The Teremoana Phenomenon

Every day in May, to mark NZ Music Month, Gary Steel presents something local from his considerable behind. Personal archive, that is. Today’s surprise item?

Teremoana

First published in the Sunday Star Times, February 9, 1997.

From Back Seat To The Driving Seat

A-150-119314-1200047256THAT SINGER WHO always took the back seat, quietly winning awards and “next big thing” predictions from the pundits, has gone ballistic.
The World Of Music Arts & Dance festival marks the outing of the Teremoana phenomenon: Out of the shadows, into the big time.
“It’s going to be a multi-media, audio-visual show with computerised lighting and a huge screen,” says Teremoana, stopping for a quick breather in the home recording studio of the apartment she shares in Auckland with George, her romantic partner and manager.
“It’s just taking the whole Teremoana concept to a new level,” she says. “I’m writing and sequencing all the music myself, passing it on to the boys to learn their bits, then we rehearse for two weeks, and do the show: Nice and simple!
280762_10150247317473842_553903841_7425079_1281499_o“But it’s going to be a serious trip, a journey of my search for knowledge of self, being part Maori and part Pakeha, and all relative to the Pacific. There’s nothing better than writing about your life experience. It’s going to be a spectacular extravaganza.”
For Teremoana – whose backup singing role in the Upper Hutt Possee and Moana & the Moahunters got her more attention than the groups themselves – it’s been a slow road to a proper solo career. Despite the attention, she says she had no control. “I was dictated how to present myself to the public, what I said, what I thought, and what I sang,” she says.
Two solo singles in 1995 failed to achieve liftoff and Teremoana caused a commotion at last year’s music awards when she won Best Female Singer on the strength of “two failed singles.”
“I was like WHAT!? Those two songs went NOWHERE. You’ve got to be kidding me! I know I can sing, but you’d think that award should go to someone who has actually charted, or to people who you’ve actually heard of.”
TeremoanaShe sees the last couple of years as “really quiet for me”, despite obvious achievements like having a child and building up her visual profile as one of the faces on the Saturday morning television show, Mai Time.
But she says of her Mai Time audience: “Half of them don’t know I sing and the other half think I still sing with the Moahunters.”
Of television: “They’ve tried to put me up there, but it’s not really me. The TV thing just scares me silly. I’d rather just sing.”
And that she does, on the new TV2 theme song, ‘I Only Want To Be With 2’ – destined to irritate at least three million people over hundreds of repeat airings.
After WOMAD, expect the quick-fire launch of Teremoana’s career proper: Her debut album, to be released on her own label and distributed and marketed by an undisclosed multinational.
One thing is for sure, she’s still sweet, but the meek Teremoana is gone. In her place is a determined and ambitious young woman.
And one who isn’t afraid to air her opinions. Talking about racial issues is important to her, but she has become wary of explicit references after negative feedback from the music industry.
“People couldn’t stomach my second single because of the skin colour content in it, but when I write songs like that, I’m not saying I hate all white people… my father’s a Pakeha and I love my father.” GARY STEEL
* Teremoana Rapley, at WOMAD, Western Springs, Auckland, March 9.

Note from the author: The Teremoana “phenomenon” really happened, didn’t it?

* Don’t forget to check out www.audioculture.co.nz after May 31, where you’ll find a vast repository of NZ music history.

One Comment

  1. Um…. No. The ‘phenomenon’ didn’t happen… Don’t believe the hype 🙂

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