|Photo: Simon Young|
I take a seat in BMG Music's boardroom. I'm here to talk with Teremoana about her latest single, Four Women, an appetiser for a February album that will include tracks produced by Spearhead's Michael Franti and Babble's Allanah Currie and Tom Bailey. Teremoana enters with two large cups of Milo - three spoonfuls of Milo and a little bit of milk. I notice her interview schedule on the table.
"They ask you the same stink questions. 'What does this song mean to you? Why did you choose this song?' I don't know why I chose it. I like it, okay, and it's nothing more than that."
Four Women, a Nina Simone original, is a moving piece that explores the struggles of four Afro-American women. Teremoana describes the lyrics as "quite hardcore'' but tells me that it doesn't stop her from relating to them. She mentions the second verse: 'Between two worlds I do along, My father was rich and white, forced my mother late one night, What do they call me?'
“I can relate to that but not in such a violent manner. My father's white and my mother's Cook Island Maori. It wasn't a fairytale relationship. What happened was, a whole bunch of bankers in the 70's went to the Cook Islands. The thing was for all these Pakeha men to go over there and find a Cook Island woman to cook and clean up after them. So that was my mother and father's relationship, and that's why my parent aren't together anymore."
Her history has left Teremoana mindful of the importance of knowing your roots and not being ashamed of them. "I was brought up in a white neighbourhood and I thought I was white until I was seven. I had a little afro but everyone around me was white. So I thought I was white until some kid at school called me a sambo and then a whole lot of kids came around and called me nigger, sambo, blah blah blah.
“I started balling my eyes out. I went home, waited for my father to come home, said 'Dad, all these kids called me a nigger. But I'm white like you, aren't I?' And he's going, 'Actually honey, you're black but it's not a bad thing. It's actually a good thing. Don't worry about people like that'. I'm like, 'Keep on doing those speeches, Dad'.''
Only in accepting and understanding one's past, says Teremoana, can a person move on to a brighter future. ''I'm not bitter. I just want things to live, to move forward. I just want to come out as an artist.'' And for an artist whose soul is so closely linked to the realities of life, Teremoana's music is a beautiful blend of passion and pain - the essence of true art itself.