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Meet composer
Betaia Nehemiah

In this series, we present our new composers. We are proud to introduce Betaia Nehemiah.

My journey to music.

I never knew about music until 1981.

I was just a five-year-old boy beginning to adapt to life and my environment. My Father was a school teacher who graduated from Oxford University in 1979. The Kiribati Government selected him to teach in Nauru in 1981.

In my home country, Kiribati, my family and I lived in a small village called Buota, where my Dad taught at Aratokotoko Primary School. I remember my Dad had possession of a guitar. He would always sing to me and two of my older sisters in our mosquito net before we headed to bed. The song's title was "My Father is a Drunkard, My Mother is Dead." 

This song was consistently echoing in my head at the age of 5. I would always get so emotional at any time the song played on the radio.

In 1981, my family and I arrived in Nauru, for the reason of my Dad was selected to teach over there. I was seven years old then; furthermore, like every kid beyond imagination, I speculated that we were in 'Paradise' because the lifestyle and environment were so peculiar compared to Kiribati.

I remember my Dad acquired a videotape of "The King of Pop" by Michael Jackson. Among all the songs on the VHS, Billie Jean was the song that caught my ears. It became my favorite from then on.

I remember singing Billie Jean at the top of my lungs in my room when my Dad came in and told me to stop. This was my daily routine after school, which I thought in my experience as a kid was fun, with no idea that it would become my passion years after. Michael Jackson captivated millions worldwide, and I was one of them.

Years passed, and I got involved in several school musical dramas performing in national day celebrations, etc. I attended high school from 1987 - 1992 and was still attached to performing arts.

Digging more into serious music, joining a band, and learning about the local music history.

When I joined the band in 1995, one of the locals disclosed amusing facts about our local music artist and their music. He issued how they created their tune and lyrics in a very unique way.

He introduced me to something called "Te Kai ni Kamaan", where most of our local music artists benefit from composing music and advice to become popular. 

"Te Kai ni Kamaan" is a spirit of music where the artist communicates with the spirit. {- In the case of "Te Kai ni Kamaan" it acquires two subjects participating in the process. Subject one is the main communicator with the spirit (The Artist); subject two is the assistant (Te Rurubene) temporarily as the tape recorder. -}

I noticed these acts practiced by our local artists, and it prayed upon me. I wondered how they could compose music in such a unique way by possessing a spirit from another realm.

People or Music Artists attached to the "spirit of composing music" will consistently have restrictions on their daily lifestyles, food, etc. 

Filled with curiosity, I began to do the same but used an actual tape recorder. I began to have a great interest in "Te Kai ni Kamaan." I was keen to learn more but held back, reasoning this was cheating. 

Not only that, but because I was raised in a family of strong Christians, and this is why I chose not to do music that way. 

Experience and Achievement.

I wrote my first song in my language at 12 in 1986. A love song that I can still recall today.

I joined a band in 1995 as a songwriter writing love songs, wedding songs, birthday songs, etc. 

In 1996 I wrote my first English love song and later became a lead vocalist in the band.

In 1988 I bought my band and continued playing on Special occasions like weddings, VIP Parties, etc.

Won 5 times in the Kiribati battle of the bands 96, 97, 98, 99 and 2000

In 1997 I was selected to represent Kiribati to perform in Tomorrow's Child Concert in Helsinki, Finland. 

In my time in the band, I did 5 Albums.

In December 2000, before Christmas, I sold my band to come and live in New Zealand with my family.

In 2007 - 2008 I did another album here in New Zealand. 

I am currently working as a truck driver, and I'm still singing and writing songs.

Also doing free vocal lessons with the Kiribati Community Youth Church Choir 

I ran a Facebook Music Platform known as Kiribati Music Industry two years ago and was followed by 11 thousand plus Kiribati and Foreign People.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm still working on writing songs. I'm working on a song called Amazing. And apart from that, I'm helping lots of youth from Kiribati in music productions, etc.

Where can people connect with you?

I have a Facebook group called Kiribati Music Industry, and I'm open to any conversation.

You can connect with me on  Facebook here.

Would you like to share anything else?

I would like to share that music is a very good therapy if you are attached to it, like playing an instrument, Singing, and when you listen to it.

Music is a Sound, and I believe that a sound comes from the wind, the Ocean, and objects around us (the environment). We can't hear it, but we can if we strike on them.