The colour on his guitar’s fretboard peeled off years ago, the strings are dappled with rusty spots. But when Alapati starts strumming the first chords with his big, leathery right hand until his brother’s deep, characteristic voice comes in, the two blind brothers gloss over those difficulties.
In fact, the lack of musical equipment never held them back to play music to the people of Samoa’s capital city. A voice and a guitar was all they needed to shape Apia’s streetscape with their typical sound. But since a few weeks, they are lacking a voice: the voice of the third brother.
“Our beloved brother passed away this May,”says Avaiti Ah-Sang in front of the roofed Chan Mow Wholesale building where the two musicians can be found on most days.
“We were just starting to save money, when it happened”, Alapati explains, his red guitar with the rusty strings placed safely on his lap. The process of saving money is not an unknown one for the two blind street musicians.
Because of their handicap, both have to nourish their families with only their music. “Our family counts on this, because it is the only financial income that we have for them”, the man from Vailele explains. The 55-year old, who together with his five years older brother from Manono is still mourning the death of their third brother, does not think about abolishing the plans they have made together with the deceased family member: to record their music and spread it all over the islands.
“Every day, we earn between 30 or 40 Tala with our music. We share the money with our families to make sure that there’s a plate on the table every day so that nobody has to starve. But what is left in the basket goes straight to our bank account, so that if we have saved enough, we can pay one of the studios to record our music”.
Indeed, this is not the first time for the brothers to cut their songs on a record. “In the past, it was easier for use to make a living out of music, because people would give more money and we only had to ask the radio stations in the area to record some of our music”, Avaiti tells.
But this is no longer possible. “We asked around and from the information we got from different studios, our record would cost us 3000 Tala in total.” A huge amount of money for two sightless street musicians who recently lost their brother. “All of the savings we had so far were of course spent to say farewell to our beloved brother in the most appropriate way possible”, Avaiti Ah-Sang states.
Even though both brothers and their families had to overcome this elusive amount of challenges in the recent past, they are still focused on fulfilling their dream of recording their songs. “It would be nice to find some other musicians to form a band together at least for the recording sessions, but first we have to save the money again. It is sad, because we already had a title in mind for it, that now does no longer fit”.
The title for their new record would have been “Three Blind Brothers”, but with the recent tragedy they went through, the two musicians will most likely change it to what makes the most sense for them now: “We will call it ‘Two Blind Brothers’ if we will ever be able to afford a new record again, but it will be dedicated to our beloved brother”, Alapati Ah-Sang says and after a few moments of silence, the well-known sounds of his guitar suffuse the pedestrian underpass in front of Chan Mow Wholesale.