how he positions himself as an MC, the activities he involves himself as well trying to convince a woman that he must be seeing (who suspects he is cheating), but the situation is quickly rectified when he assuages her by saying that the other woman is in fact, his sister.  These references feel like they are tongue-in-cheek but refer to the casual way of life, that carefree way of living that diaspora communities assume the motherland to have.

Samoa silasila o le a faafiafia le faaili lauiloa DJ Raw. FeelstyleSuamalie pea mea uma ilaila
Silasila emoemo mai pea ole uila
Matagi afa ma timuga ou te le ila
E le mafaia ona e mafaia musika
Faatalia lava oukou ma ‘kou ika
Sei’a ave esi o’u kei e fa’asiva
Mumu mata pei ua loiloi masima
E o’ona ae suamalie pe a ila
Suamalie pei o teine o le teuila
Suga ‘aua fua ete ika o la’u sister
Suamalie nei ā mea uma e le’i pisa
Miki ma pasipasi mai i o’u lima
Ua e silafia ea - suga ete faia lava mea e oso ai lo’u valea
Ona ou tago lea e kalepe faapea
Kalepe mole auala kele minoi minoi mai
Musika le poipoi, suamalie lava pea mea uma
Auoi auoi o lo’u ma’oi
E na suga ea, sasa lou fika suga ea  

The verse seems to be centred on making a dig about the King Kapisi track Screems from the old plantation particularly in the red lines below.  There is criticism in the idea that when people overdo things, it can detract from any true meaning or genuine purpose.  There is still sweetness in the sight to behold when we eat, we can wrap it up like a cigarette, or there is still sweetness when it is fried, music for the mind.  There seems to be reference to there being no sweetness when you are premature in your approach, think of it as involving yourself too closely in matters that don't concern you.  

Suamalie mai pea le olioli
Ua olioli mea uma lava ile vaai
Suamalie foi le vaai pe a aai
Saisai pei ole pepa ta’ai
Se’e le faiai osooso fia ai
Fua ile fa’aosoosoga e agasala ai
Se vaai lou paopao ke’i ua moko ile kai
Tagi faafe’ai pusa apa kalu ai
Faifai pea faapea ou ke kea iai
Le laulaufaiva e vaai sau iai
Sōsō mai la’ia sau iai
Nofo i lalo sole pe ā e lē mafai
Siva mai sivasiva mai siva mai
A va’ava’ai mea leaga so’ona ai
Suamalie pea o ia pe ā falai
Musika mole fai’ai se’i tagai
Le a’ano ole ta’aloga ne’i pa’i le lē iai
Tago fua i ai, e le kaikai se

He also makes mention of women in the song, the nature of relationships with women, in particular the dynamics of heterosexual relationships, that despite all of the mistrust and possible philandering ways, that everything is sweet in the end.  You can almost be forgiven to harking to Beyonce's Drunk in love with the idea of the music being so sweet that you are drunk or intoxicated.

The music video gives the viewer a great introduction into the Samoan way of life, particularly with the discussion that Feelstyle has with the two chiefs about the old songs and the new songs.  It also highlights the importance of family and the different places that are of note to the artist.  It has been mentioned in a previous review at the time of release that the Samoa Tourism Board should've used this song to advertise Samoa to the rest of the globe.  It certainly achieved that status in Aotearoa.

E lafo maia le faiai ua le lava le onosai
(Sole) tago i luma ma totogi le fa’ifa’i ……..
(Sole) O ai sia teine foilole, suga suga, se ‘aua ete popole
E pau lava o a’u lava tala molemole
Maimoa mai ae se’i ou sasaga ile ofe
Gutu kopekope, ua la’ia a o sa’a le tini apa,
Tini apa ma-si se sasa
Suamalie pea mea uma (e a suga)
Suamalie pea mea uma (o le ā sasa)
Sa’asa’a mai loa ma lau pepa mo sau sapa
Suga, faasavili mai lou fika e fa’aala
La’ala’a mai fa’i ua vave mai kua
‘Aua se te sela, ne’i uma taamilosaga
Tuliususū pei o le polo ma kiki le pa faga
Tau i le ua le suamalie le musika
Pele faia mai male au fitafita

This final section shows a clever use of interweaving two completely different sections, much like how people try to do mashups on the internet, but this example succeeds where others have failed (and it's not intended to be a mashup).  The lyrics in this speech section make me laugh because they could be phrases that you would hear at a Samoan social or function when alcohol brings out "your mates" (I'm referring to your "inner friends", who once affected by the over-consumption of alcohol, tend to surface).

O le ā le mea?  O le ā mea ua e faapenā ai ou fela ā?
O oe ea, ua e fia tama leaga ā? Ā? 
Ua e fia tama leaga ma lou siva ā?
Ua e fia tama leaga ma lou la’ala’a ā? E fai faapenā a?
O le fia tama leaga ma le ula mai o lou kapa’a a?
Ia toe sasa mai le ta lipine, ia

I hope that you consider listening to more indigenous music in your part of the world, or music that actively uses the heritage language to showcase the music of the artist.  I am a proud advocate and fan of my own mother tongue - gagana Samoa.  I have endeavoured to always speak it in all traditional contexts and also use it in other work and social contexts that allow for the opportunities for this expression.  Even when people try to discourage the use of my language (or any indigenous language for that matter), I still hold strong to my language that defines me.

I ain't mad at you, you
I've got too much time to lose, wasting over you
I ain't mad at you, you
I ain't mad at you, you. . .