“Grace has been defined as the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.”
This quote by famous philosopher William Hazlitt perhaps best sums up your first impressions of Annie Puletiuatoa-Tonumali’i.
The award-winning artist, better known as Annie Grace, is here in Samoa to share the message of hope through a concert that will not only showcase her talent, but to show that there is always hope – even when all seems lost.
Annie hails from Nuusuatia, Lepa, Iva and Moata’a. The wife of Mission Tonumali’i and a mother of one, she is no stranger to the music industry. She won an award in New Zealand for best female artist for 2006, and she has been nominated for five awards for her most recent album released last year in December titled ‘The Journey’.
The awards include: Best Pacific female artist, best Pacific album, best Pacific song and best Gospel artist. But that stuff doesn’t define Annie.
“My mind and heart is not on those nominations but rather, it is here in Samoa,” she told the Samoa Observer.
And in Samoa – being who she is – she has come a long way.
“At the age of 4 during a Sunday school, my mom discovered that I could sing, so she took me everywhere; Sunday school, rest homes, prisons and hospitals where I would sing,” said Annie, who grew up in New Zealand.
“At the age of 10 I recorded my first album then ten years later I recorded my second album which included the song ‘Tala mai le lagi’.”
But it was never always smooth sailing for the singer, even for someone so in tune with her walk with Jesus; she still encountered problems along the way.
“After winning the award in 2006, I went through a lot of tragedy in my life. I am so blessed to have had the ability to write music and so I wrote about everything I went through,” she said.
“Before the age of 7 my parents went through a break up which really hit me, it left me asking the question ‘what is going on?’.
“When I was 7, I went through abuse and I realized ‘this is not normal’, I grew up feeling so empty; as a teenager I started to look for love, I knew in my heart that it was a desperate attempt to fill that void inside of me.
“By the time I married my husband, we had one daughter and then lost three babies to miscarriage, my life was just a chain of tragedy.
“I felt it couldn’t get any worse, and then I lost my father. That was very hard to take in, to top everything off I have bone-marrow disease which I am currently being treated for.
“For me to sit here right now is a miracle because the doctor said I should be dying because I also have early stages of leukemia; when people look at me they can’t tell that I’m sick, that tells you that this is nothing but a miracle.”
“That is why I’m here, I want to share with the people of Samoa that ‘hey whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone, and our God is bigger than any problem’.”
Without knowing when the dawn of her problems will come, Annie used the opportunity to write inspirational music to help those who are going through the same problems.
“I get much inspiration from life experiences and the things that I have been through, as I explained before, I have been through a lot of tragedy but I have also been through a lot of good as well,” she said.
“If I didn’t go through those difficulties then I wouldn’t be strong, I wouldn’t be the person I am today; My songs were written out of that pain I went through, it is a form of release as well as a declaration.
“When people sing the national anthem they sing with pride, that’s like me, when I sing it’s a declaration of how blessed I am and the pride I have with how I can show people that there is always hope.
“An example of a song is ‘I choose you’ which is about the time I went through depression and I had to battle my way out of this dark pit; all the bottled up pain led to me writing a song called I choose you which means that no matter what I go through, I choose life.
“During that time of depression I was suicidal and so there I was thinking ‘should I choose death or life?’ so when I decided to choose life, I wrote the song.”
Being a servant to the lord as well as Samoa is what brought Annie back home.
“First of all, I am here in Samoa to serve my nation, I love my people, I love the fact that I’m Samoan, I’m here to glorify God; to share the talent, the gift and the message that there is hope,” she said.
“Whatever you’re going through, there’s restoration grace for you, that‘s why I’m here.
“If you ask me ‘would you rather be at home?’ I would say of course, I’m going through a painful treatment everyday but I’m here because I love my people and I want to let someone out there know that there is hope for them.”
Annie ended the interview with words of inspiration for her people.
“If I had one message for my people it would be, don’t give up, just hang in there, there’s hope for you, please don’t give up,” she said.
“If you’re going through what I went through then get help, and pray to God, he will give you the strength.”
For Motiana Bernard who is involved with the organizing of the Annie Grace concert, she told Samoa Observer that just after a few days with Annie, she felt very close and inspired by her.
“She makes you feel so important when you feel so insignificant, she constantly reminds us that we are the daughter of a King and we are important,” she said.
“She is always so encouraging and sees the best in people, she’s so inspirational; a lot of people always tell her that she should be resting because of her sickness but her perspective is that ‘as long as I’m living and breathing I will serve God’. She is simply amazing; I feel so close to her.”
God’s Grace Restores starts at 6.30 in front of the government building tomorrow. It is a free event and you are invited.