Auckland Council’s Māngere Arts Centre was alive with the music and dance of ancient Tonga on Saturday 8 April, attracting a royal attendance.
The celebrations marked the launch of a traditional music album, Lomipeau Aotearoa, featuring songs based on the poetry of late Tongan Queen Salote Tupou III, performed by Auckland-based group Pukepuke o’ Tonga.
In front of Princess Mele Siuilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili, Auckland’s Tongan community performed alongside Pukepuke o’ Tonga, who are descendants of the late queen’s music composer.
The group is made up of members of the Pusiaki family from the village of Lapaha, who are the only ones allowed to perform the compositions, which date back to the 1920s.
Group leader Sesilia Pusiaki said the album's launch is a dream come true for her family.
"These works have been alive since the 1920s and they still have the same spirit and the same mana."
"This is a part of how we lived and how we are still living. It is also representative of how we will continue to live," she said.
Councillor Efeso Collins said it was an honour to be part of the day to witness the emotion and memory.
"The poetry, melodies and rhythms of Pukepuke o' Tonga signify the depth of feeling, spirituality and soul of the late Queen Salote and those bestowed with the honour of articulating her words into song and movement," he said.
"I was personally moved by the depth of the works and congratulate all those involved in this very special project."
Lomipeau Aotearoa is the first of its kind to be produced and created as part of Taonga Pasifika, Auckland Council's two-year pilot project which focuses on the preservation and sharing of Pacific culture.
The album’s unique songs feature important events in Tongan history and are available on iTunes from 10 April.
Sesilia Pusiaki spoke to Radio NZ recently – listen to her talk about what this landmark album means to her family on Radio NZ's Standing Room Only programme.