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Tongan royal blessing makes music history

Published: 3 April 2017

Auckland-based dance group Pukepuke o’ Tonga will make music history on Saturday 8 April, when they perform New Zealand’s premiere of ‘Lomipeau Aotearoa’, an album of unique recordings based on the mythical poetry of the late Queen Salote Tupou III, at Auckland Council’s Mangere Arts Centre. 

With a history of faiva (performance), tradition and culture running through their veins, the group will present a medley of traditional songs and dances.

The ground-breaking album brings back the sounds and melodies of ancient Tonga and breathes new life into the late Queen’s poetry. 

Known for her considerable mana, the Queen’s 1920s writings were originally translated into music and dance by one of her music composers, Lapaha Punake Vili Pusiaki.

Sesilia Pusiaki, descendant of the music composer and Pukepuke o’ Tonga group lead, explains the significance of the ‘Lomipeau Aotearoa’ album.

“Pukepuke o’ Tonga translates as “to hold onto” or “to uphold” Tonga and focuses on preserving Tongan culture and heritage through dance and music.” 

“As descendants of Lapaha Punake Vili Pusiaki, receiving Lord Kalaniuvalu’s blessing to create ‘Lomipeau Aotearoa’ is a dream come true for my family. 

“We’ve kept the songs and dances alive in our family for four generations, and this is the first time these historically significant songs have been professionally recorded and produced.”

Developed as part of Auckland Council’s Taonga Pasifika pilot project to create an archive of heritage Pacific music and dance, the album aims to share Pacific culture and knowledge and is part of the regional Pacific arts and culture programme.

Manukau Ward Councillor and Chair of the Community Development & Safety Committee Efeso Collins is looking forward to the event.

“It will be an exciting day of festivities as we invite Aucklanders of all cultures to journey back to ancient Tonga to experience their story telling traditions.”  

“To complete their journey from the original ‘blessing given’ to produce ‘Lomipeau Aotearoa’ through to its launch, Pukepuke o’ Tonga will offer a Kava to HRH Princess Mele Siuilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili, a guest of honour on the day, as well as present the album to symbolise “kou lava e fatongia” (the job is now done).”

The daylong event will see one of the biggest gatherings of Auckland’s Tongan community to celebrate the revival and preservation of traditional Tongan arts, culture and values.  A traditional kava ceremony will start the celebrations followed by live performances, artist talks and a documentary film about the making of the album.

The ‘Lomipeau Aotearoa’ album launch is part of a series of live events supporting the landmark exhibition, Volume:  Making Music in Aotearoa at the Auckland Museum until 21 May 2017.

Ends

EDITOR NOTES:

Event date:    Saturday 8 April 2017

Time:              11am – 6pm

Venue:            Māngere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku

Corner Orly Avenue and Bader Drive, Mangere, Auckland

Tickets:          FREE

About Pukepuke o’ Tonga:

Pukepuke o’ Tonga is an Auckland-based Tongan group made up of members of the Pusiaki family.  As descendants of Lapaha Punake Vili Pusiaki, musical composer to the late Queen Salote Topou III, the family has kept the compositions alive for four generations. 

Pukepuke o’ Tonga focuses on the telling of Tongan stories through music and dance, and the preservation of Tongan culture, heritage and life; sharing this not only with Tongan people and communities but with the wider public.

Pukepuke o’ Tonga is led by Sesilia Pusiaki, who has taught Tongan music and dance in Auckland and abroad for several years and was the 2012 Pacific Dance Artist in Residence.

Auckland Council is proud to partner with Pukepuke o’ Tonga to produce ‘Lomipeau Aotearoa’ as part of the two year Taonga Pasifika pilot project.  Focused on the preservation and sharing of Pacific culture and knowledge, Taonga Pasifika was initiated to develop an archive of heritage of Pacific music and dance, delivered as part of Auckland Council’s regional Pacific arts and culture programme.