Thursday, July 26, 2007

Singing in Samoa

The accomodation, Saleapaga

Going to church, Saleapaga, July 8

Fresh back from the first Singing in Samoa tour - which seemed to go exceedingly well. For eight days forty-four of us including a film crew, me and Marianne, and the admin team stayed at the wonderfully welcoming resort of FaoFao, in the village of Saleapaga on the south coast of Upolu.
(It’s not Club Med. It’s sleeping open-sided fales on the beach and cold showers, but then again it’s…sleeping in open fales on the beach. Roll out of bed and force yourself to trudge 6 metres to wallow or snorkel in the clear turquoise water, swan into the FaoFao dining room for a breakfast of paw paw, bananas, coconut, rice cooked in cocoa, etc etc. How can you work under these circumstances? It’s really living in a village for a week - as Jen Richardson, our dedicated tour manager says: it’s not a 5-star resort, but it’s a 5-star experience.)
After the traditionally weird flight schedule peculiar to Pacific Islands, (which saw us getting into Apia at 5.30 am,) we drove for another hour and a half to Faofao. After a morning nap and lunch, we were suddenly into it. We had a quick vocal session where we learned This Heart of Mine, which we almost immediately found ourselves obliged to perform at the welcoming ceremony in the afternoon. The ceremony involved the local matai (some very high-ranking chiefs), kava, some singing, some speeches in Samoan and the presentation of a large kava stick to Jen, symbolic of our being under the protection of the matai.
The next day we had a couple of sessions learning a Samoan hymn Fa’afetai O Le Atua from the choir-director at the local Congregational Church, Tapu, and a traditional African-American church song, The Fire Keeps on Burning (which I had arranged on the flight). That night was the fiafia (party/floorshow) where the locals (tiny kids, young hunks, old goddesses all in together) and old turned on a fabulous performance of dancing, singing, slap-dance, fire-dance, slit drums and computer rhythms), culminating in everyobody dancing together.
The next day being Sunday, after the traditional Sunday feast, we dressed in white and sang at the afternoon church service. In spite of the short preparation time, the group acquitted itself well, the congregation was generous in its response and the pastor Reverend Waia effusive in his acknowledgement.
The following day we got into a schedule of early morning yoga (I believe), two or three vocal sessions a day, with other sessions of drumming, basket-weaving, dancing, and yoga nidra in the afternoon. The evenings evolved into different events - a blackboard open-mic session, singing round a fire on the beach, or just drinking and yarning, Choir-director/ barman/drummer Tapu, was an excellent addition to the program, and taught us old Samoan songs every morning, I taught a few old gospel songs, two gorgeous local girls Nai and Sa taught the girls a dance. Everyone moved with exquisite languor.
Midway through the week, we took off to Apia for the day (via some waterfalls and stuff) where we drank coffee and shopped for lavalavas - and appeared on Samoan TV, singing a couple of songs at a welcoming ceremony put on for us by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour, the Hon Misa Telefoni MP and the Samoan Tourist Department. I’m still not sure what that was all about, though I had the impression Mr Telefoni liked to be in the limelight. But we got free food and a free cultural show, the highlight of which may have been a male dance in which 4 tattooed hunks threw huge axes at each other.
On the final night we had another fiafia, where the palagi showed off all they’d learned during the week to the matai, Rev, Waia and all, the FaoFao community dazzled is with more great singing and dancing, and then we all funked down to an odd assortment of disco hits.
Thanks to Jen, Tapu and the aimiable Koroseta and family, Nai, Sa and all at FaoFao, Thanks all the old chums and new friends for your enthusiasm and good spirits.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

one year older and deeper in debt

Rhythm Machine

I John Saw The Holy Number

Holy Day

Here's a pic or two from my 60th birthday party, held jointly with another Gemini honoree Stephanie Dowrick. The exceptional band included Peter Dasent and Mike Gubb (keys) Fane Flaws and Robert Taylor (guitars) Alex Hewetson (bass) and Warren Trout (drums) with Marianne Backhouse and Lisa Smith on vocals.
Thanks to the Heavenly Lights, the Café of the Gate of Salvation, Heather Lee and Kim Cunio for singing on the night, and thanks to the choir for buying me a new Fender P-bass…