ALOFA ATU: Samara Alofa and their new album Earth Punk

Samara Alofa is an Auckland multi-headed artist who has just dropped their independently produced breakout album ‘EARTH PUNK!’ We talk to them about this sonic piece of mahi, their journey and some of the kōrero hidden in the lining of this long-awaited work.

*In this interview Samara sometimes uses the pronouns We/Us

Where are you from, what is your cultural background?

My bloodlines go back to Samoa (Vailoa, Palauli), Tonga, Germany and Aotearoa (Ngati Awa). There are more ethnicities in there if we really want to go in to it, but honestly we do just like to identify as a child of Te Moana Nui a Kiwa. Our literal existence sort of proves that the whole language and culture of being “A real Samoan” or “A plastic” is void. Those names and labels were given to our people and whenua/placenta by the tongues and cheeks of colonial invaders. We know not to believe too hard in those sorts of paradigms and structures because they are violent and divisive.  

Tell us about this record. What it means to you. 

This record is a taonga, something to pass on to those who are like us, those who have broken down the barriers in order for us to get to where we are. Anyone who gives a fuck about BIPOC. Tis my first pepi and we love it so much! We have been pretty scared to release it out into the world tbh. Yet, we know we can’t hold on for too long, otherwise the gifts get buried deep inside. Unable to resonate how they supposed to ay! 

Let’s explore some of the themes/kaupapa, and ancestral ideas that you worked with to create this body of work.

Lots of the themes of this album draw from the narrative of decolonising the self, returning and relearning, dismantling and unlearning, remembering how to connect and communicate with the unseen realms, the self and the ancestor guides. Our great Grandmother’s are a huge influence in this work. Their voices spills out of us in lyrics and tones, in voice and in the visuals also. It is all a part of this healing journey and being a healer or whatever you want to call it. Remembering that our mothers are medicine and incorporating their lessons and essence into everything we do. No matter how much the world wants to fuck with our space and our technologies, our growth will continue and the medicine will always flow out of our very essence. There are big themes of water and water being the connecter or ALL things…. it is a God and the reflection of us all. The album art work (photographed by Nicole Hunt) is inspired by a portrait of my great, great-grandmother and other spiritual guides that flow with us through all of eternity.

You mixed mastered produced released EARTH PUNK yourself. We joke you are Marc Jacobs for Marc Jacobs by Marc Jacobs but it’s true. That must feel good for your spirit. 

Hahaha… it is kind of weird to us that it’s a big deal that a femme would have done all that by themselves to me. And knowing how simple it is to do now, it makes us feel weird that anyone would ever actually rely on others to do that shit for them. Obviously collaborating is awesome and we definitely love to do that with other works… do not get us wrong. But it defs gets us shook that lots of femmes don’t feel free to do so. It is a shitload of imposter syndrome to work through, we know it is. It’s centuries of oppression and silencing that does it for us. Hope the fact we did do it (even though we know it isn’t like PERFECT) will inspire other people to do it! And to do it waaay better than we did. We are just happy to open some doors a li’l bit for the rest of them to come the fuck through, and show the fuck up ya know.

The response to DNT CARE has been so big for you, it charted on student radio without you even knowing…. and your single release week was both beautiful and pure comedy. It feels like you are having a lot of fun taking the independent route.

Yes honestly feels like we are breaking off those annoying and weird expectations/rules of doing a successful release. Pure comedy indeed! Spelling OUR OWN NAME WRONG on the original album artwork was GOLD! Also we were so shook about the charts, did not think anyone would care to vote or play it up on the radio, so that is fucking cool as! 

SAMARA ALOFA (Photo by Gap Tooth Boo)

Like Kōtiro, You also work in screen and have this whole subplot with Jane Campion saying you’ve given one of her favourite acting performances. Can you explain that gag a little bit?

Yeah so when we were younger we acted in a student short film called “Our Father” written and directed by the incredible and beautiful genius ‘Esther Mauga’ who is underrated as fuck. But also obviously not cause their STUDENT FILM got selected for all these like big ass film festivals. AMAZING! We didn’t know much about it and are not really a film person, so Jane Campion gave us a shout out when they made the festival selection announcements. This was for New Zealand Film Festival, we fully had no idea how big of a deal it was. We were so like “okay whoever you are thank you so much”.  It took us about a year after to realise! We like to think we aren’t so naive these days.

You and I both tend to tutu and plane jump across different creative mediums…. and you have that amazing shapeshifter/channel quality in your mahi. Is that intentional?

It is like this Aquarian and Capricorn mood! I guess we are just such a hands on learner and if we want to do something we just have to do it. We do not really care to fail as long as we just TRY. It is a blessing and a curse really. 

What’s your relationship with noise/experimental music – you enjoy that realm?

Oh yes so this realm is where we started! Improv and noise music is the source for us, we love to jam and then move in and out of structure. We feel drawn to it because it resonates heaps with our desire to create free and safe spaces for people to exist.. It also helps with this whole void of not having our native tongue and so this tapping in to free sound taught us real quick how to listen and listen really deep, beyond you know hearing the bass guitar underneath the drums and keys and vocals and synths vibe. It really taught us to listen to the water and the tree’s and the birds and EVERYTHING. 

What are your hopes and dreams for this record, what is the dream fruition for this work, what does that look like for you?

Really hope that this record reaches those who NEED it, we do not care for it to be a top hit or famous or whatever. Just hope that those who NEED it GET it. We also hope that people of any kind hear it and are inspired to do something BETTER! We are just launch pads for one another ya know! Like as long as the mother fuckers aren’t tryna take the bloody launch pad itself with them, we are so very happy to help and inspire and create.