When Punialava’a flew on Samoa Airways to return home last month, they were very much aware of the parallels between their band and the national carrier.
For starters, both are ambassadors for Samoa, carrying the Samoan flag wherever they go.
Punialavaa does this by the Samoan music they produce which is enjoyed by many all over the world, and Samoa Airways does this by literally flying the Samoan flag from one destination to another.
Another parallel can be drawn from national pride – both Punialavaa and Samoa Airways definitely stir up those feelings for many.
There definitely seems to be a surge of patriotism every time a Punialavaa song plays, or when it comes to Samoa Airways.
“We are ambassadors of Samoa. We are flag bearers for our country, our culture and our music”, said Nanai Viellani Peteru of Punialava’a.
“We don’t have any palagi songs. We focus predominantly on Samoan music and bringing that music to the public, whether they be Samoan or non-Samoan audiences, here or overseas”.
According to Samoa Airways C.E.O., Tupuivao Seiuli Alvin Tuala: “Showcasing Samoa with passion is a fundamental part of our operation, and when you see Samoans connect and capture the attention of their audience and contribute to growing Samoa’s brand-footprint, there’s that strong sense of pride that we as Samoans naturally feel”.
Added Seiuli: “We are delighted to see Punialavaa take centre-stage once again, and we congratulate Reverend Lale and Vini Peteru and their family on their achievements and contribution to Samoa”.
When it comes to Samoan songs and the depth of the language used, many will attest to Punialavaa’s almost unrivalled hold in that area.
Much like how Samoa Airways is unmatched in how it delivers Samoan hospitality in the skies.
“We really enjoyed our trip over. The crew was very good to us, and they were very professional. I really don’t know what people are complaining about”, said Nanai.
“I also want to specifically point out something that I really enjoyed about the plane and our flight. I love that the chairs can recline all the way to the back, which made for some very comfortable relaxing as it was like you were on your bed!”
“The food was also exquisite. I’ve been on many planes and gone to many different places, and Samoa Airways is right up there with the best of them”.
Another Samoa Airways and Punialavaa connection comes in the form of Samoa Airways’ flight attendant, Andrea Bolzoni, who is a huge fan of the band.
Nanai wanted to make a special mention of Andrea, saying that it makes them so happy that he has gone out and bought Punialavaa’s latest album.
Andrea told Punialavaa that singing along to the songs, especially their massive hit single, Ana le Seanoa, has really helped him with his Samoan and how to pronounce Samoan words.
Andrea is Italian.
Andrea was specially acknowledged by Punialavaa during its performance at the recent Teuila Festival, and there is a video doing the rounds on Facebook of Andrea singing Ana le Seanoa with Leulua’ipouomalo Punialavaa Peteru and another Samoa Airways flight attendant, Epi Nellie Enari, on their flight to Samoa.
But there are many other non-Samoans, like Andrea, taking a fancy to Punialavaa’s songs.
“I’ve seen videos of Japanese and palagi people singing Punialavaa’s song. I love it because it means that our Samoan music is being taken to and appreciated by a worldwide audience”, said Nanai.
This international recognition also came in the form of a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pacific Music Awards in New Zealand earlier this year.
“We are very proud of this achievement, but not so much for us but for our Samoan music, as it means that it is being acknowledged outside of Samoa”.
The band has been touring since June.
We caught up with the younger members of the group at Robert Louis Stevenson College at Tafaigata, during the group’s gig there on Friday last week.
This was part of Punialavaa’s school tours while in Samoa, where they managed to visit a number of schools around Upolu.
They said it has been hectic, but rewarding.
“My brother and I sometimes sing the lyrics from an iPad, but most of the people at many of the places we’ve been to have memorized all the lyrics. The biggest thrill is seeing children do that. It makes us happy because they are singing in our language, and we hope that if they don’t understand a word, they will ask their parents. And when they do grow up, that interest and curiosity about the language will stay with them, and in turn keep our language alive and improve literacy”.
This commitment to the Samoan language has been rewarded with some schools now using some Punialavaa songs as part of their Samoan curriculum.
Nanai said this focus on highlighting the richness of the Samoan language in their music will never change.
The only thing that has is making the songs more appealing to the younger listeners through a change in instrumentation, but at the same time retaining the interest of the older generation.
“The feedback we’ve had from the young people is that they love the songs and they’re excited about the music. And the older listeners say they also appreciate the revamped and contemporary music”, said Nanai.
This is the first time the band has performed together again on home soil since the 13 Days of Christmas programme in 2003.
Their trip over on Samoa Airways was their first time on the national carrier, and Nanai said “it will definitely not be our last!”
Samoa Airways collaborated with the Samoa Tourism Authority to bring Punialavaa across for the Teuila Festival, where they were the lead act for the Teuila Concert which wrapped up the festivities this year.
“It’s really important to have our own national airline. As an independent nation, we need to have our own carrier”, said Nanai.
“At the end of the day, it’s about pride – pride in our own airline, our music, our culture and our language”.
And that pretty much sums up the parallels between this legendary band that has brought pride and joy to so many through their music, and the national airline that makes these kinds of connections possible.