Graham Reid | | 1 min read
We sometimes seem to have a curiously ambivalent relationship with some artists who leave the country and become successful overseas. Because they are not around – performing or to promote their work – their albums can go right past us.
We could look to Margaret Urlich and Sharon O'Neill whose albums The Deepest Blue and Edge of Winter respectively failed to catch fire here despite them being household names and acclaimed just a few years previous.
But they had relocated to Australia so seemed to be off our radio radar.
Australia-based Foa'i (of the Te Vaka family) has been moderately successful in terms of local profile – so she should, she was a key vocalist on the Moana soundtrack – but not really cracked it as you think she could for her solo work.
She won Best Pacific Artist in 2020 (among other awards) for her debut album Candid of which we said. “Candid's sophisticated blend of traditional and contemporary sounds -- check Hau La by way of example -- comes off like the perfect soundtrack under summer skies”.
This year she picked up Pacific Music awards for her Sunlight single. That song and her Tokelau-language Mai Anamua (the theme to the award-winning documentary Pacific Mother) are both included on this excellent second album.
Tūmau Pea (“everlasting”) bridges thoughtful slo-mo soul and trip-hop, aiming for a mainstream, contemporary R'n'B audience with slippery songs (the understated Party For 1) and the immediately grabbing Sunlight.
Nada is a slow-jam steamer, there's subtle Pasifika (Tomorrow Can Wait) and the kind of conversational delivery more common among jazz singers (Morning Prayer).
Tūmau Pea – which addresses her life as a touring musician in the title track – might lack the requisite banger which R'n'B demands but this nine-song collection is classy, consistent pop of rare intimacy with something to say (Myriagon/No Photos Please).
Time for Olivia Foa'i – respected and acclaimed in Pasifika music -- to reach a wider audience than she has so far.
You can hear this album at Spotify here