Music has been a huge part of my life since, as a very young child, I couldn’t go to sleep without somebody singing to me… and then they must have got sick of it cause next minute I get this portable radio thing for my birthday…
Shame, though. To this day I STILL find it easier to sleep (work, write, drive, other things) with music in my ears or at least in the background somewhere.
I really discovered a love for Samoan music, though, in the last maybe 6 or so years. I think it first happened when Jamoa Jam started rocking old school classics, and I recognized tunes that my dad used to listen to back in the day – from bands like Punialava’a, Anivas and Five Stars in particular. And then acts like Invincible 51, Zipso, Mr. Tee and Master Sony hit the scenes and suddenly Samoan music became fresh (pardon the pun) and relevant to me.
Soon I started hitting up my friends and cousins, local radio stations… people online… to build up my very own collection of Hamo favourites. In the process (I’m STILL in the process) I discovered amazing groups like Penina o Tiafau, Tiama’a and Golden Ali’is.
The music is only part of it, though. I’ve ALWAYS listened to songs as much for the lyrics as anything else. It took me a while, but eventually I started picking up the meanings in the songs I’d collected – especially the older jams – and… wow!
You can learn a LOT about Samoans through the poetry in our music. Our lyricists write about events in history, record deep proverbs, celebrate prominent people and document everyday activities in the lives of contemporary Samoans.
Our songwriters also do an incredible job of expressing more universal truths – love, loss, desire, regret – in a style so lyrically unique to Samoans.
To show you what I mean, let’s have a look at one of the songs I’ve been hooked on lately: Naumati Lagona (by the Five Stars, latest version by Laga Savea).
According to my own personal Samoan dictionary, ‘naumati’ refers to being parched, and is often used to describe a drought in a village. So ‘naumati lagona’ means that feeling of being destitute, desperate for something. All together now…
Okay check out the line by line translation of the rest of this song. Thanks heaps to my mum for helping me out with this…
Naumati lagona mamao fo’i lo’u aiga = Deep feelings of desperation, even my family is far from me
To’a le aisa, o’ona foi le uaina = The ice has frozen solid, the wine is bitter
Mafana le mafutaga o oe le tausala = Our relationship was deep (intimate), my dear
Faigata mea uma ua goto i le va’a = Everything is difficult, all sunken (as with a sunken ship)
Fia fau se fale lelei mo oe = I want to build a good house for you
Talofa e leai o se kamuta o totoe = But (too bad) there is no carpenter left
Aisea na e le tu’ua ai se tasi = Why didn’t you leave me at least something (at least one thing)
Pogisa mea uma = Everything is dark
Pogisa mea uma i le ma’asiasi = Because of my humiliation, everything is dark
Talanoa i manatu ua ta mafana = We talked and shared deep thoughts
Lilo i le loto, e ese lou agaga = Little did I know, your heart was somewhere else
Ita e ua mao manatu atu = As for (poor) me, I’d already professed my love for you
E le afaina, e tata pea lo’u fatu = But never mind, my heart is still beating
E onosa’i fo’i pea si ou nei tagata = And I will continue to wait (be patient)
Faamagalo le tu’inanau ua o’u nei mata = Just forgive the deep desire in my eyes when I look at you…
Yes that song gets better and better for me the more I understand its meaning. Just wait till I get for you translations for my other favourite in the world Samoan lyrics!
But one more time now, all together… *SIGHHHH*