Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

New art platform Banana Boat Records pays homage to Pacific migration

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Anauli Karima Fai'ai | Reporter/Director

The artist formerly known as Tommy Nee reinvents himself under a new platform and a new stage name.

Niuean Samoan music artist, Hools, has launched a new platform called Banana Boat Records (BBR), which aims to preserve cultural heritage through different art forms.

The creation of BBR was inspired by the Matua and Tofua vessels, both nicknamed “Banana Boat,” which transported people and produce from the Pacific Islands to New Zealand in the mid-1900s.

Hools’ paternal grandfather travelled on the Matua Vessel in the 1940s, and other relatives later boarded the ship between Samoa and New Zealand.

He hopes BBR will become a platform for people from different backgrounds to unite and “generally celebrate genuine Pacific arts and culture.”

“One of the aims we hope to achieve is pushing the boundaries and doing that by creating a place where anybody who is into art, that has a Pasifika feel about it, can go.

“It may be in a wide range of [art] forms such as music, stories, film, poetry, sculpture, painting etc.

“My hope is that we’ll always be able to look back and give a nod to where we came from.”

Hools is no stranger to the music industry. He burst onto the scene in 2016 under the artist name, Tommy Nee, and made a name for himself with songs such as ‘Feel’ and ‘Pick up the Phone’.

“The momentum really picked up for me. I’m a country kid and it’s overwhelming. In a lot of people’s eyes, that kind of attention is probably not much, but for me and the way that I perceived it, it was a lot,” he says. 

But after two years, Hools walked away from the limelight, deciding it was time for a break.

“With that attention came questions that I also had to ask myself, ‘am I really being authentic? Is this really who I am?’ Putting myself out there in the world kind of, at times, felt like a fraud.”

That kicked off a journey of transformation spanning nearly six years, during which he got back in touch with his roots—both figuratively and literally.

“I started a garden in our student rental. That was quite grounding,” he says.

“I jumped on the waka through Te Toki, which owns a few waka hourua, which are traditional navigating waka.

“So that period was a big introspective experience, really analysing myself and what my intentions are in this world.”

His new lease on life catalysed the creation of BBR and the artist’s name change from ‘Tommy Nee’ to ‘Hools’.

“My government name is Thomas, but my family call me Hools. Ever since I came to Auckland, I called myself Tommy Nee as an artist’s name, but referring to myself as Hools really just reminds me of my inner child and not forgetting about that.”

BBR was officially launched last month with its first single, ‘Everybody In’, which Hools performed alongside reggae band Unity Pacific.

“And it really means ‘everybody in’, no matter who you are: black, white, brown, orange, yellow, purple. We’re all the same, and it’s just being respectful of one another and having that intention of looking after one another.”

To find out more about Banana Boat Records, head to bananaboatrecords.com



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