Graham Reid | | 3 min read
Auckland, the city with the largest Polynesian population in the world, has an annual Pasifika Festival to celebrate this cultural diversity. But the songs picked here conjure up a mythical Pacific, the one of palm trees waving in the wind on a white sand beach, waves lapping on the side of the outrigger, lands where beautiful maidens and handsome men . . .
You get the picture.
Tune in, turn on and dream your way to a magical isle.
Blue Hawaii by Elvis Presley
In two and a half minutes in 1961 Elvis took you to a place where love and the moon on the sea were the only important things in the world.
Isn't "Night, and you, and blue Hawaii" the most appealing opening line? As he says, "dreams come true in blue Hawaii", wherever that might be.
A worthy inclusion because he's the King who, at the time, looked like a Pacific god.
Bali Hai from South Pacific
Richard Rodgers wrote the melody in a lunchtime and Oscar Hammerstein II knocked off the words in five minutes, proof that inspiration is inexplicable.
It doesn't matter either whether Juanita Hall is singing it, or it's Wally Stott and his Orchestra's instrumental version, or Bob Berry's lovely Hawaiian guitar treatment, this song turned a real place into a South Seas somewhere which exists only in our imagination.
Era Bini Tu by Michelle Rounds
This traditional Fijian song included on the Pacific Nation Volume One album (Tangata/BMG) takes you straight to a white strip of sand under a palm tree where there's a lazy blue ocean and a warm breeze. Magical Pacific pop with one foot in the past.
Papa E by Te Vaka
For some inexplicable reason this log drum-driven slice of contemporary Pacific pop wasn't a radio hit four years ago. With throbbing oceanic synths at the bottom, an addictive melody on top and a wash of guitars in the middle, this had crossover chart topper written all over it. It's not too late.
Back to the Island by Leon Russell
Opening with the sound of waves and the laziest slide guitar, this is Leon hurt by love and heading back home where it's safe, secure and warm, and he can watch the sun go down and listen to the sea roll in.
Okay, it might have been the Caribbean, but it breathes the South Pacific. A tip for anyone wanting a summertime hit? Locate this (it's on the Will o the Wisp album), play it faithfully over a light reggae beat and you'll be all over radio, all summer.
Meteli by Herbs
This medley of melodies, percussion and that shimmering guitar touches all that is familiar from around Polynesia, and it was on the same album -- Light of the Pacific -- as the seminal Pacific reggae of French Letter and the title track.
Poi E by Patea Maori Club
Dalvanius (who died in 2002, right) and Ngoi Pewhairangi's hit put a small New Zealand town on the world stage and we all busted open with pride. A slice of early hip-hop that could have come from nowhere else on the planet. The sound of young, urban -- or was it rural? -- small-town Polynesia, set to an addictively simple beat. For the full Dalvanius/Patea Maori story see here.
Lome by the Samms
Samoan band the Samms have a few great cassettes out but this track, also on Pacific Nation Volume One, brings together handclaps, chant and log drums, pumping bass, chiming guitar, and a traditional tune which sticks after just one hearing.
Chains by Che Fu and DLT
The Pacific isn't all coconut milk on the beach so it's appropriate that this compelling slice of hip-hop from DLT's debut The True School should come from our hometown, the biggest Polynesian city in the world.
Yes, it isn't easy in the urban jungle, especially if you feel the loss of your Polynesian roots, but as Che reminded in this neatly ambiguous piece of Pasifikan hip-hop, "living in the city ain't so bad."
Anything by Bill Sevesi
Yep, anything at all. But if he's got Isole somewhere amongst his extensive and lovely recordings, and you can bet he has, then that would be the gem. Bill and his music are national treasures in this small corner of the vast Pacific.
This article first appeared in the New Zealand Herald www.nzherald.co.nz