‘Before and After Summer’, Opera star Jonathan Lemalu launches his new Boosted project
With the country in Alert Level 1, many Kiwis have been enjoying the simple pleasures art provides – galleries, music gigs, local theatre productions, checking out the latest films in cinemas.
However, Grammy-winning opera star Jonathan Lemalu hasn’t been to see a movie since January. “The thought of going to see a movie just makes me think ‘What?!'”
“We very rarely go out and now we’re going into another lockdown on Thursday.”
It’s a stark reminder that while New Zealanders are almost back to some form of normalcy, the grip of Coronavirus hasn’t eased up for many of our Pasifika creatives living across the moana.
Covid-19 has decimated much of the arts sector in London where Lemalu is based, and the Guildhall School teacher is profoundly frank about his current struggles.
“It’s been brutal.”
“I mean, there’s no other way for it, whether it’s mentally, financially. Your identity as a person, as a man as a breadwinner, as a father, as a husband,” says Lemalu.
“I guess you can get comfortable in the fact that you’ve got this lovely work and it allows you to do lovely things. Then you take that away and that is a really weird thing for me.”
A self-professed “technophobe”, Covid has compelled Lemalu to get creative with the different ways he can perform, teach and engage with his audience online, while still providing for his family.
“I’m still coming to grips with an audience I can’t see, an audience I can’t say hello to. The intimacy is different, and it’s such a different lens, but if you want to keep doing it then you have to embrace it.”
A role Lemalu has embraced this year is campaign champion of the Boosted X Moana project, an initiative supported by Creative New Zealand and aims to raise funds for Pacific art projects. “I felt a really cool vibe about being involved because how cool is it that this Boosted X Moana is just for Pasifika people?” he enthuses.
“I can affect the legacy of someone else by saying, ‘Come on guys, let’s get in and get some money to these people.’ It’s such an uplifting communal thing, a positive thing, to be wanting to work.”
From dance to theatre to art exhibitions, the initiative features 15 projects from a wide variety of Pacific artists, and Lemalu is in awe of them all.
“There’s so much talent.”
“When you’re as old as I am and when you’re in your mode and your lane of ‘this is what I do’, and I see other people who are going ‘I don’t have a lane, I just do me’, I find that really attractive and inspiring. I wanna support people like that.”
While Lemalu has spent the past couple of days promoting the work of his fellow artists, the performer also recently launched his own Boosted campaign.
The opera singer spent 5 months working on his project Before And After Summer, a series of 4 biographical episodes detailing his musical journey from a 10yr old Dunedin chorister to a Grammy award winning operatic bass on the international stage, and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Boosted’s making me feel positive about it, because I spent eight months not working, and I like working.”
“When you need help, there are people that are willing to listen and offer their systems or their love or their expertise.”
With over 2 hours of unique content, Before and After Summer gives gives Lemalu’s fans a rare look into the life of one of Aotearoa’s most celebrated operatic voices. The episodes include interviews, Q&A’s recorded from his London base as well as a personal selection of songs and arias to listen to.
“I thought it was important to give back as well. I’ve got gifts, I’ve got skills, I’ve got blessings I want to share. Why not invest if you like it? If not, tell a friend.”
Click on the link below to visit or donate to Jonathan Lemalu’s Boosted Campaign:
By Alice Lolohea
*This article has been updated to include information about Jonathan Lemalu’s Boosted campaign*