Pacific | Music

A climate change poem turned hip-hop song.

Based on poetry by Audrey Brown-Pereira, a hip-hop version of ‘They Taking Pictures of Us in the Water’ premiered at the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion for COP28.

Māngere hip-hop artists Rizván (Centre) with Snare, Sven Illy, Judah Kidd, Illseff, and Snowman.

“Hip-hop being a voice for the voiceless, this was an opportunity for me to give a voice for the environment.”

These are the words of Producer, Faiumu Matthew Salapu (Anonymouz), when he was asked to turn a poem about climate change into a hip-hop song.

Pacific hip-hop artists, poets, and dancers have remixed poetry by Audrey Brown-Pereira “They Taking Pictures of Us in the Water”.

Brown-Pereira attended the launch of the song at COP 28 in the UAE, a track to connect people globally towards the urgency of staying below a 1.5°C global temperature, to avoid dangerous climate change impacts.

“You had all ages rocking back and forth and as someone involved, it took me back.

Miss Samoa had a youth event and it had all these Pacific youth as well as delegates throughout the world present and when that poem came on I got all these ‘Oh Aunty can you give me the link, that was really cool,” says Brown-Pereira.

An agreement in Paris in 2018 from world leaders was made to keep global temperatures from increasing above 1.5°C.

Creative director, Anonymouz was unaware of this until hearing the poem so he thought the song would be a great vehicle for hip-hop to shine awareness on this.

He touched on how much effort Samoans put in to wave their flags for their national teams and would like to see the same for climate change.

“It’s all good to be proud 685 (Samoas area code) to the world, but you’re going to have no 685 to go to in the future if we don’t address these things.”

Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion display at COP 28 in the UAE.

The song was launched at the Moana Blue Pacific Pavillion, which was the base for all Pacific leaders who attended on behalf of their countries.

The artistry of male vocalists is counter-balanced with fierce women’s representation through taupou (female dancers) and women’s siva afi (fire dancers).

Brown-Pereira says this was a requirement for the video clip.

“There were two things I asked Matthew (Anonymouz) to keep that it had to retain feminine elements and it also had to use elements of my voice to sample.

Beyond that, it was his gift to explore using his talents and look at what he came up with, I’m so proud.”

Anonymouz who was also the Music Producer saw this creative exercise as a rewarding challenge.

“I heard her poem and I was like ‘I’m in, this is ticking so many boxes for me in terms of exploring our culture, exploring a kaupapa that’s very important to us all, exploring creative artistry in terms of not only but the music production and the visual production.

From the outset, it was all go.”

This video is part of the Mana Moana Pasifika Voices visual poem series, a collection that provokes Pacific people to think more about the state of their environment.

It was filmed at Māngere Bridge which stretches over the Watamatā Harbour an area that is subject to environmental issues.

A call from the Pacific for larger countries to honour their promises to the Pacific.

Everyone involved in the production has a connection to Māngere, Anonymouz saw this as an an opportunity to show unity and the importance of having pride in your land.

“It was a perfect blend of the environmental, eroded steal, and rust type of look. One of the key things was I was very mindful of our Pacific people and their connection to the land the water and the sea.

With Māngere being the backdrop, it was also quite important in the curation of the hip-hop artists that we have Māngere rappers involved.” He says.

The Mana Moana - Pasifika Voices initiative is supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), and visual design creatives Storybox.

‘They taking pictures of us in the water’ is now available on all major streaming platforms.

This article is in partnership with Pacific Media Network.