Talented Samoan-Kiwi musician Lesā Lani Alo is the voice behind the Samoan rugby team’s official anthem ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup tournament.
Manu Samoa released the new song - Centre Stage - on its social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, over the weekend - much to the delight of fans.
“Your official Manu Samoa song for Rugby World Cup 2023,” an accompanying caption read.
“A big fa’amalo (congratulations) and fa’afetai (thank you) to everyone involved in creating this special masterpiece.”
The song was written and composed by Alo and Vainalepa Agaseata Livingstone Efu, who has also worked alongside Alo on other hit songs familiar to Samoans around New Zealand and overseas: Tua i Manū and his debut single Alo i ou Faiva.
The latter song, in particular, has turned into an anthem of sorts for many Samoans since its release in 2019. It has clocked 3.6 million views on YouTube since then.
Alo - a former head boy at West Auckland’s Massey High School - is known for his powerful voice and the emotional sentiments attached to the lyrics in his hit jams.
The singer holds a Bachelor of Music and Postgraduate Diploma in Music Performance (distinction) from the University of Otago.
In 2020, he won Best Pacific Gospel Artist and Best Pacific Song for Alo i ou Faiva at the Pacific Music Awards, which were broadcast online due to Covid-19 restrictions at the time.
Two years before that, he was a part of the winning Te Atatu EFKS choir that took home the Best Gospel Artist gong at the same awards.
In Centre Stage, the Manu Samoa team puts out a call to its people as they perform the siva tau haka. At the same time, Alo is seen walking into the middle of the field at Apia Park in the island nation’s capital city.
“I can feel the music running through my veins. I’m on centre stage. I’m on centre stage,” he sings.
In a style now associated with the young singer, the lyrics are in both English and Samoan.
‘Now is your time’
Some of those lyrics speak about choosing your battles carefully and to stay composed no matter what people may say about you.
In a clever ode to one of the collaborating businesses behind the music clip - Pacific watch brand Matai Watches - one line shouts: “O lou taimi nei!” (Now is your time).
There is also a cameo appearance of former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga, who now holds the chiefly title of Fa’alogo, and is an assistant coach to Manu Samoa’s head coach Vaovasamanaia Seilala Mapusua.
Samoan rugby fans around the world have shared their thoughts about the song and music video itself - which was shot in Samoa by local business Parker Films and features a number of moving images of the motherland and its flag.
“This got me emotional,” one fan wrote on Facebook.
“I look at all these young (men) of our beloved Samoa and still can’t believe how much they grew to become such an inspiration for our young generations.”
The Rugby World Cup 2023 tournament kicks off in France in early September, with the first match between the host nation and the All Blacks on September 8.