Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Music and Me

Music has always been a big part of my life and as a Samoan, I use music with pretty much everything; working, playing, mourning, celebrating, relaxing...  When I think of different times in my life, I can always associate it with music. 

Being the youngest and one of only five youth to participate in the village song/dance for Flag Day celebrations in the late 70s, I remember song practice, dance practice, watching everyone singing and smiling.  I don't remember the songs we sang but I remember the feelings that went through me.  The anticipation of sharing our village pride and talent, being surrounded by the older generation and feeling spoiled, and the excitement of performing for the whole island.  I get goose bumps whenever I hear traditional Samoan songs and I'm transported to those times where I've performed with my village, my school, my family, or on my own as the taupou representative.  My hands start to move on their own, my legs start to twitch feeling the pull to stand up and bust some siva moves...  Of course it's difficult to do that while driving or sitting in my office.  But the feelings are there!

When I hear Cecilio and Kapono (C&K), I think of home.  I think of my older brother and my cousin working around the house doing light maintenance "Tim the Tool Man" chores, and singing at the top of their lungs.  I also cry because my cousin passed away in 1994 and whenever I hear C&K, I see and hear him and my brother laughing, joking around, calling my mom "spaghetti" because of her perm.  Growing up in American Samoa, we only had one AM radio station and besides Samoan music, we listened to a lot of light jazz and Hawaiian jams.  I grew up with not only Jerome Gray, Punialava'a, and Five Stars, but also with C&K, Kalapana, and Melveen Lee.  When I hear that music, I'm transported back to a time that was carefree, happy, where time seemed to stand still.

My high school years were filled with up-to-date music, rap, hip hop, R&B...  Of course this was before internet so what we considered new was actually about 5 years behind the U.S.  We enjoyed our music none-the-less and tried to sing (okay, lip sinc) like Lisa Lisa and dance like Janet Jackson.  I don't know if we came close but we had a blast.  This was our era of growing up, becoming independent, and coming close to the time we would be leaving home.  My own children listen to music from my high school days and I swear they were born in the wrong time period.  They love Debarge, Al Green, Prince, and pretty much all of the "classic" music.  That's when lyrics talked about having fun, enjoying life, and maybe had a splattering of positive messages here and there.  No need for profanity or uncensored talk about sex.  Not that I'm an angel.  I swear worse than a sailor and as an old Samoan woman, I feel like I've earned my stripes to speak more freely about married life.  But back in the day, we didn't need all of that nonsense.  Just pure, clean, happy happy joy joy music!

I was introduced to reggae and alternative rock during my college years.  It started off as an extension of high school with the rap, hip hop, and R&B but branched into new, unchartered territories.  As a Broadcasting major, I worked in the college radio station which played alternative rock music.  A very quick, trial by fire introduction had me hooked on Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, and 10,000 Maniacs.  I'd always sneak in some old school Prince with the heavy guitars (he he he).  I figured it would fit right into the genre.  My husband (boyfriend at the time) introduced me to the reggae scene and by the end of my college years, I installed a reggae segment into the predominantly alternative rock station.  Of course, growing up in American Samoa, reggae signified Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, and UB40.  That was pretty much the extent of my reggae knowledge.  After I created the reggae show, I learned to love reggae artists such as Pato Banton, Mikey Dread, and Luciano.  I think my music interests and growth during my college years is a reflection of what college should be; learning, broadening horizons, and experiencing new things.

Now that I'm older and kind of wiser, I've settled into my dog years and I know what I like.  I like to revert to my old school music, the disco, the R&B, the soft tunes, and of course, the reggae music.  It probably doesn't hurt that I play in a reggae band and am exposed to all kinds of reggae.  And sing the songs.  And listen to study the harmonies.  And go to reggae concerts.  I need the soothing sounds of laid back, island style, go with the flow music to calm the hustle and bustle of American life.  I need to be reminded of home and those easier times where we weren't expected to be rigid and linear.  Time was (and still is) flowing.  So we're notorious for being late.  So what?  When we get to where we're going, we work hard, play hard, laugh loud, love lots.  That's what counts.  And you'll always hear us, doing whatever we're doing, with the music blasting. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

"Me" Time???

I needed some "me" time so I called in sick to work today.  Okay, I almost said that with a straight face.  The "me" time part, not the calling in sick.  It's summer break, the kids are home, so "me" time is a dream, something that happens in movies when you're rich and have a nanny, or live in a secluded area where the kids learn to grow up fast and fend for themselves.  My "me" time for today?  Staying home making doctors appointments, calling our apartment manager to fix some things in the townhome, having the kids clean out their drawers and put things away in their memory boxes.  At least the cleaning and sorting are activities they can do on their own.  Because they are old enough to get it done.  With little supervision.  So mom can have her "me" time, listening to their conversation, in front of the fan and computer, drinking a soda and eating her peanut M&M's.  Because she needs more calories. 

What would my "me" time look like?  If I were queen of the world?  It would consist of a few hours of writing when a thought sneaks into my mind like a ninja on an assassin mission or screeches into my head like Dom's muscle car in a Fast & Furious movie.  Whichever one comes first.  Of course, without interruption.  Unless someone is bringing me some snacks, on quiet feet, and quickly running out because I'm writing.  Think of me as the lion in the cage at the zoo.  Quickly, quietly, drop off my stuff and run for your life.

My "me" time would be a little extra cash and the family going to a restaurant, other than McD's or any other fast food joint.  Something like Wingers, or Olive Garden, or Red Robin.  I can sit in silence while the kids interact with their dad, telling him stories, and cracking jokes.  No one talking to me, just letting me listen and absorb the good things in life.  My life.  Catching quick smiles from the hubby, making kissy lips while the kids roll their eyes and get grossed out.  That's why we become parents, right?  To gross out our kids and embarrass the heck out of them.

Sitting at the park on a sunny, but not too hot, summer day with a picnic (Subway sandwiches and 7-Eleven treats) having the kids play on the playground or the basketball court or in the sand at the volleyball area.  Watching them quietly.  Wondering where the time has gone.  They are growing too quickly.  Becoming independent, strong, beautiful women.  Once in a while they turn to wave and smile.  Or run to give me a quick kiss and then it's back to playing.  When did my babies grow up?  "Me" time at the park.  Definitely near the top of the list.

A day trip to go hiking at one of the many beautiful, scenic spots in the Salt Lake Valley.  That kind of "me" time where you're one with nature and your kids.  Talking is at a minimum and you can hear the sounds of birds, insects, and your heavy breathing.  Especially if it's uphill.  But it's "me" time so you endure.  When you get to the lookout point, you see the faces of your children light up.  The view is incredible.  You feel like you're on top of the world.  Zeus in his castle in the clouds.  God looking down from heaven.  Tagaloa traveling in the sky across the Pacific Ocean to see his voyaging children.  That's some real, cars look like ants, I can see the whole valley, I can touch outer space, "me" time.

Growing up in a collective, Samoan/Polynesian culture, "me" time consists of family members always around or calling to go somewhere.  It's understanding that having those people around to teach your children Fa'asamoa (Samoan Way) is key to their "me" time.  Because there's really never been "me" time in our culture.  "I" and "me" do not exist.  It's "us" and "we".  When we accomplish great things, it's our family we represent.  When we do something bad, it's our family that suffers.  When is my "me" time?  It's those few minutes at night, when all the kids are sleeping, that I can reflect and be happy knowing my family is taken care of, my children are safe, and another day has gone by with a lot of laughter and love.  "Me" time is giving good night kisses and saying I Love You.  Every night.  "Me" time is teaching my kids respect, values, and culture.  When I'm old and retired, "me" time will be expanded to grandchildren and the continued teaching of ancestry.  "Me" time is knowing you will never be lonely because there are too many people who love you and will do anything to help you.  "Me" time is family.  For always and forever.