THIS time out of PNG a pulsating star has emerged, emanating shots of colour through her steadily growing light accentuating a deep and unconventional character.
Ngaiire Joseph was born here in PNG but moved to New Zealand at a young age, also battling cancer at just seven years old.
At 16 she moved to Australia with her mother who had been divorced from Ngaiire’s father, both remarried.
The beautiful and petite Ngaiire says although her passport says she’s Australian, she very much considers herself a Papua New Guinean.
“Not being able to hold dual citizenship forces you to choose what Nationality you are. I am Australian on my passport but I still very much consider myself a Papua New Guinean as well. They’re both my homes so I don’t really feel the need to choose as a third culture kid”.
The songstress lived in PNG for 10 years. Was born here and attended primary school and some high school in Rabaul & Lae.
“I went to the Sacred Heart International Primary School in Rabaul then Lae Christian Academy; both very different experiences. I was at SHIPS in Rabaul until the ‘94 eruption and relocated to Vunapope. That itself is something to tell the grand kids about!”
Speaking of grandkids, Ngaiire recently lost her maternal grandmother here in PNG and since a death certificate was needed to grant her and her mother a visa on compassionate grounds, she missed her grandmothers’ burial.
“All I will say to everyone is to spend as much time with your grandparents as you can. They have a lot of knowledge to pass down to you. Make it a priority. And that’s the same as your parents”.
Ngaiire says she got to where she is now is through persistence.
“I don’t really know what a big break is yet but right now I feel like my career has been based on a bunch of little goals kicked that are all heading in the same direction”.
Just back from a US tour and doing more shows in Australia, Ngaiire tells us about her days on the road.
“There’s no real routine but the basis of it is making sure everyone gets to the airports on time, no one loses luggage, everyone has a place to sleep and everyone gets to sound check on time and then it all repeats itself.
“Each tour is different; sometimes you might get time off to explore especially if you’re overseas and you can’t afford to fly home to sleep in your own bed; sometimes you'll find yourself back in the tour van or at the airport travelling to the next state trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in and not on the shoulder of the person next to you.
Meeting and opening for R ‘n B/Soul artist Alicia Keys was big for the rising star and she tells of that experience.
“Alicia Keys is a classy woman. For someone that big to make time to talk to the support act and make them feel like they’re talking to a real person is testament to her character and I love her more for that. I think if I ever get as big as her and I can still maintain who I am; that would be success to me.
Ngaiire says she never set out to have a certain style in music or writing.
“I journeyed through different formations of sound. I love all types of music so it was really hard for me to just settle on the one and I was constantly trying to do everything! I’m some form of electronic soul at the moment which seems to be working. Who knows, I might join a Bluegrass band next year but for now I’m quite content with where things are heading.
I don’t think I consciously set out to be or write in a certain way. My art and what I do is very much intertwined with my life and life is real. There’s no hiding from it so I think that really keeps me grounded which I guess has some kind of effect on my ‘style’ so to speak.
When asked about her theatrics and fashion sense Ngaiire mentions her ties to PNG and her mother.
“I mean look at PNG and how incredible our traditional getups are. You can’t grow up around that and not be influenced by that. My mum, Miriam has always been a bit of a game changer not just with costuming but in what she believed in and how much noise to make so I kind of took my lead from her”.
About her experience with cancer as a young girl she says, she wouldn’t be who she is today.
“Cancer is the type of thing that stays with you after you’ve kicked it. It made me stronger than I ever would have been without it ironically. It’s basically dictated the way I made decisions in my life and how I go about doing things. Life is so short. Why waste it?”
Does PNG influence your music as well? If so, how?
“Maybe. A lot of people comment that my harmonies are a bit islander so I guess it has to that extent. I grew up with everyone knowing how to harmonise and I think that was my first taste of being able to create and build harmonies. I really get a kick out of it. It’s like painting”.
•Where will Ngaiire be in 5 – 10 years in your mind?
Probably another couple of albums. I’d love to have a couple of little humans also. It’s funny how a woman’s body decides that for you. There’s no fighting it.
•What are the songs “Once”, “Dirty Hercules” and “Around” about?
‘Once' is about doing things that you love doing over and over again even if it scares you. We are all controlled by fear a lot of the time.
'Dirty Hercules' is about women being too afraid to support each other a little more,
‘Around’ is going through a break up and the thoughts that go through your head in that first week of being apart.
•What’s your motto?
If there’s a will there’s a way.
•What keeps you fit?
I’m the worst person to talk to about staying fit. I’m realising more now how much of the problem that’s going to be for me later if I don’t keep at it but it’s so important to spend at least 20 mins a day being physical or going for a walk. It’s good for your brain too. I try to do a bit of Yoga sometimes which always turns me into an emotional wreck afterwards as it tends to trigger a lot of cleansing of bad toxins and energy. I love playing Squash but that can be detrimental to your knees as there’s a lot of running around and jarring.
•Can you list some likes and dislikes?
I love mangos, kulaus, snow, autumn, swimming, water, kaukau, my family, music, bars, adventures, good conversation. I hate pretenders.
•What’s your advice for making it in music?
Have passion, have a plan. You can be a dreamer but always have a plan.
•Will you be touring in PNG anytime soon?
We’re working on it!