Tama's blend fills the silence

By Paula Yeoman

Waipara's new album is a melting pot of influences, writes Paula Yeoman.

Tama Waipara is often considered a newcomer, despite releasing his third album. Photo / Michael Craig
Tama Waipara is often considered a newcomer, despite releasing his third album. Photo / Michael Craig

Tama Waipara makes no apology for the odd vocal imperfection on his new album, Fill Up The Silence.

"Normally, I'd be self-conscious of that. Are people going to say, 'Oh, it's wobbly. It's not pure and clean.' But what I really wanted to do was just get to the guts of it, which meant if the voice was a bit wrangled or rugged, then that was okay. If it was raw, if there was tension, all that stuff was fine. I think the purity comes from the honesty," he says.

It will come as a surprise to many to learn this is Waipara's third full-length album. He was little-known here when he released his last, Sir Plus And The Requirements. But thanks to a number of notable projects, including a stellar performance in Brel - a showcase of the work of Jacques Brel - alongside Julia Deans, Jon Toogood and Jennifer Ward-Lealand, his star is rising.

"I often meet new people and they'll say 'what's your name', and I'll say 'Tama'. Then they'll say 'Tama who'? And then it's 'Oh you're Tama Waipara'.

The idea that they know the name but not the person is kind of funny," laughs Waipara.

He's also fine with people thinking of him as a newcomer, even if it is far from the truth. The East Coast-bred Waipara moved to New York in the late 1990s to study at the Manhattan School of Music. It was there that he landed a deal with the label ObliqSound and released his debut Triumph of Time.

He toured the album across the US and the UK before deciding to return to New Zealand. It was a major gamble that proved to be far more challenging than Waipara had imagined.

"I think I thought, 'Oh well, I've been with this New York label, I'm coming back to New Zealand, it should be easy - if I could do it over there then it should be fine here'. That was a gross misconception," he says.

"It was a totally different place. And I left New Zealand not in this industry and came back to something I had no knowledge of. I had a vague association at best and had to literally start from scratch."

And so Waipara considers Fill Up The Silence the perfect starting point. It's a melting pot of influences where beat-laden toe-tapping tracks such as Medicine Man meet quieter moments like Night Vision and the album's stand-out track, the 80s-tinged slow-burner On The Wall.

"There will be a Night Vision for someone; an On The Wall for somebody else. The truth is all of these things are me. It's what I've always wanted to do. It's what I've always been working towards."

Fill Up The Silence is out now. Tama Waipara plays Galatos in Auckland on October 5 and Leigh Sawmill, Leigh, on October 6.

- Herald on Sunday

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