Local talent takes the stage for Seki Fest performers

The National University of Samoa fale Samoa was packed to the rafters on Thursday for a showcase of local artists to the visiting performers for Friday night’s Seki Fest.

The crowd of students, and international artists got eight performances from Samoan youth, who danced and rapped their hearts out, to show everyone what they are capable of.

Dance troupes Le Tiumasalasala, RE:PRESENT, BLACKINS, the Ma’a Twins and solo dancer Rodney, and rappers Young Sefa and Escape performed, as well as singer Ben Petana.

Youth organisation Brown Girl Woke (B.G.W.) organised the gathering to show the visitors from Australia, New Zealand and as far as Africa “what is happening in Samoa".

As each act took the stage, the visiting artists were visibly moved, and grooved in their seats to the mix of contemporary, traditional and hip hop routines. When rapper Escape (Lars Bell) took the stage, some barely remained in their seats.

The national university's B.G.W. organiser, Chrioni Posini, said having the artists travelling over for Seki Fest is perfect timing to host something to promote local artists.

“Performing arts, dance and music is something that is swept under the carpet. We are trying to get our kids out there,” Ms Posini said.

“There are cultural restrictions, especially for our young girls.” 

Ms Posini knows the challenges of performing as a career well. She dances with RE:PRESENT, the all-female dance group which often faces difficulties being taken seriously, even by their own families. When they competed in the national dance competition this year, it was the first time a female group had entered in six years.

Priscilla Olano Ah Young, who runs RE:PRESENT said people often don’t understand how performance can be a career.

“People say oh, what are you going to get out of that, but it is a career path,” she said.

“Not everyone is good in school, not everyone is meant to be a doctor, or a scientist. Some are meant to perform.”

Rapper and radio host on Island Base FM Iosefa Enari (Young Sefa) said his music has to be relatable to his audience. As a Pacific artist, he incorporates humour, church, family and of course food into his rap.

“I just think of the things we Samoan’s love, and that is food. I rap about lots and lots of food,” he said.

“I am trying to stick to the island flavour, the island style of rap music. I look for every opportunity to showcase my talent.”

Mr Enari wants to be an actor. After working as a sailor he qualified for drama school in New Zealand, but the prohibitively expensive fees sent him back to Samoa. 

But when he prepared to perform for the international contingent of artists like Adina Thembi, Victor J Sefo, DJ 651 and more, he thought about how best to show himself off.

“I was thinking hey, you guys looking for a Samoan kid, rapping and stuff? I’m available,” Mr Enari said.

Like Ms Ah Young, he doesn’t see enough opportunities to perform and develop in Samoa. There isn’t a big enough market for entertainment, which makes having Samoan artists who have succeeded abroad performing for Seki Fest all the more meaningful.

“It’s good for students to listen to other young people like them. I know in Samoa there is not much opportunity for performing arts for the young kids and that discourages some of them,” Ms Ah Young said.

“To see people like them, islanders like them and around the same age is encouraging, to say – I can do it.”

The event originally included a panel discussion so that local artists and the audience could quiz the Seki Fest starts on their work, their methods and their challenges. But as soon as a chance to sing and dance with all the artists arose, there was no time for the panel.

A dance competition for six people vying for free tickets to the concert quickly became a dance floor and selfie-fest for the audience and performers, especially for people wanting photographs with Adina Thembi.

The star of hit single ‘Killing Me Softly’ said she enjoyed seeing the breadth of talent on show. 

“I think it was beautiful, I loved the last dance group (BLACKINS),” Ms Thembi said.

“I think there is so much potential and talent, the musicians carry it out so well…. They are all amazing, I would love to collaborate with anyone who is available.”

 “It just takes a little bit of nurturing and encouragement, and finding a platform for them to find an outlet for their music,” Seki Fest organiser Peter Gunz (Peter Papalii) said.

“Having things like this come and visit them encourages them more to pursue their dreams. Seeing their fellow countrymen, they know it’s possible, so they can make it as well.”

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