Rizván Tu’itahi is a Tongan born recording artist and actor who currently resides in Auckland, New Zealand. In September 2012, I had the pleasure in sharing a few of my spoken word poetry pieces alongside Rizván at the Matala Festival for Tongan Artists at the Mangere Arts Centre. It was there that Rizván and I initially met and it was also when I saw his live music performance for the first time. He is a passionate musician. Shortly after the Matala Festival, we met again at an event which saw Pasifika film makers, directors, writers and actors showcase their short films. Rizván was one of the actors in the short film Feilaulau (as shown below) which was featured that night. It is a moving short film and I cried when I saw the short film as the story resonated with my life and the migrant dreams of my parents. In December 2012, Rizván and I met once again at a magazine photoshoot for the Tongan Creatives Collective of which we are both members of. He is a very talented guy and it has been great to see him in his elements.
With a background in audio engineering and music production, Rizván’s tertiary studies continues in the field of Design and Visual Arts. He balances his family life with work as he continues to tell his stories through his music and acting. He is a humble guy who proudly acknowledges his Tongan heritage in all that he engages in. I am honoured and humbled for the time that he has taken to share his background story which has brought him to where he is today.
Many thanks Rizván for your time. I truly appreciate it. Wishing you all the very best in all your future endevours. ‘Ofa atu xox
Without further adieu, I present Rizván Tu’itahi’s write up for this blog. Enjoy!
Written by Rizván Tu’itahi
Growing up in the Friendly Islands of Tonga during the mid to late 80’s all I heard was reggae music. From Bob Marley and Lucky Dube to more local Polynesian artists like Foni Pole’o and Daniel Rae Costello. Both my parents were very musical and my father use to play guitar and sing in a band with his brother and a few friends back in those days. My mother (Tupou Halaholo) is from Kolofo’ou and my father (Sione Tu’itahi) is from Pukotala, Ha’apai, later settling in Haveluloto, Tonga. When I was born, we built a little home in the small village of Tofoa and later, my brother and I went to school at Tonga Side School in the city.
In 1990, a couple of my cousins came from New Zealand to visit. They brought with them a ghetto blaster stereo and one cassette tape with an artist named MC Hammer. This new sound was fascinating to me and I wanted to hear more. In 1991 we came to Auckland for a visit and the same cousins had a VHS cassette playing one song over and over by a group called Naughty By Nature and the song was ‘O.P.P’. I was drawn immediately to this new genre of Hip Hop; by the lyrics, the rhythm, the fashion and the way it made me want to dance and sing along. It also became a motivation for me to improve my English so I could try and rap along with my new idols. Back to Tonga now in 1992 and a new programme was being broadcasted on television called TV3 JAMZ playing music videos from the US including, Kriss Kross, Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill and many more. I was hooked instantly! I started imitating the videos and trying to write little rhymes (which in retrospect, I cringe at because they were so fresh and cheesy). Little did I know that these were the beginnings of a long path of creativity, expression and a lot of learning.
In 1994 we moved to New Zealand and settled Harbour side on Auckland’s North Shore. Initially, it was intended to be a temporary move, as my father was having an operation at a private hospital. So, we came to be with him and of course this lead to us wanting to live here permanently. At that age, I was not completely aware of the culture shock that I was experiencing because New Zealand was so different to the islands; the people, the food, and the kiwi accent among other things. By the time I hit High School, I had become comfortable and had adjusted myself to the kiwi lifestyle. I had grown up in a diverse community and felt at home. After my schooling at Glenfield College, I moved out to west Auckland to live with family. A friend and I started our little crew called ‘the Usual Suspects’, and a few years later an independent underground label called ‘BreakinWreckWordz’ picked us up. We started recording songs and performed some awesome gigs including Big Day Out, opening for Busta Rhymes, Hip Hop Summit, Pasifika and many more. Soon after, I joined my cousin in a group called ‘the Immigrantz’ and worked on music under a music label called ‘D1 Entertainment’, while I worked and attempted study. At the end of 2011, after several different tertiary institutes, I finally graduated with a Diploma in Audio Engineering and Music Production from MAINZ (Tai Poutini). These two years of learning set me up perfectly for my next venture.
In 2012, I took time out to build my own home studio (at my parents house of course), recorded my first two solo projects, put out three music videos, constructed a website and started building a solid foundation for my own record label, ‘Renaissance Music’. www.renaissancemusic.co.nz
I released two projects, ‘Gemini’ and ‘Lost In Translation (1993)’. The first of my works ‘Gemini’ was a short nine track EP with a mixture of different sounds that reflect my taste in music. The second, ‘Lost In Translation’ was an ode to early 1990’s New York Hip Hop, which was the golden era of Hip Hop un my eyes. A time where artists like Nas, Lost Boyz, Mobb Deep and many more thrived and brought substance and conscious content with their music. These artists and their music were a great motivation and inspiration to me so in return in my music, I try to incorporate concepts and subject matter that can be useful to people, make them think, be inspired, empowered and uplifted.
This year I am focused on a new band ‘The Midnight Trips’ which I am also a part of. Under the ‘Renaissance’ label I am joined by my brother Saia (S.F.T) on the beat, Tonga Vaea on keys, Isaac (Ice) Etimani on bass and Psalms Marsters on vocals to bring a whole new sound to the industry. We are ambitious and have big dreams, thus at the moment we are working on our self titled EP which can be downloaded for free here:
Also coming up next will be the release of my third solo project, Gemini II released June 10 and hopefully a few more music videos. Stay tuned!
Thank you and much love to Maryanne for giving me the opportunity to share my story and music! And one last word of encouragement to all my Polynesian people out there, young and old alike; do your thing and don’t ever give up on your dreams! To the youngin’s eager to establish themselves in the music/entertainment industry, stay focused and stay true to yourself and your loved ones. You don’t need to rely on major labels or anybody to get your music out there, you can do it yourself; do it independently. Be in control. Be who you are and never let anybody bring you down. The world is yours! Malo ‘aupito, ofa atu!
STAY CONNECTED WITH RIZVAN ONLINE:
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.renaissancemusic.co.nz