Mourners hear of Fuemana's twin joys over song and son

By Michael Dickison, Isaac Davison

Pauly Fuemana's coffin is carried inside the church for his funeral service yesterday. Photo / Dean Purcell
Pauly Fuemana's coffin is carried inside the church for his funeral service yesterday. Photo / Dean Purcell

As How Bizarre reached the top of the United States charts, Pauly Fuemana was celebrating another treasured moment at home - the birth of his eldest son, Angelo.

The singer's two highlights of 1996 came together in an artwork which was provided to the Great New Zealand Songbook last year.

Angelo, now a teenager, wrote out the lyrics to the single for the compilation's booklet, which contained colourful histories of a selection of New Zealand hits.

Producer Murray Thom said Fuemana - who died on Sunday after a short illness - was an automatic inclusion in the songbook.

"We had long arguments about the validity of some songs, but his song wasn't one of them.

"It's a good place-holder for a moment in time. We wanted to create treasure in the first place with this compilation.

When he passed, the artwork became even more special."

The note at the bottom of the page was believed to be written by Fuemana: "Angelo was born in the year How Bizarre went No 1 on US radio ... Took me round the world but nothing could replace the love."

Mourners at his funeral heard yesterday that Fuemana inspired and opened doors for a whole generation.

More than 200 people filled the Pacific Island Presbyterian church in Newton to say their final farewells.

"His dreams were bigger than Auckland city; he wanted the world. Our brother became a sensation. He had the biggest hit in New Zealand at age 25," said his sister Christina in a eulogy. "[But] he valued family more than success itself."

Family members gathered on stage to sing, and Christina followed with a song of her own.

"If I could have one song, it would be to sing with you ... If I could have one last chance I would ask my brother to dance," she sang.

Fuemana began his music career in Otara, South Auckland, where his group picked the name OMC, short for Otara Millionaires Club.

At the time, no musician had come out of South Auckland to become a millionaire success, and Fuemana was far from wealthy.

"I loved the name. It showed honour, arrogance and audacity," said Manukau City Mayor Len Brown before the funeral. Mr Brown knew Fuemana from early in his career, before the "millionaire" name came true.

Fuemana's ambition and talent had made major success seem possible even then, Mr Brown said.

"No surprise that he made it, but the way he made it was unbelievable.

"It's the passing of a young legend. He totally broke the glass ceiling for all these Pacific musicians."

Fuemana recorded How Bizarre as OMC in 1995, and it became a number one hit in Australia, Ireland, South Africa and Austria.

The band put together an album of the same name which became New Zealand's most successful record, selling almost four million copies.

"He came from a place where you're not supposed to do what he did," said close friend Darryl Thompson, also known as DLT. "It will be remembered as a miracle. He opened doors for everyone from a housing project."

OMC broke up in 2000 and Fuemana declared bankruptcy in 2006, losing his copyrights.

Friends have said the sudden fame and fortune were too much for Fuemana to cope with.

Other reports have said he had been too generous to family and other people around him. But Fuemana did not lose his passion for music, said family friend Sully Paea.

"In our last conversation [Fuemana said] he wants to get back to the youth and inspire them.

"It's a sad day but it's also a great day ... We are celebrating a great life that has gone through many battles. A very short life but he accomplished a lot."

Oscar Kightley and Dawn Raid's Brother D were also among the crowd at the funeral.

- NZ Herald

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