The album features 13 originals and a Pacific-style cover version of 'Secret Love', the song made famous by Doris Day. The melodies are catchy, rangey and surprising. The arrangements are tasteful and organic, showcasing Hinemoana's extraordinary voice.
Hinemoana produced 'puawai' herself with the help of Robbie Duncan at Wellington's Braeburn Studios. It's her first full-length album and her first with Jayrem Records. It's also the first in which her many 'languages' are explored - from te reo Māori to the language of poetry. Several of the songs on the album move freely in and out of spoken-word.
The songs range in subject matter from light to dark and most shades in between ('...a bit like my relatives...'). They feature local and international contributions from musicians in Aotearoa, California and Melbourne. Drummer Richard Te One (Te Āti Awa), who plays regularly with Wayne Mason, lifts 'Free' and 'Motel' into the country-rock realm, then later lays a moody, spacious foundation for the love-ballad 'Missing You'. Hinemoana's cousin, guitarist Dale Cooper (Taranaki) creates an almost bluegrass road-trip reverie in 'Long Time Coming Home'. Andrew London's ukulele-esque guitar treatment accompanies a surprising and sweet final note to the album - Hinemoana's version of the Doris Day classic 'Secret Love' .
The New Zealand Herald says:
'Baker's enticing, folk-based music walks the line between Joni Mitchell in its melody-bending and entrancing vibrato, and Bic Runga in its elemental elegance. But it also has the added depth of her Maori heritage in the occasional use of te reo and the waiata tradition. With slippery bass, lap steel, djembe drum, cello and traditional Maori instruments used discreetly, this diverse collection runs from a cappella to full-bodied folk and spoken word pieces over picked acoustic guitar. Baker sings of the power of nature in a way which is heartfelt but never cloyingly sentimental, of the fires of love which both warm and sear the heart, and of her heritage.'
Two 'cellists, Francesca Mountfort (from Wellington gypsy ensemble 'Carousel') and Emily Insolio Corwin (California), add romance and grit. Robbie Duncan creates a sweeping electric guitar summer-scape in 'Blue Sky'. Along with the odd cicada, some languid lap-steel from Matthew Leonard and the husky blues-vocals of Tyree Robertson (Clan Donnachaidh, Yugoslav), the album is a rich collaboration.
Hinemoana writes: 'In 2009, for three startling months, I was Arts Queensland Poet in Residence. I was based in Brisbane, but the Queensland Writer's Centre (who administered the programme) also sent me to various other places in the state. In August I visited Toowoomba, Chinchilla, Roma and Charleville on the Q150 steam-train. Prior to that, in fact almost as soon as I arrived, I was flown to Blackall and Longreach in Western Queensland to experience that country and take workshops with budding poets.
'Being at least a 12 hour drive from any coast was a very strange, quite disturbing feeling for me - at my home in Paekākāriki, I walk to the sea wall in under two minutes. The feeling of subterranean panic I felt surrounded by so much land was something I had to keep breathing through, to get to the other side.
'This soundwalk - a collage of field recordings and poetry - is a legacy from that time. Spending time in those extraordinary landscapes brought home to me how true it is that nowhere's too far from the ocean in New Zealand. This was my first genuine outback trip and is something I'll never forget.'
Snap Happy is welcomed as a wonderful opportunity for two enormously talented vocalist-wordsmith-composers to blend and bend their own and others’ expectations. As the duo 'Taniwha', these two accomplished soloists bring a new ‘power of two’ to this latest live-in-studio adventure.
Full of heart and playfulness, the songs on Snap Happy deliver a brave, delicate and delightful romp, full of momentum, through many musical moods.
Taniwha: 'A fabulous monster supposed to reside in deep water. A chief, a prodigy, the human body. A bold, poetic figure...'
(from A dictionary of the Maori language, H W Williams, 1971)
i can see fiji (poems by teresia teaiwa)
Producer Hinemoana Baker writes of 'I Can See Fiji": 'It has been a wonderful privilege collaborating with poet Teresia Teaiwa on this album. Teresia (US/Kiribati/Fiji) on this album. Teresia is an established and respected print poet, scholar and writer, and someone whose work I admired long before she approached me to produce an audio version of her poetry.
'What you see and hear on this album began life in a very different form. Three years ago, after a few preliminary discussions, Teresia delivered 12 chosen poems that she wanted produced in audio. She’d been writing quite a bit, she said, about walking: both the physical act, and what it represents for a migrant like herself. She had an epigraph in mind – comedian Eteuati Ete’s joke ‘I’m not a pedestrian. I’m a Samoan.’ She also had a working title: ‘Poems from Pedestria’.
'Teresia told me she wanted to use the project to break out of the literal - to take herself and her work into new, perhaps more abstract territory. So we resolved to try and create a kind of theatre for the ear - making decisions about what the audience would 'see' first, and what would be slowly revealed.
'It’s not often a producer is given so much freedom with the sound design of any album – I’m very grateful to Teresia for giving me this opportunity. I think of the result, ‘i can see fiji’, as a docu-story, a poem-entary, even as an old-fashioned radio drama. Basically it’s a story – to some extent Teresia’s story - told with words and sound. There’s poetry, for sure, but not as we know it.'
Download free and/or listen to the whole album here: I Can See Fiji on Soundcloud