I’ve just returned from a short trip back home to NZ to farewell a very dear friend of mine, Loma. He had been quite ill for a while and bravely fought to try and stay on this earth a little while longer. When I learned of his passing, I was truly shocked. It was a Wednesday morning 5am (Melbourne time) and I was at the airport seeing my dad off after his 2-week stay with us – but when I learned of the news I quickly rushed my dad off with “ia alu loa oe Dad, fa soifua” – no prolonged hug and tears this time as I knew I would be seeing him within a few days. I drove home and spent the day thinking of my time with Loma…..
When I met Loma I was a young and naive 23-year old. To me, he seemed like a badass – he was this obese young man with a bald head and tattoos on his arms. We were part of a dynamic drama/music team and enjoyed the next 2 years touring Auckland and Wellington; performing for schools, churches and various events on themes such as peer pressure, relationships, self-esteem etc. During this time Loma amazed me. He had immense talent, a sense of humour but what I really admired about him was his humility. He wasn’t one to revel in the limelight – he preferred to uplift others in his team (including myself) while he stayed in the background. He was always full of praise – even if I came off stage disappointed in a lacklustre performance he would say “shot sis” (and I would be like ‘you crazy?’).
So even though we saw each other nearly every day for 2 years, it wasn’t until a few years later – long after we both had left the organisation – that our friendship blossomed. Before I moved to Australia Loma gave me one of the best pieces of advice that I would ever get: “Rita, fuck them all. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you. Go and be the best mother/wife/musician that you can be……” Over the past few years I have received this advice from him many times at every lunch we had together on my visits to NZ.
Losing Loma meant that that I had one less ‘music’ friend in the world. He was a talented musician – he sang, he played and he had a great ear for music. He wasn’t a practitioner in the professional sense although he could’ve been if he wanted to – he preferred to ‘jam’ at home with his friends and family. I have never met anyone who was like an ambassador for ‘garage artists’ (my made-up label for guys who jam in the garage and record themselves lol). Loma appreciated music from anyone and anywhere.
So, as I sat during his funeral service I realised that as a musician I learned a great deal about myself from this man. I have learned how to ‘harden up’ and stick up for myself if I felt that people were taking advantage of my time and talent. I realised that having musical abilites that everyone ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at is really pointless if you can’t appreciate others with the same gifts – because really, as brown musicians in a white world, we are all in the same boat.
During the funeral hymns, I sang for my friend Loma. Okay so I wasn’t part of the actual choir, but nevertheless I sang from where I sat because thats what Samoans do (and can I just say that my alto was the bomb lol). I received a message from Loma a few months ago: “Sis, how are you? “ and then the inevitable: “….okay just checkin that they dont fuck you around” lol. Thanks Loma for the love, support and feagaiga. I will miss you. Rest in Peace xxoxx
Fa’afetai lava to Manu for allowing me to blog about her beloved husband, and also to Sannah S. Kome for the photo.