In the last day of February this year, Phillip Fuemana died of a heart attack at his South Auckland home. His death, at just 41, was even more untimely because it meant that Phil missed taking active part in the inaugural Pacific Music Awards ceremony, a celebration he could very legitimately have claimed a stake in. In the event, a Lifetime Achievement Award was bestowed on him posthumously at the event.
Another gesture of respect and gratitude, long time friend Matty Ruys commissioned graffiti artist Askew to paint a wall-sized mural for Phil on the Otara Music and Arts Centre, where Phil had spent much of his time encouraging young musicians. A benefit concert staged in Auckland for the Fuemana family featured many of our finest and busiest urban performers.
Of Niuean and Maori descent, Phil was a mentor, an inspiration, a door opener, indeed a godfather of South Auckland hip hop and street soul. Back in 1990 he established Urban Pacifika Records which became the launch pad for a number of our earliest successful Polynesian artists and a blueprint for other independent labels like Dawn Raid.
He played a significant role in the seminal ‘Proud’ project, the 1994 compilation album/tour, which originally focused the nation’s attention on the ‘Otara sound’. The album and subsequent ground-breaking national tour proved to be the springboard for a number of future urban artist careers. His most recent release was the second ‘Gifted and Maori’ album, a compilation of music from unknown Maori artists.
Phil wrote and co-wrote music for his many acts, as well as being a highly regarded and successful producer. A collection of gold and platinum discs and three Tui awards testify to the success he enjoyed. He twice appeared on the cover of NZM. First in ‘94 with his brotherPauly, who was subsequently to gain worldwide success as OMC, and for a second time in 1998 with a number of UPR artists. The photographs on this page show him at the launch of UPR (courtesy of Garry Brandon), and more recently working with Mauri Ora Productions on the production of Maorioke for Maori Television.
Whirimako Black very kindly provided the korero below.
Rest in peace.
Lament to Phillip Fuemana
Na Ranganui i tuku iho ona roimata
He pa aroha mo matau e tangi nei mo to wehenga, e Phil.
Haere e hoa
Haere e te rangatira
E hoki ki te kopu o te whaea a Papatuanuku
ki te okiokinga kei reia ko o matua tupuna
Ko te tumanako ko au waihotanga e Phil
ka puawai mo nga uri o Te Moananui a Kiwa
otira te Ao whanui
Nga mahi whakatau puoro.
Hei aha ra? Hei whakaatu ora mo te huna rau aroha
He ohaoha maramatanga
He ohaoha mauri
To ao waiata
whakatangi taonga puoro
moe mai r¯a ki roto i te tangi o te oriori a o whaea
ma o mahi i waiho iho e koe
hei paiheretanga mo nga uri o
Te Moananui a Kiwa
Ranginui released his tears
Expressing all our lamentations for your departure oh Phil
Bon voyage dear friend
Bon voyage oh chief
Bon voyage back to the womb of Mother Earth
of the Maiden of the Night
at the place of gathering to be honored by your ancestors
The hope is that your legacy oh Phil
will come to fruition for our cousins of the Pacific
for the whole world
Recording of music
whatever, embodying life to those who loved you
Generous in mind
Generous in character
Your world of music
sleep now amongst the mournful laments of your mothers
let the legacy you have left
unify all descendants of
- Whirimako Black