King Kapisi in the south for Polyfest

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King Kapisi. Photo: Sanda Jukic

AWARD-WINNING New Zealand Samoan hip-hop artist King Kapisi visited Invercargill last week to MC the high school showcase Murihiku Polyfest Rangatahi Toa, organised by the Murihiku Maori and Pasifika Cultural Trust. He also performed live on Friday night at Tillerman’s Nightclub.

Southland Express reporter Hayden Williams caught up with him for a question-and-answer session on Thursday afternoon at ILT Stadium Southland.

Q: What do you think about Invercargill’s new branding message “Dream Big”?

A: For me… having travelled a lot, it’s definitely been a dream to be able to go [places]. Growing up in Wellington with a Samoan mentality, it’s nice to be able to know I’m one of the first Islanders to go [to some part of the world] – I take that responsibility very seriously.

Q: Did you always dream of becoming a world-travelling award-winning hip-hop artist?

A: When I was a kid [I looked up to] Wynton Rufer, a [New Zealand] soccer player who went to Europe. If that dude can do it, then I can do it. Also, we had a family band. My mum was a teacher, my dad was a factory worker. She raised us to be very creative. We have playwrights [in our family], book writers, producers, we’ve all won awards. I’ve done two fashion shows with my clothing label Overstayer. We’re a very unique family. We just went out and did our thing. We had one rule – don’t make the family look bad. I think we achieved our goal. My bucket list is to reach Wembley [Stadium]. I won’t stop until I’ve rocked that dream. Also, we have a big, massive problem with our kids. Suicide prevention is a big part of the work I do. We have to go out and work because if we don’t who else is going to? If we can help these kids then really that’s the biggest goal. I’m a big believer if we don’t show the kids a pathway, they don’t know where to go. If I can go around the world and show them the steps, I can help them get there faster. I believe in that village mentality where you help each other out.

Q: What do you think about Invercargill’s Polyfest?

A: For a place like Invercargill to have a Polyfest is amazing. Everyone I speak to, people are like ‘wow, there’s a Polyfest in Invercargill’? But there’s been a Pacific Island community here for years and years. The Murihiku Trust promote Maori andPolynesian culture. That’s really amazing, because normally a trust will only rock one culture. Us being Polynesian, we have to support each other because we’re family, we’re whanau. I like the festival, to be able to work with the next generation. The Polyfest’s about unity. When you dance and sing and play tunes, you get that vibe you can only get when you’re in a group, creating multiple harmonies and doing your thing. You feel alive, you have a feeling of being proud. We have to promote that, doing your thing is okay. In Polynesia you get told to be quiet, but I’ve been able to make a living out of it.”

Q: What do you like best about visiting Southland?

A: People will wave at you here – they don’t do that in other places. People are approachable here and that’s nice. If you do that in Auckland, people think you have a problem. I like the R-rolling, too. Being able to build bridges.”

Q: Was voicing Pasifika culture through hip-hop a natural fit and are there any strong similarities between the two?

my videos is always from the islands. But it was an uneasy fit. I’m not a fluent Samoan speaker but I went home to Samoa when I was 7. Before I was 7 I thought we were Maori. I freaked out, there were more of us [Samoans]. Until you go home you don’t realise. I fit in each culture. That’s why I feel so strongly because a lot of us are the sons and daughters of immigrants. I made a fight for Polynesians around the world, from different cultures, because they’ve all been under colonialism… In Samoa there are traditional orators. When you listen to them talk, there’s like a way different language, a very different style [but it’s nothing like hip-hop]. Another big part of Samoan culture is church. I didn’t go to church. I went to church when I was young, but then our parents gave me the option to stay home, so I stayed home and watched Star Trek

Q: Do you have a release date for your new album yet?

A: My new album, Hip Hop Lives Here, will be out before the end of this year.

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