Tama Waipara

By Ben Doy

Last week saw the release of Tama Waipara's latest album 'Fill Up The Silence'.  An album which features traditional, grunty Pacific infused afrobeats with raw vocals, 'Fill Up The Silence' was produced by Aaron Nevezie and recorded in Brooklyn, New York.  Waipara describes the new album as "Unashamedly rugged."

We caught up with Tama and found out about the new recording and up upcoming tour of the North Island.  

When did you first start performing?

I started learning music when I was about 7 years old and picked up the clarinet when I was about 9.  I played that all the way up to my Masters Degree I suppose... so about 14 years. Mostly focused on classical music but kind of bridged over into a few other areas. But as a singer and a songwriter, that career didn't really start until I was in my early 20s.

Do you still play the clarinet?

I do. The way singing took over a bit was when. I was in the middle of my Masters Degree at the Manhattan School Of Music and I had a head injury, which meant I couldn't play the clarinet for about 9 months. And that's when I started singing... partly to fill the time but also because there was a burgeoning interest there. Once the recovery hit and rehabilitation had taken place, I eventually started playing again. But the interest that had been kicked off with writing songs and singing just kind of overtook the other.

How did the opportunity to go to the Manhattan School Of Music come about?

I did an undergrad degree in clarinet at Auckland University and I was looking at opportunities to keep my learning's moving forward. My Aunt suggested I audition for some schools in America as she was based in New York. So I auditioned for a few over there, and once I got to New York the city took over (laughs). Just the experience of being over there became the object of desire. The audition process itself was pretty full on, there was about 365 people auditioning for two places and I was fortunate enough to win one of those two places. The hard part I suppose was finding the money, to go there for a 2 year degree... and that was achieved in all sorts of ways. I had about four jobs, I did multiple benefit concerts and applied for scholarships... some of which I got and many of which I didn't!

Where are you living now?

Living back in Auckland. But I grew up on the East Cape in a little town called Opotoki and went to school in Whakatane along with the Kora boys.

You've just released your new album 'Fill Up The Silence'...

Yeah, it's my third album but my fourth release. I did an album called ‘Triumph Of Time' with a New York label that I was signed to over there called ObliqSound.  I then self released an EP in New Zealand called ‘Leaving Paradise' and in 2009 released an album called ‘Sir Plus and the Requirements'... which I guess was kind of a concept album based around this idea of show bands, The Beatles, Kid Creole and Prince Tui Teka... all sort of molded into one. It had a very sort of retro 60s quality to it.

With my new album ‘Fill Up The Silence', I think it really captures all of those flavours from previous work but also the weird musical path I've had in terms of my background and influence. So it kind of stylistically feels like a home for all those different genres.

Where did you record it?

It was recorded at The Bunker studio in Brooklyn and produced by Aaron Nevezie, who also co-wrote quite a few songs on the album. Aaron actually produced my first EP ‘Leaving Paradise' as well, and is a Kiwi who has been living in New York for about 12 or 13 years.  This was an opportunity for us to work together again... so it was pretty exciting. He's worked as an engineer for The Black Keys and recently just recorded Brad Meldhau album, so it was kind of cool in opening up the sound ideas. I guess it's got quite a bit of indie rock flavour to it.

And you've got a tour of the North Island coming up...

Yeah, it kicks off on October 3rd and I'm quite excited about getting out and playing my music. I was just in New York recently and played a few gigs there, and the response was really positive. So I guess I'm figuring out whether that will be the same here (laughs).

You've got a full band for the tour?

Yeah, it's a four-piece so it's lean and mean, but it's a bit more gruntier than I've worked with in the past... very rhythmic, a lot of layered drums and quite energetic.

What's the plan following the tour?

I guess those are the first footsteps as I definitely want to get a bit further around the country. I'll probably be heading out around the summer, but am also looking at further releases and concentrating on also what the plan is for an offshore release and performances.

Tama Waipara iTunes




Thursday October 3rd Puppies, Wellington
Friday October 4th Rhythm, New Plymouth
Saturday October 5th Galatos, Auckland
Sunday October 6th Leigh Sawmill, Leigh

Tickets available from www.dashtickets.co.nz and all good record stores