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Talented Tangee turns troubles into triumphs

Saturday October 17, 2015 Written by Published in Weekend
Tangee with nephew and niece, Daniel and Peka Fisher. Tangee with nephew and niece, Daniel and Peka Fisher.


This week CI News features a 50 Tamariki Kuki Airani profile on Cook Islands singer and recording artist Tangee (Tangi Kokaua).

The 50 Tamariki series was started on Facebook last year by Cook Islands journalist Florence Syme-Buchanan. It profiles ordinary Cook Islanders doing extraordinary things.

Talented singer and recording artist Tangee has set aside a musical career spanning over two decades to pursue studies in New Zealand.

Over the years, Tangee has unhesitatingly given outstanding support to many community causes both at home in the Cook Islands and overseas in New Zealand, Australia and Tahiti. Tangee has demonstrated that it is never too late to begin learning.

Humble by nature, generous with a keen sense of humour Tangee is a favourite MC amongst many groups. Now living in Auckland New Zealand after moving there for health reasons, Tangee shares a warm story of turning disadvantage into triumph. 

I grew up always singing. I loved soprano, but couldn’t carry on as a soprano singer.

I started singing in church and Sunday school with Mama Jane Kokaua and Uncle Cambridge Kokaua who both nurtured my singing and until the time that I graduated to singing publicly. I began singing in public by entering song competitions in Rarotonga and Tahiti.

I have released seven albums. My favourite of my seven albums is Te Marama, the very first album produced by Vaimutu recordings. It’s my favourite because it has songs that I really loved. On that recording, I worked closely with George Upu, Kathy Browne and Tina Koronui. I have recorded albums in Rarotonga, New Zealand and Tahiti.

I think Mere Darling is the best Cook Island female singer of all time. With the pitches that Mere can reach, she can make any song sound wonderful. I’m not sure if I really have a favourite male singer… there are a few I like – Tutu Ringiao, Willie Crummer and Sonny Tetuairo. I love old songs.

My mother and my dad are part-Aitutakian and being on Aitutaki makes me the happiest. I love the simple lifestyle, the go with the flow attitude of the Aitutakians and their zest for life.

If I could, I would love to improve the life of our people at home in the Cook Islands by making it easier for us all to live there. My greatest hope for our country is that people will be much better off there rather than anywhere else in the world.

I wish and hope to return home one day for good because after being brought up most of my life on Rarotonga, I miss the friendliness of our people – it is almost intimate on every level.

Not many people know this, but I was born in Manihiki in the village of Tauhunu.

My mum is Clerk Teokotai Williams adopted by Abela Williams. She was also known as Tangimama, a name given to her upon the death of her adopted mother Helena Brell.

My dads name is Mainiamangatama Tuaivi Kokaua of Rarotonga. He is of the Ngati Arera of Pokoinu. My brothers are Abela Williams, Maini (dsp) Kokaua, Henry Ellis, Tearikitopi Kokaua.

My sisters are Helena Patai Kokaua, Clerk Kokaua Reboama, Tepaeru Kokaua Hagai, Matamaru Kokaua aka Maxine.

Tereora College was an eye opener for me after being at Nikao Primary School because it had so many students. I had led a very sheltered life in my younger days at Nikao Primary school, where you knew everybody at school.

New Zealand has taught me to appreciate the Cook Islands more, much more than I realised. I was beginning to take my home for granted.

Being in New Zealand has opened different doors for me and I am grateful for the opportunities that have come my way. I think it’s been like turning a negative situation into something positive for me being in New Zealand.

I never thought I would go back to school but here I am studying at Unitec Institute of Technology in Mt Albert, Auckland for a double major in Accounting and Business Management, majoring in operations.

I came to New Zealand to undergo surgery but there were complications after the operation which changed everything for me.

I had to remain in New Zealand to be constantly monitored by my doctor. I was so bored because I couldn’t do anything. Finally after two years I was allowed to do some part time studies by my doctor.

My surgery has changed my life forever in that I cannot do any lifting or strenuous work. So I figured the best thing for me was to go back and study.

I needed to up-skill myself so I can avoid manual jobs. I am so looking forward to coming back home after my studies. There are some Cook Islander's here at Unitec and it is a great place for our youth to come here and study.

When I returned to studies I had to start from the bottom. I went to Aorere College and joined a number of community courses in business for beginners and MYOB accounting.

After that I applied to Te Wananga O Aotearoa and did First Steps in Business Level 2 and the following year I did a Certificate in Small Business Management Level 4 and last year I completed the New Zealand National Diploma in Business.

I was awarded the Certificate of Excellence at Best Pacific Institute of Education. Who would have thought?

My ultimate dream is to utilise my new found knowledge at home and help friends. I hope to find work either in Rarotonga or Aitutaki.

It has been important for me to keep my Cook Islands culture close and to be involved with the Cook Islands community in New Zealand.

I have been a member of the Te Riri o te O dance group here in Auckland and have been part of the Te Vaka Te Au O Tonga cultural group in our Te Akirata festival in the past two years. I have composed, choreographed and helped with the Avondale College Cook Islands groups which have participated in the annual secondary schools Polyfest.

I have also been helping out the Auckland University Cook Islands Students’ Association with their cultural items in the Taokotaianga Cultural Festival which is a cultural gathering of the tertiary institutes and universities here in New Zealand.

At present the participating institutes are Auckland University, Victoria University and Waikato University. I hope the Unitec Cook Islands students will some day participate in the Taokotaianga Festival.

I have judged for the Taokotaianga Festival, the Pasifika by Nature festival. The latter is the Waikato region equivalent of the Polyfest. I have also judged the Tokoroa biannual dancer of the year competition and some smaller dance competitions.

I must say the standard of our culture here in New Zealand is quite high considering most of the participants are New Zealand born.

Most have never danced until they join the groups involved in the festivals. I think our culture will progress even more if we start to have primary school festivals so our young children can start learning our culture at an earlier stage and build up as they grow.

What I find with our children in New Zealand is that they are very keen to learn our culture.

Without Reo Maori, the situation in New Zealand is that I think the parents are keen to keep our reo alive and instil it in our children.

There are a lot of passionate people here that want to keep our reo from being lost. Because we live in New Zealand I suppose there is an excuse for many children losing te reo.

I don’t believe the same excuse exists for Rarotonga. Sadly, I do believe that Rarotonga is next in line to lose our Cook Islands reo. We speak English to our kids like it is our first language. That’s really unfortunate.

One thing I hope that we will be able to preserve are the different unique dialects of each island. I am always chuffed when I hear the children speak their original tongue like in Mangaia.

It sounds so innocent, genuine and unpretentious when the children chat in their own language in their home island. Over here in New Zealand Rarotongan is what is promoted as the Cook Islands language. I hope the other islands will be able to teach their own dialects in future.

I remember when I was involved in the political campaigns back home, I would compose my message in English and then translate it into Rarotongan before presenting.

I did this because I believe the emphasis in our education is on English. I hope our education system will adopt the bilingual system of teaching which will emphasise our language and then gradually move into the English

language as children move through primary school. I believe Rarotongan in itself is quite a hard language to master and I must confess someone I enjoy listening to is Makiuti Tongia. He slowly breaks down a word to individual letters to find its meaning.

While I have had achieved many milestones I don't have any particular achievement that comes to mind as being truly outstanding.

I constantly push myself to achieve goals. Right now I have many, many more goals to achieve and not enough days in the year.

I appreciate each achievement for its relevance in my life and especially what I have learned from it.

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1 comment

  • Comment Link raea ruaine Sunday, 25 October 2015 03:49 posted by raea ruaine

    kia orana Tangee Kokaua pleasure to meet you reading your story makes me happy same time makes me feel sorrow reason our reo language i hate to see disappear raro reo is the most beautiful when spocken by a pakeha or cook island people like you say never too old to speak as a young lad i was brought up in nikao i use to come at the pere kokaua home in nikao was a are uipaanga there dont know if still stand i was born 1936 6 nov. i love nikao i also go to tuaivi home age 12 i live in avatiu turuariki boaza came to nz. 1959 live ponsonby auckland move to otara now living 44 takanini rd takanini havent been back in raro since 2008 but not too late to go for holiday because health reasons need doctor pills 3 month supply getting on but not bad kia manuia

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