Born in Tahiti, Carole & Florent ATEM are two young performers whose achievements so far have already made pretty well-known on the Tahitian music scene. Florent has been playing the guitar since 1993 and has been compared to many of the world’s leading guitarists. He has recently had the honour to get in touch with electric guitar phenomenon Michael Angelo who praised both his playing and songwriting. His sister, Carole, began playing the piano in 1991 and is also gifted with a delicate yet powerful voice. Equally at home playing easy listening ballads, island style music, heavy rock tunes or fiery jazz/rock fusion improvisations, the two siblings have already released four albums and both perform together regularly in Tahiti and also in Hawaii, during the holidays.
Carole started playing the piano at the age of 8, and began singing in 1997, taking vocal lessons from a well-known Hawaiian singer, Melveen Leed, before eventually attending the famous Musicians Institute (MI) in Hollywood, in the Vocal Institute of Technology (VIT) section in July and August ’97. Her brother Florent started strumming the guitar in 1993, digesting the information he got from a former GIT graduate. He, too, attended the same Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT) at Musicians Institute, in July and August ’97. Beside playing the guitar, Florent has been singing since 1997 and also plays bass and drums.
Carole and Florent made their first public appearance in 1996 in front of some 3,000 people at the Toere Rock, which used to be an annual music festival in Tahiti. It was also in 1996 that – at the age of 16 and 13 – they recorded their first album in Hawaii with the great Bob St John, whose engineering skills owed him to work with the likes of Prince, Extreme, Baby Animals, or even Metallica in their first years, and many others, when he used to live in Los Angeles. Carole & Florent’s collaboration with Bob St John resulted in the release of Southern Cross, a critically acclaimed collection of eleven jazz/rock fusion instrumental guitar compositions by Florent. In 1997, the two young musicians were awarded a “Special Prize” at the Heiva Upa Rau (the local equivalent for the Grammy Awards). As for Florent, he won the “Youngest Songwriter” award. The album was also very well-received by the Hawaiian critics as can be read in John Berger’s review published in The Honolulu Star-Bulletin on December 13th, 1996.
A couple of days after the Kapono concert in Tahiti, Florent got an offer from none other than Joe Satriani’s producer and engineer, John Cuniberti, who expressed interest in working on a project with the Tahitian duo. Carole and Florent thus flew to California in July ’03 to cut a few tracks with Joe Satriani’s drummer Jeff Campitelli and bass guitar hero Michael Manring. The recordings took place at The Plant recording studio, a facility that has welcome artists such as Celine Dion, Mariah Carey,Carlos Santana, Stevie Wonder, John Lee Hooker, The Doobie Brothers, Metallica or guitar god Joe Satriani himself – whom the two Tahitian musicians got to meet at the studio, where he would start working on his new album a few weeks later. Carole and Florent went back to Sausalito in August ’04 to finish the recording of the album, again with Jeff Campitelli on drums but this time with Matt Bissonette on bass – in other words Joe Satriani’s rhythm section at that time. A collection of all-original material by Florent Atem, including both instrumental pieces as well as vocal tunes, Dreamtownwas produced by world-class producers John Cuniberti and Bob St John, became Florent Atem’s first solo record and enabled Carole and Florent to perform two highly successful shows in Tahiti with Jeff Campitelli and Michael Manring in June ’05. The two producers were also present on both nights.
From 1997 Carole and Florent decided to move on as artists and added a whole new dimension to their songwriting ability with the introduction of live vocals. However, preferring to take it step by step, it was with two cover tunes that they made their vocal debut in 1998, releasing a single CD featuring their renditions of Ku’u Home o Kahalu’u, the Hawaiian classic written by their friend Jerry Santos for his band – Olomana – as well as Words of Wisdom by Christopher Cross. The new CD was extremely well-received in Tahiti and won Carole and Florent a whole new audience, their videos being frequently airplayed in their home island but also in Hawaii on the local music channel, which also broadcast many of their concerts there. During the same year – in 1998 – they made a new appearance at the Heiva Upa Rau, this time as special guests, and in 1999 they were nominated in the “Contemporary Album Of The Year” category and again, they performed as special guests during the ceremony.
The July to August ’99 period has probably been Florent and Carole’s busiest stay in Hawaii with more than twenty performances in four weeks, appearances with Henry Kapono, Jerry Santos, John Cruz and others, several radio shows including an interview for Hawaii’s #1 radio station at the time and another for a Japanese station, broadcast live in Japan exclusively. Riding the same wave in the December ’99 to January ’00 period, they then performed for the Mayor of Honolulu, Jeremy Harris, and took part in a special music event for the transition to the year 2000, a year which was actually going to be a turning point in the two musicians’ artistic orientations.
Indeed, instead of going on with their CD-releasing routine, Florent and Carolebegan concentrating more and more on live playing in a brand-new context: back onto the Tahitian music scene, they started gigging with a new repertoire of compositions and cover tunes, mainly classics by The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, Carlos Santana,Toto or Extreme, etc., along with other songs by Joe Satriani, Steve Vai or Eric Johnson, which they had been playing for quiet a while. Again, pretty massive and steady live playing won them… a new audience, who seems to enjoy compositions as well as covers. In September ’02, as a logical consequence of their new musical orientation and to satisfy their fans’ requests, Carole & Florent released Favorites – their fourth album, which actually consists in a collection of the best cover tunes they play live. In 2003, Favorites was nominated for two awards including “Female Vocalist Of The Year”.
In July ’02, Carole and Florent shared the stage again with Henry Kapono in Hawaii – as they had been doing for the past few years – but this time as band members. The legendary Hawaiian singer indeed invited them to join his group whenever their schedule enables them to fly to Hawaii. About a year later – in May ’03 – Carole and Florent performed again with Henry Kapono but in Tahiti this time. Eagerly anticipated by all the Tahitian Kapono fans, who hadn’t seen him perform on their island for more than twenty years, the show was a great success and in fact gathered both Henry’s as well as Carole and Florent’s fans for an unforgettable evening. It was also just after this very special night that Carole and Florent’s musical career took a decisive turn.
In 2006, the Hawaiian Slack Key Kings guitar compilation, released in Hawaii and featuring Florent Atem’s original piece “Sacred Ground”, was nominated at the Grammy Awards for “Best Hawaiian Music Album”. Henry Kapono – whose band still featured Carole and Florent a year before – was also among the five nominees. By being nominated along with other great Hawaiian artists such as Jack Johnson or Ledward Ka’apana from the band Hui Ohana, Florent Atem became the first Tahitian to be nominated for the prestigious US music awards ceremony.
In 2008, Carole and Florent had the pleasure to welcome the amazing Michael Angelo Batio, with whom they had the honor to perform live in Tahiti. Voted the “n°1 shredder of all time” by the US press, Michael Angelo invented and was the world’s first player of the double guitar – a twin-necked, left and right-handed guitar. The concert was a huge success and Michael Angelo thus became the first instrumental rock/metal guitar player ever to perform in Tahiti with this event organized by the “A.P.E.A.TA.E.” – an association aiming at promoting cultural exchanges between artists from Tahiti and abroad, whose members include Carole and Florent.