Hip hop impresario Phil Fuemana dies

By Claire Trevett

Phil Fuemana, the man who fostered Pasifika hip-hop talent in New Zealand, has died of a heart attack.

Mr Fuemana, born in 1964, died at his South Auckland home on Monday.

He was the founder of Urban Pasifika Records, an Otara recording company which launched young hip-hop, soul and reggae groups - including his younger brother Pauly Fuemana's Otara Millionaires' Club.

Family member Tony Fuemana said Phil "was a dreamer, and a lot of the things he started dreaming about happened for him, because he worked hard at it."

Tony said Phil's initial dream was to find a band that did well in the world charts. He found that dream close to home - Pauly Fuemana was the lead singer of the Otara Millionaires' Club, whose song How Bizarre made it to number one in eight countries.

Phil Fuemana set up Urban Pasifika in 1990, although the label was not officially launched until 1996.

Tony said Phil also took pride in the smaller successes - the 1994 Proud compilation and a New Zealand tour of Otara artists.

It was the springboard for groups such as Sisters Underground, whose In the Neighbourhood is now TV2's theme song.

His most recent achievement was the release of the second Gifted and Maori album, a compilation of music from unknown Maori artists.

Phil Fuemana was also delighted with the surge in Pacific Island and Maori success in music. He celebrated the rise of Pacific Island radio stations such as Mai FM, and 531PI and television shows such as Tangata Pasifika, Mai Time and Squeeze.

He was equally delighted with the success of Otara label Dawn Raid, said Tony Fuemana.

"He and Brotha D were great friends, very close brothers. Phil's dream was Dawn Raid - it's what he wanted to do but he didn't have the means."

In 2000, Phil Fuemana told the Herald his dream was to make a movie based on the Otara community to which he was deeply attached.

It was the suburb where he grew up, set up Urban Pasifika and lived in a simple weatherboard house.

"This is the Polynesian centre of Auckland," Phil told the Herald. "It's where people come to see a slice of culture.

"People have this ruffian image of Otara, but that is part of what makes it intriguing and edgy."

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