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Pasifika artist uses songs to keep Samoan language alive

Auckland, NEW ZEALAND — A Pasifika music artist is aiming to elevate the Samoan language into mainstream spaces.

Aaron Pulemagafa who goes by the moniker, 'The Western Guide', said the lack of Pacific bilingual songs in New Zealand's music scene and his fondness of Samoan ballads led him to create his latest single, 'Siva Mai'.

Performed in both Samoan and English, 'Siva Mai' incorporates the Afrobeat genre — a style of music derived from Nigeria.

"It's been my goal to merge mainstream and Samoan music and make our music more friendly for people who don't understand Samoan or who don't listen to Samoan music," Pulemafaga told Pacific Waves.

His song 'Pe Moni Ea' released in 2021 was a remake of an old Samoan song that received thousands of views on YouTube and many positive reviews.

And the reaction to the song convinced the content creator from West Auckland that he could further his craft to promote his Samoan language.

"When other people who aren't Samoan spoke about the song, they go 'it's really cool to hear Samoan music in a commercial setting'," he said

"So it's my goal to make sure that we can keep our culture alive or just the language we have in general, through our music."


Persistence paid off for the artist who pitched for funding over 500 times for the song's music video.

Upon learning that he had been successful in his one of his bids, he then sought the talents of filmmaker director Samson Rambo and producer Torisse Laulu.

Laulu, who is also credited with producing the Re:News four-part series documentary, 'Still Here', said Pulemagafa's journey as a music artist resonated with her personal and cultural values.

"I think it's important to find more ways to help sustain our [Samoan] language especially in the newer generations" she said.

"It was a no-brainer to jump on board and awhi that project because I want to be able to contribute my little way to help sustain the language."

Both Pulemagafa and Laulu said they hope artists from other Pacific communities follow suit.

"It'd be nice to make way for other people to come through," Laulu said.

"Pacific people are underreprested throughout mainstream and just in general. So I guess any representation we can get, it's a win for us all."