Rapa Nui is the birthplace and homeland of musician Yoyo Tuki, an acclaimed musical figure throughout Polynesia, Chile and Australia. Rapa Nui (Easter Island) lies 3700kms off the coast of Chile, and 4000kms southeast from Tahiti. The official language is Spanish as the island is part of Chile, though the Islanders also speak ‘Rapa Nui’ – a Polynesian dialect similar to Tahitian and New Zealand Maori.
Born into a culturally rich family, Yoyo developed a strong sense of identity. A deep respect for his land and traditions was nurtured by his upbringing, and in particular by the influence of his grandfather ‘Mana Roa’ (Great Wisdom). A highly respected elder, Mana Roa was regarded as a keeper of ancient wisdom, and was also one of the island’s greatest carvers. His cultural knowledge was legendary. As a child, Yoyo would listen to his grandfather’s stories, knowing that the day would come where he passed this wisdom to his own children. What he couldn’t have known then, was that his music would one day transmit a deep cultural message to thousands of his own people, and many more throughout the world.
From a young age Yoyo’s innate artistic abilities became apparent, though he was largely self-taught. His paintings and drawings won prestigious prizes, and he was invited to study under expert craftsmen; however, at the age of 15 a handmade wooden ukulele changed the path of his life forever. Teaching himself to master the ukulele had a powerful effect on the teen, whose newfound passion for music then transferred to the strings of a guitar, and to the composition of his first songs.
Yoyo’s first recording experience was at 19 years of age as the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for Sony Music’s Rapa Nui band ‘Mana Roa’ In 2002. Mana Roa released their album entitled ‘Al Sur del Sol’ which sold well within South America and gained modest success internationally. Not long after it’s release, Yoyo decided to leave Manaroa to walk his own musical path, and in 2005 recorded his first independent album entitled ‘Teuingahanga’ which embedded Yoyo into the Pacific music scene. His second album ‘Taiko’ (2006) was produced with his family band Ohiro Hiro, fusing traditional upbeat rhythms and songs with modern music. Both albums sold incredibly well and remain popular over 10 years since their first release.
Travelling through the school of traditional Rapa Nui music into new modern compositions, each of Yoyo’s albums broke new territory at the time of its release. His most recent album ‘Hoko Manu’ (2011) caused waves internationally, with its unprecedented blend of world music styles with island influences. Among his people, the album took Rapa Nui music to new heights, inspiring a musical revolution of cross-cultural styles and successful blending of indigenous roots with modern influences. Yoyo’s keen ear for melodic arrangement resulted in musical input from Chile and Rapa Nui’s finest musicians, creating a masterpiece that demanded attention. Its availability through online platforms such as iTunes has seen Yoyo’s fan base grow exponentially.
Sung in Rapa Nui, Spanish or English, the message in Yoyo’s music is universal and inherently honest. He speaks of life experiences, atrocities committed to his people, awareness for the environment, spiritual reflection, stories passed down from his elders, and of love and celebration. Audiences remark on the incredible journey they undertake listening to Yoyo: sadness to hope, reflection to dancing celebration. His fine five-piece band and team of traditional dancers accompany Yoyo where possible, though Yoyo is famous for his one-man acoustic performances. Perhaps it is Yoyo’s wonderful flexibility as an artist that has gained him such a favourable reputation, however he believes that the strength of his music lies in his storytelling, and the constant guidance from the ‘Kuhane O Te Tupuna’ (Spirit Of The Ancestors). Yoyo feels a compelling sense of duty to promote, share and teach others of his cultural heritage, particularly as he now shares his life between Rapa Nui and Australia with his wife and two young children. He also plays music for the pure joy of expression, and understands this as the underlying success of his career.
Today, almost 20 years since he discovered his musical ability, Yoyo Tuki is a premier singer-songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist. He is regarded as one of today’s leading Rapa Nui musicians, whose contributions have broken new ground and inspired a cultural revival. Yoyo’s captivating voice, eclectic guitar style and innovative world sound is unlike anything created before. He combines moods and flavours from traditional Rapa Nui to Reggae, Afro, Folk, Latin, New Age and more, with an impressive lineup of emotive ballads to upbeat dance tunes. The music of Yoyo Tuki has attracted a loyal following, especially from South America, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Australia. He has performed on prestigious stages in Tahiti (Toata 2007), Rapa Nui (Tapati Festival 2010/ 15/ 16), and Australia (Woodford Folk festival 2012/13, AWME 2014, Tasting on Hastings 2014 and Wanderlust Sydney 2015), and charmed countless restaurant dwellers, market goers, wedding parties, and street walkers with his uniquely beautiful style and undeniable talent. Honest, humble and hard-working, Yoyo loves playing to packed stadiums but also enjoys connecting to the unsuspecting.
Touched by a profound life experience in 2009, Yoyo began an unexpected spiritual journey that has altered the course of his life, including his music and art. His fourth album ‘Mana Ora O Te Henua’ (Living Energy Of The Earth) is due to be released late 2017, and promises to be a soul-filling fusion of reflection and celebration. Six years in the making, this upcoming album will be Yoyo’s finest yet.