Celebrating French Polynesia's National Day - Interview with AMUI
Article by Liv and Kyriakos
Today June 29 is Fête de I’autonomie or Heiva o te (Internal Autonomy Day) in French Polynesia, it is a public holiday celebrated every year. The date of this holiday commemorates the annexation of the Kingdom of Tahiti and the turnover of native sovereignty by King Pōmare V of France on this day in 1880. In celebration of their public holiday we spoke to Ken Carlter from the Tahitian pop group AMUI (which consists of Ken Carlter, Eva Ariitai and Vaheana Fernandez) who this year competed in the French Eurovision national selection show ‘Eurovision France, c’est vous qui décidez!’. The group made it to the finals and finished sixth overall with an impressive third place with the televoters!
Firstly, congratulations on making it to the finals of ‘Eurovision France, c’est vous qui décidez!’ and getting an impressive third place with the televoting! What was your experience like on the show?
As I was hoping for, this was an amazing experience ! I took a lot of pleasure being on stage because all was very well organised by the production and all the artists were mis en valeur. Beside the fact that it was during the pandemic restrictions in France, we managed to live up this experience to the max.
How did it feel representing the Pasifika at a national final in France?
It was an absolute great honour and a real opportunity to show what we are able to do in the South Pacific and promote our islands through the French National Tv. We actually realized it was a really hard work to get there
You delivered a fun and upbeat entry, what is the meaning behind your song ‘Maeva’?
Thank you, I appreciate it, we actually realised it was a really hard work to get there so we really gave the best version of our self for this show.
"Maeva" means "Welcome" in Tahitian native language. It is a positive pop song about sharing & having fun together in our islands. The famous "Welcome" from Tahiti!
"I wanted to show to the European audience, that France is not only Paris and the Eiffel Tower, or the baguette and the beret... but it is also enriched by its overseas Islands, territories, cultures and people."
What was the song writing process like working with Edwige and your wife Séréna?
Working on my album, 'Maeva' is the part 2 of a trilogy of songs I created. It started by 'Ia Ora Na' that was my biggest success overall. About my process, I first did some research and thought about what kind of show we could do to impress on the Eurovision stage. Then I realised I needed a gimmick chorus easy to pronounce in any languages and incorporate a Haka into my song...I created the melody first then the music.
We recorded 6 traditional instruments (drums, ukulele) to bring authenticity and obtain that mix of traditional & modern music. I wrote the lyrics with my wife Séréna in French and my mother Edwige helped me to correct few sentences in Tahitian.
Congratulations on the release of the official music video clip for ‘Maeva’ which was released on June 9! The location of the music video is so exquisite! Can you tell us a bit about the video and where it was filmed?
Thank you very much, the music video was filmed in 4 hours in Tahiti, at Intercontinental Hotel Tahiti Resort & Spa. We wanted to recreate a couple of scenes the Eurovision France did on stage like the little "motu" (island) we had and the last sky shot they did the artists, heads up and arms in the air.
"For the video clip we did cast some local TikTokers and asked them to create a summer choreography challenge. So the video shows the party as we do it in Tahiti, full of happiness, in a paradisiac & blissful place."
What are your musical influences and can you tell us a bit about ‘Tahitian pop’?
I grew up between traditional music and international pop songs. I love the movie sound tracks and get a lot of inspiration from it. I love Hans Zimmer work for example on 'The Thin Red Line' with the mix of the Melanesian choirs and classical music.
When I started to do music, I wanted to create one closed to my background: my mother is Polynesian and my father is French, so a mix of my influences.
The Tahitian Pop is close to the Polynesian Pop that you can hear in Pasifika, at the difference it is made from instruments that are from French Polynesia (Tahitian ukulele, vivo, drums,...etc) and we bring the 3 Tahitian native language to it (Tahitian, Marquesian and Paumotu.)
I always pay attention to make the perfect mix between traditional instruments and synthetic music.
We have seen two other Tahitian performers at Eurovision before, Jean Gabilou with the song ‘Humanahum’ for France in 1981, which finished in an impressive third place in the contest, and Séverine Ferrer with the song ‘La Coco-Dance’ for Monaco in 2006, who was joined on the Eurovision stage with Tahitian dancer Vanessa Roche. What do those previous acts mean to you, and how would it feel to get your ‘Tahitian pop’ music on the Eurovision stage one day?
Jean Gabilou was the first one to do it, it was a great pride and inspiration for a lot of Polynesian artists, I didn't know about the Coco dance before the Eurofans told us about it, it was interesting to discover it. I'm always happy when attention is down to our small islands.
It would be a dream, and so much pride to bring my Tahitian pop music to a such great show that is the Eurovision Song Final. I love this contest, this stage is completely mad and I love challenges. I don't give up to do it one day, I'll keep trying, so keep an eye out for me!
~ The team would LOVE to see you/AMUI return to the Eurovision world in some capacity!! Keep that fighting spirit (Liv & Kyriakos)
Can we expect any new songs or projects from you soon?
Yes, I'm recording my new solo album for the end of the year with Sony Music RCA Records, my label. And normally a new single Ken Carlter will be released in autumn
Have any of you ever been to Australia? If so, where have you been? If not, where would you like to visit in Australia?
Unfortunately not but I've heard so much about it this is a one country I shall not miss! My wife Séréna, used to live in Melbourne for many years and was an Australian citizen, she has only good things to say about Australia and Australian people, her best friends still live there. So it's a plan to go for a visit on one of those days.
I would love to go on a trip from Melbourne to the Gold Coast and visit Sydney on the way! And of course try those fancy shrimps on the barbie!!!
And finally we have to ask you, what is your favourite Australian Eurovision entry?
My favourite is Dami Im 'Sound Of Silence', very beautiful song and voice. I watched all the entries and each year Australia manages to good and eclectic songs to the contest. I'm very happy your country are part of the contest and represent Oceania for us all !
Thank you so much for your time to talk to us at Aussievision! And all the best! We can’t wait to hear more music from AMUI.
Thank you so much, best wishes to you and Aussievision!