Well-known tattoo artist Manu Farrarons moved to Los Angeles over two years ago to work in one of the most popular tattoo studios in this Californian city. This son of the fenua currently exposes and highlights all the beauty of Polynesian tattooing. Here is an introduction.
“There, you have your grandmothers. Here, you have dance and travel. Is this what you were envisioning?” Sitting on a leather chair across from his client, Manu Farrarons, now over 40, places his color marker on his work table. In fluent English touched with a slight accent, this Polynesian tattoo artist takes the time to have a conversation before injecting the ink into Jessica’s ankle. She is an American ’Ori Tahiti dancer (’Ori Tahiti is traditional Tahitian dance).
This attractive 27 year-old didn’t hesitate to drive many miles to meet the person who would permanently ink her skin. She came all the way to Los Angeles from Anaheim where her dance group is based in order to receive a tattoo from this Polynesian artist whose unique style merges skill, grace and femininity. “I love his work. All that he does is unique and makes sense. He is a true artist,” she says while reclining on one of the chairs at the Royal Heritage Tattoo Shop. Like many others, she had to book almost five months beforehand in order to get her appointment.
Since his arrival in Los Angeles in 2015, Manu Farrarons’ schedule has not ever cleared up. This tattoo artist is booked several months in advance, so it is impossible to just get a walk-in tattoo. This is also the case with other artists in the shop, which is a true nest of American talent.
Talent for sale
Located at the corner of S. Crescent Heights Boulevard and W. 3rd Street in one of the hippest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Royal Heritage Tattoo is notorious in the U.S. for its renowned artists. Here, no one copies any work. Each tattoo is unique, each design is a work of art and each artist has a particular specialty. Manu Farrarons works with three other artists, most of whom are women. But not much impresses this Polynesian who stands out as the only one who tattoos free hand.
He does not use stencils and he draws directly onto the skin before tattooing. This expertise elicits the admiration of his colleagues, who despite their skills, do not create free hand tattoos. This capability is just one of the many qualities for which Manu was brought from Tahiti to work in this shop. Although Samoan tattoos have gained much popularity in California over the past few years as well as throughout the rest of the USA and the world due to certain celebrities sporting them, Polynesian tattooing is right on the heels of its Samoan cousin. “There was not yet a specialist in Tahitian or Marquesan tattoos although there was a demand. Ever since I moved here, it has been extremely successful. I try to bring a fresh twist with my personal touch.” From Europe, Africa and even French Polynesia…clients don’t hesitate to travel many miles and even cross oceans to receive a tattoo from Manu Farrarons, who learned from the Polynesian school of tattooing.
In front of an audience of students and professors, he spoke of the history of the practice of tattooing: missionary prohibition of tattooing in French Polynesia, tattoo revival during the 1980s and its evolution up until now. His Polynesian wife, bilingual after pursuing her studies in Australia, helped him write his presentation in correct English. When he arrived in Los Angeles, he brought her with him.
Today, the couple rents an apartment in Hollywood Hills, one of the most hip and coolest areas of Los Angeles. However, it is also one of the most artsy. A self-proclaimed art buff, Manu Farrarons loves to cruise around in his new car, a 1974 Malibu Classic, to stop at almost every street corner to contemplate the various sizes of murals that grace the walls of the city. “Art is everywhere here. It is in the streets, but also in the museums and numerous galleries. It inspires me,” the tattooist enthusiastically states, in constant awe at the quality of the art in L.A.
A quest to explore the United States
Passionate and curious, Manu Farrarons has felt like a fish in water in this city that is somewhat difficult to master due to its sheer immensity. Since Los Angeles is the second largest city after New York, it could very quickly bring on feelings of isolation. However, this tattooist has many resources. An artist at heart, he is also a seasoned musician. He is a bass player who particularly appreciates the music scene of this city that has seen the birth of stars and is still home to artists of international fame.
He loves to be carried away by the funk scene every Friday night at Rosalind’s Ethiopian Restaurant or to be taken away by the rock music held in the old Fonda Theater founded in 1920. So that he never misses any of the artistic events around town, Manu scours the LA Weekly, a free magazine over L.A. arts and culture. Even though he leads a rich and deep artistic life since his arrival in California, he has never lost his need for nature. “Here, there is so much space. You can drive anywhere. Last December, we left with other tattooist friends for the snow. It was amazing!” Southern and Northern California, Florida, Nevada…Manu regularly takes off with his wife on a quest to explore this enormous territory of the United States, always in his old Malibu.
The Polynesian school
After a career as a school teacher on the fenua (Tahitian word for the homeland—French Polynesia) where he lived for over 36 years, Manu Farrarons quickly swapped his pencil for a needle. Following a “pilgrimage” to the Bishop Museum in Hawaii in the 1990s to do research over Polynesian tattooing, this budding artist went back to Tahiti with articles translated from the famous 19th century German anthropologist Karl Von Den Steinen and Hardy and Hardy, an explorer couple. Their works over Polynesian tattooing, of which the most known is still the Marquesan tattoo, allowed him to revive it from the ashes.
Through discovering the richness of this type of tattooing, its symbols and their significance, Manu Farrarons developed a passion that is constantly expanding—to the point that he integrated Marquesan designs into the curriculum for his young students.
In 2003, he finally resigned his position as a school teacher in order to dedicate himself fulltime to tattooing. He took over his father Jordy’s tattoo shop, which was one of the first ones to open in Tahiti. Very quickly, he became successful. “I threw all my father’s designs in the trash, as he copied and pasted. I didn’t like this way of doing things. For me, tattooing must be unique to each individual because each tattoo tells that person’s story.” Manu found his own style and developed it. Once a client arrives, he/she tells Manu about an idea for the tattoo. They discuss it together since it is up to him, the artist, to design the tattoo. His way of doing things has inspired a good number of young Polynesian tattooists to come into Manu’s shop to learn from him before opening their own. With the arrival of social networks and his participation in several tattoo festivals, this artist gained an international reputation that led to the day he was offered a position in California.
Representative of Polynesian culture
Although he has been far away from his fenua, Manu Farrarons still remains a representative of Polynesian culture. First through tattooing, followed by his conversations with clients which arouse a sudden curiosity for the beauty of our islands, then through the transmittal of his knowledge. His in-depth expertise about Polynesian tattooing attracts university departments. Last April, the artist was invited to participate in a seminar over this type of tattooing held at California State University, Channel Islands in Camarillo, Ventura County.
Within a global context , mankind has irrevocably destroyed 20% the coral reefs over the past fifty years and 50% of the reefs are at risk within the next 20 years. French Polynesia is distinguished by its particularly resistant healthy reefs. Here, the effects of climate change are minimal and local pollution is under control.
With the exception of the Marquesas Islands, all of the islands in French Polynesia have coastal marine ecosystems that are almost exclusively comprised of coral. For biogeographical reasons, the abundance of reef species is certainly lower than in tropical regions situated more to the west of the Pacific. However, with close to 200 species of coral, 1200 species of fish, 1000 species of crustaceans and 2500 species of mollusks – to name the most common known groups – these ecosystems remain extremely rich compared to temperate zones. One square kilometer of coral reef contains a number of animal and plant species comparable to the entire coastal marine area of France or the state of California.
The most obvious role of a coral reef is to create a protective barrier around coastlines, allowing the development of human activities along the protected coastal plain. On a larger scale, the land mass of an atoll is entirely constructed of reef organisms. Without coral reefs, the atolls and their villages would simply not exist (there are 83 atolls in French Polynesia, of which 76 are located in the Tuamotu Islands). Besides, reefs create resources useful to mankind, like traditional fishing, aquaculture (i.e. pearl shells that produce Tahiti’s famous black pearl) and collecting ornamental fish popular among aquarists. Then of course, coastal landscapes and underwater reef paradises with warm clear water are ideal for visitors, which makes tourism the number one industry in the country. We now know how to evaluate the benefits of a natural system and call it “ecosystem services”. For instance, the total value of reef-generated products on the island of Moorea is estimated at $85 million per year (9 billion French Pacific Francs/74 million Euros). Beyond the financially quantifiable aspects, the reefs provide other valuable features deemed as non-use, such as the cultural, social, traditional and spiritual aspects practiced by the people who live there and who have depended upon the reef for many generations.
Cyclones, as well as coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci or taramea in Tahitian) are the two main factors that naturally control the state of coral reefs in our islands. Cyclones, which occur most frequently on the western edges of French Polynesia, randomly affect anything in their path, including reef coastlines exposed to the swells of the storm. The coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (taramea) can proliferate at quite an impressive rate (with two major phenomena observed since the late 1970s). They cause extensive damage that can attain the scale of an entire archipelago. The 76 atolls of the Tuamotu islands have somehow been spared from this type of invasion for reasons that are still unknown.
The last episode of a taramea attack observed between 2004-2010 killed off the majority of the outer coral slopes within the Society Islands. However, the reefs in French Polynesia are resilient to natural stressors and display a quick recovery. About a decade is necessary for the coral to make a full recovery from these types of disturbances.
Endangered and threatened
For several decades, this natural dynamic has been threatened due to consequences of human activities. Climate change is to blame for part of it. Coral is very sensitive to elevations in sea water temperature and often lives in an environment that is very close to its maximum tolerance levels. This maximum, which for the moment is set at 29.2 C/84.56 °F, has been more frequently exceeded during austral summers throughout the periods of El Niño. The coral then takes on florescent colors for a few weeks before bleaching. Depending on the intensity and duration of the phenomenon, some of the colonies end up dying.
Another endangering effect is linked to climate change; i.e. the acidification provoked by an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and in sea water since this gas is constantly absorbed by the ocean. When the CO2 content rises, there is a change in chemical balance which increases the acidity of the water. The synthesis of the limestone by calcifying marine organisms (including coral) becomes disrupted.
Human-induced distress at the local level is not as subtle but more concrete. Today, human activities are the main reason for any observed damage to the reef in the past 50 years. The over-exploitation of resources, waste water discharge, hyper-sedimentation caused by the careless destruction of terrestrial plant cover and the physical modification of the coastline (rock retaining walls, embankments for a specific purpose, etc.) are the main stressors that coral reefs face.
French Polynesia has been spared
Due to its remote location in the Pacific Ocean that offers somewhat of an immunity to physical and chemical changes, due to the very widespread distribution of islands over a surface area of more than 5 million km2/2 million sq. mi. and because of relatively varied climates, French Polynesia’s coral reefs appear to be somewhat protected from threats linked to climate change. Even though temperature limits have been exceeded several times in the past 25 years, the occurrence of coral bleaching has been much less intense compared to other regions in the world where mortality rates for coral have sometimes reached 100% of a reef’s colony.
The effects of acidification of sea water in the natural environment are not very noticeable at the moment. Local disruptions are limited to some of the most populated zones and haven’t reached the natural environments located in most of the islands. This isn’t due to a rigid and methodical regulation of the ecosystems, but rather because of limited or nonexistent human populations (more than a quarter of the islands are uninhabited). Lastly, barrier reefs located near the majority of the islands isolate and preserve the outer reef of the islands. For all of these reasons, out of all of the 15000 km2 /6000 sq. mi of coral reefs and lagoons belonging to the 118 islands in French Polynesia, 90% are still considered to be in good ecological health.
Some of the most studied and monitored reefs in the world
With several research centers (Criobe: Insular Research Center and Environmental Observatory, Ifremer, IRD formerly Orstom, Malardé Institute, University of California, Berkeley, University of French Polynesia), French Polynesia benefits from a powerful research facility that over the natural environment of the islands.
Within this framework, scientists from four archipelagoes have been closely monitoring the state of health of reefs in French Polynesia for more than 40 years. The island of Moorea is the most studied tropical island system in the world based on the number of scientific publications over this subject. With two research stations Gump/UC Berkeley (USA) and Criobe (France), it is also the island whose reefs are the most closely monitored with its network of studied reefs that started in 1983 and that are still active today.
On a larger scale, Criobe’s Polynesia Mana monitoring program has been evaluating strategically selected reefs for the condition of their health since 1991. Every two years and on almost 15 islands spread over the entire geographical area of French Polynesia, bio-indicator parameters are collected over coral and fish colonies for each targeted reef area.
This monitoring, along with scientific reef research, makes it possible to understand how ecosystems function and evolve over time. In time, and in this era of sustainable development and integrated management of ecosystems, this knowledge should be increasingly used as a means for policy makers and administrators to make the right decisions concerning these precious and fragile coastal marine ecosystems.
Criobe – Centre de Recherches Insulaires et Observatoire de l’Environnement (Insular Research Center and Environmental Observatory) – Moorea
Moana has allowed the world to meet a brave Polynesian seafarer. A fictional character of course, but not far from reality. In the past, Polynesian women played an important part during the great voyages and today they’re still very active on board the double-hulled canoes sailing in the Pacific.
The lights go out… rustles rustle… first lights on the screen… the necks are stretched forward and the eyes of the children sparkle… here it is, the film starts ! Moana appears on the screen and the dream begins ! Since it was released in November 2016, Moana –Vaiana in France, Moana in Tahitian- has broken records, overtaking her elders Anna – Frozen– and Raiponce – Tangled– during the very first day on screens. A month later, the film had already been viewed by more than 600 million spectators, arriving 4th at Disney’s box office behind The King Lion, Frozen and Zootopia.
This is nothing surprising as the film ticks all the boxes required to make a blockbuster : paradisiacal settings, high-technology at the service of the plot, the story of a charming heroine who embarks us on hectic adventures full of pitfalls in a country located in the popular imagination, that is, in Polynesia…But in Moana, no love story whatsoever, and neither Prince Charming, but an initiatory journey in the wake of the ancient Polynesians. This is precisely what makes this animated film a modern and original cartoon that makes little Polynesian girls dream and sing.
How many girls dreamt when they saw Moana steering her va’a –canoe- with her hoe –paddle- like the ancients, or when they discovered the adventures of the independent heroine, this playful little girl who becomes a young rebel determined to save her people even by breaking the tapu –taboo- forbidding them to venture past the local reef ?
The popularity of this heroine and her story is undisputable and even in the most remote islands of French Polynesia people are still humming over and over the tunes that accompany her adventures, and since the release of the songs in the Tahitian language the craze has been even more intense. This is an unprecedented success thanks to an efficient marketing plan –the film has been dubbed in 45 languages among which the Tahitian language- but also because Moana appeals to the most sensitive part of the spectators, the link to their past, to their origins.
1976, the revival of traditional wayfinding
On May 1st 1976, in Honolua Bay on the island of Māui, Hōkūle’a the Hawaiian double-hulled canoe is about to sail to Tahiti. Her goal is to get to Tahiti using only traditional navigational methods in order to demonstrate that New Zealander Andrew Sharp’s accidental settlement hypothesis is wrong, and to restore the Polynesians’ pride after proving their ancestors were great seafarers.
On board, 13 men guided by Mau Pialug the navigator from Satawal, in the Caroline islands, and captain « Kawika » Kapahulehua. They carried out their mission on June 4th 1976 when Hokule’a arrived in the harbour of Papeete amid the warm cheers of some 17 000 people celebrating their new ’aito –heroes-… There was no woman on the first leg from Hawai’i to Tahiti that took 34 days, but for the return to Hawai’i, two pioneer women were on board : Keani Reiner from Kāua’i and Penny Rawlins Martin from Moloka’i. They showed the way, and prepared the place for more women on board the traditional canoes of modern times.
Since this navigational feat, several double-hulled sailing canoes have been built to promote traditional voyaging ; among them Makali’i, and Hawai’i Loa (from Hawai’i), Gaualofa (from Samoa), Haunui and te Matau a Māui (from New Zealand), Marumaruatua (from Cook Islands), Uto Ni Yalo (from Fiji), Hinemoana, and of course Fa’afaite i te ao mā’ohi (from Tahiti). More and more women sail on board those traditional canoes for various reasons. We’ve met those ’ihitai – crewmembers – who sail across the Pacific aboard those « sister canoes ».
Women and traditional voyaging
While the legends of great mythical navigators like Māui, Hiro or Ta’ihia can be found in reference books, there is nothing of the kind about female navigators. Of course this doesn’t mean that women were absent from the great navigations that resulted in the settling of the Polynesian islands, nor that their part was secondary.
Indeed in the seafaring world, and undoubtedly even more during the great migrations, women were important, not only because whole clans departed to settle new territories, but also because they had their own essential parts to play on board, otherwise, how could we account for the fact that Hina-ke-ka –ke ka, tatā in Tahitian, is a bailer-, was the Hawaiian goddess of canoe bailers ? She is also known under the names Lea or Hina-ku-wa’a – wa’a is va’a in Tahitian-.
Besides there are many legends that mention women standing at the prows of the canoes ; for instance, in the legend of Rata –Laka- one of the most famous Polynesian seafarers. When his people fought against a giant clam, his mother lead the fleet to bring the remains of the victims of the sea monster back to their island.
Tradition also has it that Rū and his sister Hina-fa’auru-va’a discovered the islands. An old chant narrates that Rū was at the rear while Hina was at the front ; she first saw the islands, now known as the Leeward islands, that her brother then named Maurua –now Maupiti-, Porapora –Bora Bora-, Taha’a and Havai’i –Ra’iātea. Similarly, in the legend of Kupe the navigator who discovered Aotearoa –New Zealand- his wife Hine-i-te-aparangi, is said to be standing at the rear ; she was the one who first sighted the island.
In Tahitian, the name Hina-fa’auru-va’a means that Hina steered the va’a ; this is further proof that for the ancient Polynesians, there was no absurdity in having a woman assuming a key role on board, and also that their role was significant.
In Ra’iātea, a pass bears the name of Hina who started beating tree bark into tapa on this island. According to the legend, even if Hina liked this island she still loved sailing and one night when the moon was particularly beautiful, she decided to visit it. She settled up there, on the moon, abandoned her canoe and never came back on the earth. From then on, Hina-i-fa’auru-va’a became Hina-i-a’a-i-te marama meaning Hina who settled upon the moon…
Encounter women ’ihitai
Hau’oli Smith-Gurtler is one of them ; as a true woman of the sea, Hau’oli is an experienced rower who first boarded Hōkūle’a in 1992 for the « No Na Mamo Voyage ». Says Hau’oli « trying to get on a voyage was tough », and before Hōkūle’a got through modifications, « you had to have strength and muscle… Steering with the hoe in rough weather was difficult, and hoisting and lowering mast, spars and sails was physically demanding ; you had to have stamina to keep up with the Uncles ! »
Like Teiratohu from Aotearoa, some got involved in the canoe world inspired by their elders or because they were curious ; others came to traditional sailing by accident like Georgia or 68-year-old Elizabeth who still sails and has no intention to stop soon ! As for others like Māori Rereahuhete, traditional sailing is a way « to be part of the large Polynesian family, reconnect with our ancestors, and with the spiritual side of waka ».
One common point to those women ’ihitai is they are all aware that their mission goes beyond the va’a itself, and this is even more true since Te mana o te moana fleet was set up. Those women are engaged in their own communities where they transmit traditional skills like wayfinding but also promote the preservation of their culture, their environment and the values that are central to social well-being. For Samoan Ivanancy Vunikura, Māori Gina Mohi, Fijian Agnès Sosoko, or their seasters, their approach would be meaningless if not in close connection with their island communities.
In Tahiti too there tend to be more and more women on Fa’afaite, the only « traditional » double-hulled canoe of French Polynesia. As an example, from March 15th to April 5th Fa’afaite toured the Austral islands in order to promote the protection of the ocean and the sustainability of resources. Six ’ihitai did the whole voyage that lasted 3 weeks ; half of them were women, and for the return leg, 8 out of the 15 crew were women. In fact, three women -–Moeata Galenon, Fatiarau Salmon and India Tabellini- have started training to qualify as maritime captains and hope to motivate new recruits. Undoubtedly, more and more Tahitian women get interested in sailing canoes, train as best they can and inspire others ; so, join in !
As this article gets to its end, Hōkūle’a is about to close her 3 year-long journey around the world. When she returns to Hawai’i, two sister canoes will accompany her : Hikianalia, her Hawaiian sister and Fa’afaite. Hikianalia arrived from the Marquesas to Papeete on April 12th ; her captain was Kala, daughter of navigator Kālepa Baybayan. She’ll probably be captain again for the return to Hawai’i. As for Hōkūle’a, no doubt, two women will hold the most important posts : Pomaikalani Bertelmann will be her captain and the navigator will be Ka’iulani Murphy.
Keani, Penny, Pomaikalani, Hau’oli, Ka’iulani, Kala, and the others, thank you for what you did and what you’re still doing in order for women to have their place on board, side by side with men, like the outriggers of traditional canoes !
Teuira Henry, Ancient Tahiti
Edward Tregear, The Maori-Polynesian comparative dictionary
Colin Richards, The Substance of Polynesian Voyaging
Ben Finney, Richard Rhodes, Paul Frost and Nainoa Thompson, Wait for the west wind
Imagine a small cruise ship, the front loaded with containers. This is Aranui 5, which services the northern archipelago of French Polynesia once or twice a month. Watching the very animated unloading of supplies that Marquesans have been impatiently anticipating before they accompany you to discover archeological sites and other wonders of their islands certainly does not lack charm or intrigue.
A visitor on a quest to discover the Marquesas on board the passenger freighter that services the most northern archipelago of French Polynesia may feel like somewhat of a dock worker. The small Aranui sea vessel served the Marquesas for the first time in 1960 (see box), and the current version now enjoys the features of a true small cruise liner, yet every stopover yields the exciting ambience of a merchant ship.
Rest assured, Aranui passenger! You will not be asked to unload goods, but it will be hard for you to resist giving a helping hand to the friendly sailors. The Aranui’s tradition of transporting cargo brings additional ambience to being on board this comfortable ship that offers many other amenities, much to the delight of the passengers. On the largest of the three aft decks, a hostess and master Tahitian dance teacher hold workshops over Marquesan dance, weaving, and necklace-making around the pool during each crossing. Meanwhile, in the largest of four lounges, a variety of presenters, journalists, researchers, professors and navigators share their passion for the richness of Polynesian culture.
Entertainment and comfort
On top of these new discoveries is the actual comfort of the cruise ship. The vast dining room can hold 250 guests who are served quality meals worthy of a starred restaurant. Local fare is prepared by a team of professionals under a top level chef. Young people who embody Polynesian kindness provide service while assuring joyous entertainment during gala dinners. With all of this, one can never get bored during the journey.
It is important to mention that the crossing is long: 1600 kilometers/995 miles between the home port of Tahiti and the Fenua Enata (“The Land of Humans” in Marquesan). This is why the first stopover for Aranui 5 is at the halfway point to the Marquesas in the Tuamotu Islands, the largest archipelago of French Polynesia. You’ll get lots of sun on a white sand beach and bathe in the turquoise waters of Fakarava atoll, whose lagoon abounds with fish … which will be on the menu of the first meal ashore prepared under the watchful eyes of the Aranui passengers. This is an opportunity for them to learn how the famous Tahitian Poisson Cru (raw fish) is prepared, especially with its essential ingredient, coconut milk.
We go from amateur archeologists to quickly dreaming of becoming cooks so that we could taste the delicious pig taken out of the Marquesan underground oven…before we turn back into archeologists in Taipivai. Through its multiple platforms, formations, petroglyphs of birds, turtles and other mysterious symbols and of course, stone tikis, this other famous site on Nuku Hiva reveals an ancient civilization that was obviously complex.
To help us understand what we are exploring, several guides, researchers, teachers, journalists and lecturers accompany us throughout the expedition with explanations that will be complemented by conferences onboard the Aranui 5, which give this beautiful cruise the essence of an initiatory journey.
Equally fascinating is the discovery of the island of Ua Pou, where the arrival will be enhanced by the unloading of the freight-filled barges and passenger rowboats onto a small quay sheltered by a large rock. The swells render the sailors’ work even more physically demanding since these experienced guys also jump onto the quay firmly holding or carrying passengers. The landlubbers, warned that the manoeuver would be a delicate one, are torn between fear and confidence. However, everything turns out well.
Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel: an exciting segment
A more recent phase in the history of the Marquesas is found on the island of Hiva Oa, characterized by the stays of two great artists, Paul Gauguin and Jacques Brel. In the village of Atuona, there is a museum with excellent reproductions of the Breton artist’s most stunning paintings that neighbor the space devoted to the Belgian singer, Jacques Brel. His famous twin-engine Jojo dominates the center of a vast hangar surrounded by an exhibition of photos, drawings and press clippings that evoke his life and work. This is an emotional visit that continues on to the cemetery located higher up, where Gauguin and Brel are neighbors for eternity.
It is also on Hiva Oa that we will discover the most important archaeological site due to the number of carefully restored tikis in various postures: me’ae Ipona. Not even archaeologists can explain all the meanings, just as we do not yet know everything about the mysterious ruins of Puamau.
Visiting Fatu Hiva will be more current with the discovery of contemporary local art such as seed jewelry, tapa, (a vegetal fabric made from breadfruit tree bark often decorated with famous Marquesan tattoo motifs), elaborately sculpted stone tikis and an array of monoï (beauty oil derived from coconut pulp and perfumed with tiare flowers). Islanders offer demonstrations over the fabrication of these local products as well as Marquesan dance performances, including the famous pig chant executed by men and the gracious bird dance performed by young women.
The island with four museums
In Hua Huka, we have a rendezvous with ancient culture and current agriculture. To answer the numerous questions raised by ancient objects, Léon Litchtlé, the mayor of the island, had the idea to open several small museums at the end of the last century. One of them brings together ancient archaeological and artisanal objects. Another features castings of rock carvings, the third displays sections of wood to reflect the richness of Marquesan forests and the fourth is dedicated to shells. Although now retired but still passionate, Litchtlé guides us through the arboretum that he also created where many species of tropical fruit trees are cultivated. He takes great pleasure in having us taste the fruit while making us guess their names. This is such a delicious moment, as much through the flavors as by the liveliness of the anecdotes served by this exciting guide who is the former Minister of Agriculture of French Polynesia.
For our return to Nuku Hiva on the tenth day of navigating between this archipelago’s six islands—which are definitely full of surprises—we go back to being dock workers, at least visually, as we admire the dexterity of crane operators loading products destined for Tahiti.
But before returning to Tahiti on the fourteenth day, we again play tourist for two new sunny stops: one in Rangiroa—the largest atoll in the Tuamotu Islands and second largest in the world—to discover from close up the production of the famous Tahitian black pearls. The other stop is on Bora Bora, the “Pearl of the Pacific,” for an afternoon of diving and a picnic in paradise on a motu with white sand. It is enough to make you want to jump back onto the first plane to Bora Bora once you get back to Tahiti, but this is another story that you will have to write.
Smitten by French Polynesian culture, Sonny Shwe and Fujiko Matsuda have launched their fashion business in Japan featuring a clothing line with vibrant Tahitian colors and the creation of ‘ori Tahiti dance costumes.
Her skin was still raw from the needle. Fujiko Matsuda explains with a smile, “I have wanted a tattoo this large for a long time. In Japan, people associate tattoos with gang membership. It is not part of our culture.” She is sitting in the bar of Le Méridien hotel in Punaauia. Her boyfriend Sonny Shwe is sitting next to her. His arms and legs are tattooed with a blend of Chinese and Polynesian motifs. The lovers smile at each other. As if to justify her decision, Fujiko adds after a slight pause, “Since we came here to Tahiti to compete, I decided that this was the right time to get a tattoo.” Both in their thirties, they came to take part in the ’ori Tahiti Nui dance competition with their group Nonosina Polynesia directed by Mevina Liufau. This is not their first time here in the fenua. Their history with French Polynesia started a long time ago.
In 2002, Sonny Shwe was a high school student. For several years, he practiced martial arts and was a drummer. One day, an athletic event took place at his school. He recalls, “There was a musical group playing a lot of unfamiliar instruments with a sound I had never heard before. I was intrigued.” The group’s leader invited him to come to a rehearsal. This was Sonny’s debut into the world of Tahitian dance. He adds, “Many people know me as a dancer, when in fact I started out as a drummer.” Bit by bit, he learned how to play the tö’ere and pahu drums. One day, the director of the troupe asked him if he knew how to dance. “Yes! Of course I know how to dance!” was Sonny’s reply. But he confessed with a laugh, “The truth was, I had never danced my entire life!” He adds, “Right away, this music and this dance spoke to me. It became something anchored inside me.” Sonny quickly became one of the best dancers of his generation. He has received awards from several competitions in the United States and French Polynesia.
Just one dream in mind – to become a fashion designer
After dreaming about coming to this paradise for a very long while, Sonny arrived in French Polynesia for the first time in 2006. He recalls, “I was thrilled to come here and meet people. It was magical!” He received his first award for dance, and more than ten years later, he still hasn’t gotten over the feeling. “I was excited to receive an award. I think that this award gave me credibility in the world of ’ori Tahiti,” he says while adjusting his cap.
After high school, Sonny Shwe had but one dream—to become a fashion designer. “I come from a working-class immigrant Chinese family to whom being a fashion designer is not a real job. They didn’t believe it was enough to make a living.” This recent high school graduate was broke and couldn’t afford the school of his dreams located in New York. Far from losing hope, he decided to work for a year to pay for his tuition. He explains, “During that year, I did odd jobs, which allowed me to continue dancing. We traveled to various competitions throughout the Pacific. That same year, I started to design clothing, and so evidently, I began making my own ’ori Tahiti costumes.” Sonny Shwe never attended a school for fashion design, but his career took off anyway.
In 2006, his mentor Mevina Liufau created Americanasia, a performance that merges Polynesian and American cultures. “I became very close friends with the troupe director. We came to Tahiti together. One day, he asked me to contribute to his project through creating costumes for this performance…It was an enormous challenge for me. There were more than 25 performers and each one required a different costume. I was only 19 years old!” exclaims Sonny excitedly. In 2010, his mentor left for Japan to open an ’ori Tahiti dance school: Tavake Tere Ata. The young designer joined him some time later. Both of them are working on several projects in Tokyo.
Thirty to Fifty costumes per month
As they worked together, the school grew larger. In 2014, Fujiko Matsuda was one of the new dance recruits. Shy and pretty, she was a ray of sunshine when Sonny saw her. “It was her first day at the school and I asked her out,” he says. “She didn’t speak English very well and I didn’t speak any Japanese at all, but something happened between us.” A few months later, Sonny Shwe decided to leave everything and move to Tokyo to be with Fujiko.
The designer is in much demand by other ’ori Tahiti dance schools. “At one time, I had so much work, I didn’t know which way to turn. One day while I was working, Fujiko walked into the studio and saw me sewing. I was having a hard time accomplishing what I was trying to do. She came next to me without uttering a word and helped me through placing the material differently on the machine. This helped me enormously! It was at that moment that I told myself it would be great to work together.”
In August 2016, the lovebirds launched their company, Ahu Tahiti. They specialized in the design of ’ori Tahiti costumes. Their common passion brought them together. They know that the best is still yet to come. “We couldn’t have expected anything more. For us, coming here is like returning to the source of many things. It is so good to be here. It is very beautiful and people are so warm. We love it here!” says Fujiko with a big smile.
Fujiko and Sonny make around thirty to fifty costumes per month. Their schedule is filled up until next spring. The couple has also started to offer classes over basic costume making techniques. Sonny feels as if he needs to pinch himself. He says, “We are still ambitious, though. We would like to have a fashion show to promote our company. Our clothing line will start up soon. It will be for Japanese people and totally inspired by Tahitian local styles.”
These designers have a new goal—to build a connection between Japan and Tahiti. To achieve this, they hope to unite different artists. “We would like to invite dancers of course, but also tattooists and fashion designers to Japan for our fashion show. This way, the Japanese will have the opportunity to see much more than superb beaches and dances,” declares the owner of Ahu Tahiti Clothing. “This event was initially scheduled for June 2017, but since so many people have expressed interest, we have decided to reschedule for a later date.” All proceeds from the event will be donated to a Tahitian charity.
Fujiko Matsuda traces her tattoo with her finger. It is still red. She smiles and looks at Sonny. Most of his tattoos were done here in Tahiti. Fujiko and Sonny have French Polynesia in their daily lives and in their hearts, but specifically on their skin. French Polynesia has left its deep mark.
The first contact between Europeans and Tahitians occurred on June 18, 1767—exactly two hundred and fifty years ago—with the arrival of Samuel Wallis on board the Dolphin. The English explorer stayed over a month until July 27, 1767. Here, you will learn about this key period in our history that has been somewhat forgotten.
If you ask the average person, who discovered Tahiti, eight out of ten people would immediately say the Englishman, Captain James Cook. It is true that the first European to discovery Tahiti was an Englishman, but it was not Cook, his name was Samuel Wallis, (a 38 year old Englishman born in Cornwall.) Wallis was given secret orders “to discover and obtain all possible knowledge in the area of countries or islands assumed to be located in the Southern Hemisphere.”
The eighteenth century witnessed a growing European interest in possibilities for trade and the hope of discovering the rumored TERRA AUSTRALIS INCOGNITA (Unknown Southern Land, not be confused with Australia). The existence of which believed would counterbalance the great land masses of the Northern Hemisphere and was filled with all types of valuable treasures…
The H.M.S Dolphin was a 24 gun frigate of the British Royal Navy, 130 feet long with it’s highest point measuring thirty four feet. In August of 1766 Samuel Wallis, the commanding officer of The H.M.S. Dolphin, sailed from Plymouth England with its companion ship, HMS Swallow under the command of Philip Carteret and a store ship, the Prince Frederick. Sometime during the journey through the Straits of Magellan, The Dolphin lost contact with the Swallow, short of supplies they continued on without them.
On June 18, 1767, the crew of The Dolphin spotted a mountain, covered with clouds. They believed their mission was accomplished, they had just discovered the TERRA AUSTRALIS INCOGNITA. In fact, purely by accident they discovered the island of Tahiti. Upon arriving in Tahiti, most of the crew looked pale and thin. Many had an advanced state of scurvy, while others showed signs that it would soon manifest itself. However, within a fortnight there were no signs of scurvy on the boat. The recovery came from being on shore, eating plenty of vegetables being obliged to wash their clothing and bathing themselves in the sea water.
After prospecting several possibilities to drop anchor, Wallis and his men came upon Matavai Bay. On June 23rd 1767 the Dolphin entered Matavai Bay (which Wallis named Port Royal Harbour.) Wallis claimed and named Tahiti, King George III’s Island, after the then King of England. Wallis and his men stayed in Tahiti for five weeks. During the entire five weeks, Wallis was rather ill and mostly remained in his cabin, only leaving the ship twice, most probably carried by some of his men. Lieutenant Tobias Furneaux of The Dolphin was the first European to set foot on Tahiti, planting the British flag and taking possession in the name of His Majesty.
The British showed the Tahitians iron nails, but only gave some to the first Tahitian man who climbed aboard. The Tahitians could not understand the British greediness. Tahitians only had to ask for something, rarely was one refused. On the other hand, the Tahitians never said thank you, nor did they have a word to express that. To frighten the Tahitians back into their canoes, a nine-pound shot was fired over the heads of those sitting in their canoes. The others aboard the Dolphin saw this and dove into the water.
After two weeks, Wallis was still very ill and was most likely carried to the Queen Oberea’s house. To reconcile the two camps, the Queen prepared a feast for Wallis. She gave him gifts and had some of the local beauties do the popular erotic dance of the day, THE TIMODEE.
Bougainville and Cook came after…
On July 27th 1767 sometime around ten o’clock, the Dolphin left Tahiti. The Tahitians and particularly the Queen, gave one last farewell, with such tenderness of affection and sorrow that as Wallis stated in his published account of the voyage, “it filled both his heart and his eyes.” Leaving the Society Islands, Wallis sailed through the main island groups of the western Pacific before reaching Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands in August 1767. On August 16, 1767, Samuel Wallis discovered another island which he named Uvea Wallis, known today as Wallis & Futuna, it is a French Overseas Territory. Located in the center of Polynesia and Melanesia The people of Wallis are called Wallisians and speak Wallisian and French.
The Dolphin then sailed to Batavia (today Jakarta), where many of the ship’s crew died from dysentery. On May 18, 1768, Wallis arrived back in England via the Cape of Good Hope just in time to pass on his important navigational charts, information and even some volunteer seaman to the Admiralty. At that very time, Captain James Cook was preparing to leave on the first of his three Voyage’s of Enlightenment to Tahiti and to observe the 1769 transit of Venus.
In 1780, Wallis was appointed Commissioner of the Admiralty. His remaining naval service was on larger ships, and the last years of his life (1782-1795) were spent as an Extra Commissioner of the Navy. Samuel Wallis died, in London in January 1795.
Ten months after Wallis discovered Tahiti, the French navigator Louis-Antoine Bougainville, believed that he had discovered an island of peace and love, an authentic Garden of Eden. Not knowing that Wallis had already claimed this Island for England, he claimed it for France naming it New Cythera after the Greek island where, according to the classical myth, Aphrodite (Venus), the goddess of love, had arisen full born from the sea.
This was not Bougainville’s fault. One must remember, in 1767, there were no fixed or mobile telephones and no Internet. For the French, this was their first contact with the Tahitians. For the Tahitians, this was their second contact. Their first contact with Europeans taught them that guns and cannons are more persuasive than sticks and stones. Perhaps the Tahitians remembered that lesson when they saw Bougainville approaching.
Laurance Alexander Rudzinoff
Many years before The Dolphin arrived in Tahiti, a Tahitian priest named Maui prophesied that one day a canoe without an outrigger would sail into Matavai Bay. The assembled chiefs mocked him. At that time, the accepted Tahitian thought was, a canoe must either be double (two canoes together side by side) or have an outrigger. Another Tahitian prophet named Pau’e prophesized “There are coming children of the glorious princess, in a canoe without an outrigger, and they will be covered from head to foot.” Pau’e also said “There will come a new chief to whom the government will be given, and new manners will be adopted in this land: the tapa (bark cloth) and cloth-beating mallet will go out of use in Tahiti, and these strangers will wear different and strange clothes.” The Tahitians applauded him, but three days later Pau’e died. When the Tahitians witnessed the arrival of The Dolphin, they must have thought “WOW, THAT PAU’E REALLY KNEW HIS STUFF”.
On that first day of arrival in Matavai Bay, Wallis was ill and rather weak. He struggled his way onto the deck and was surprised to find that his ship was surrounded by canoes, in which each had young girls standing up, making enticing gestures. When the Tahitian men thought the time was right, they came out with their most powerful artillery, stones. Relentlessly they threw the stones at The Dolphin.
After the first hostilities in which some Tahitians were killed and canoes damaged by the naval gun shots; a great deal of trading and exchanging took place in Matavai Bay for food, water, sex, shells, shell ornaments, fish hooks, adzes and stone pounders. As the days progressed, the Tahitians seeing firearms for the first time, realized exactly what firearms could do. Imagine what the Tahitians must have thought seeing a ball of fire traveling faster than anything they have ever known and killing people. The Tahitians had their own weapons, hand thrown stones. Eventually peace prevailed and the bartering began. The Tahitians were mostly interested in iron nails. Building a house is much easier and stronger with iron nails. When the Tahitians realized how much those British wanted what they had to offer, they started raising their prices.
First contact, first misunderstandings…
When the atmosphere improved, the British sailors made friendly gestures, showing the Tahitians trinkets and inviting them aboard. First the Tahitians brought their canoes together to decide what they should do. Then they held up branches of plantain leaves (Tahitian sign of friendship) and paddled up to the ship. The canoes came closer, both groups were happy. The British mimicked animal sounds and invented a sign language trying to make the Tahitians understand they wished to barter European cloth, knives, shears, beads and ribbons for the supplies they needed.
Some of the seaman grunted like hogs, while others crowed liked roosters and flapped their arms, then pointed to the shore. The Tahitians made the same gestures and sounds and also pointed to the land, not understanding what the others wanted. Unfortunately, at that time in Tahiti, the flapping of arms signalled a wrestling match challenge. Next the British made signs to the Tahitians to get in their canoes and bring them back what they wanted. Some frightened Tahitians paddled away, others remembered iron they had found from the 1722 Roggeven, Dutch ship wreck in the Tuamotus. Roggeven was the first European to discover Easter Island and the Tuamotus.
At the origin, two brothers, Aroma and Mano Salmon, songwriters and performers from the atoll of Fakarava in the Tuamotu Archipelago, one of the five groups of islands in French Polynesia. By the way, the group’s name means, “blood” in paumotu language, the language of their native islands. Then, after a while, Aroma and Mano were joined by two talented musicians in the person of Simon Pillard, violinist, and Frederic Rossoni, drummer.
Since then, the band has imposed itself on the Polynesian scene, especially with its second album, Merahi kerekere. Released in 2009, it was greeted with enthusiasm by the public who fell under the spell of a style described by the artists themselves, as “Acoustic Underground” or “Gothic Paumotu”. English and Paumotu are, moreover, the two languages of choice for the brothers who have just released their third album, Kaito No Tetamanu, already available in stores.
Sonorities and music even more sophisticated, more rock style, but with still some beautiful ballads, this new 13-track album, will be met, we are sure, with an even greater success that will contribute to boost even more the reputation of the Salmon Brothers. They are also professional tattoo artists and have their own studio in Papeete, where they are also recognized for this work. With more than one card up their sleeves, these Polynesians and this group contribute to the spread of a new and bold Polynesian sound. They are now the ambassadors of our airline.
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.
“Iaorana, welcome to the island of Tahiti, feel great vibes in Tahiti!” It is hard to miss this lyric. The creator of the success of “Iaorana” is Tahitian musician Jansé Wesson who has since ranked at the top of the charts. This hit is not his first. To his credit, there is also “Petit Soldat” (little soldier), “Emilie” which received more than 57000 views on YouTube, and “Loin d’ici” (Far from here), which made the Pacific Top 20.
Designated an Air Tahiti Nui ambassador for his contributions to promoting Tahiti, Jansé Wesson has always been immersed in music. As an adolescent, he and some friends tried their luck “just for laughs,” according to him. Then he became a sound engineer and today he is a producer. He produces the show “Studio Session Live” on the channel Polynésie Première. A key artist in the fenua, he also shares the mike with other singers, such as K-Reen, Lola, Jmi Sissoko, Baby K-Pone…
because Jansé Wesson does not only do music, he composes pertinent messages and surrounds himself with the best in order to spread them. He explains, “As artists, we have a responsibility. We must think about the people who listen to us rather than just ourselves.” Themes can also be raw, such as in the song “Emilie,” which tells the story of domestic violence. His stage name reflects his commitment: “I chose ‘Wesson’ because words can have more impact than weapons.” Always positive, Jansé Wessons’s songs entail anthems and catch phrases.
Born in France with a French Polynesian mother, he sings about his attachment to the fenua (homeland). “Iaorana,” co-written and performed with Jmi Sissoko, has gained internet popularity: “The light blue of the sky fuses with the deep blue of the sea, the grandeur of the mountains stands out against the depth of the valleys, and vahine wearing pareu dance to the rhythm of the ukulele…” The video has 60,000 views so far on YouTube. Jansé Wesson adds, “40% of the viewers are from France. This is great. I love singing about the fenua and its dream-like qualities. It is place all its own. People greet you with a big smile, which is unusual in this world! It is important to reconnect with one’s roots. I am very proud to represent the fenua.” “Iaorana” will be on Jansé Wesson’s second album, Moana, which he is currently working on. Moana is scheduled for release in the fall. Jansé Wesson says, “’Moana’ is my first name, which means ocean in Tahitian. The ocean can be calm or agitated and comprises 70% of the planet.” This new opus will contain a dozen songs that are 100% reggae and will feature the famous Polynesian group Manahune, as well as Nuttea, K-Reen, and Jmi Sissoko. While waiting, you can always replay “Iaorana”…“Love the sea, love the sun, love nature.”
Three musicians are behind the creation of the Manahune band : Aldo Raveino on vocals and guitar, Henry Cowan on drums and Daniel Galinié on bass. The band debuts with rather reggae sounds. They really made they mark on the local scene in 1990 during the first musical springboard « To’ere Rock ». Then, everything goes very fast in 1991 with their first album release followed by a remarkable tour in the districts and the islands. The band has win success and they even make the first part of Eddy Mitchell’s concert in Papeete. In 1994, it was the second album release « Te Rima Faahotu » with Océane Productions. The group recomposes itself often welcoming musicians from various backgrounds. In 1998, they releases their best-known album « Te Ture No Te Mamu » with the group’s famous singers : Mylène, Tania and Muriel. Then, from 1998, it’s great sleep with a five-year break. It was not until 2004 to see Manahune back on stage with a series of concerts in the Papeete’s night spots. A winning return that leads in 2007 with the fifth album, « Motu ». Manahune is now composed of Aldo, of course, Sébastien on drums and Dany on bass. These musicians are joined on stage by another Polynesian music’s great figure, Michel Poroi. Since the band beginning, many years have passed but anyway, Manahune remains for a generation of Polynesians, the first group to have mixed sounds from here and elsewhere with strong messages on the Maohi culture.