A Girl Named MoReview by Howard Davis
Moana Ete brought her three-piece band A Girl Named Mo to Wellington's intimate and iconic Bats Theatre last week for a five-night residency. Each show was recorded and filmed live for the release of her debut album 'Platonic/Romantic' on Loop records later this year. "It made sense to return to BATS Theatre to showcase and record Mo’s project. Magical things such as Fly My Pretties have begun for us at BATS and Mo’s definitely got the goods to follow in the footsteps Wellington’s finest," says Loop’s Mikee Tucker.
A Girl Named Mo are quickly gaining a reputation as one of the capital’s most exciting live acts. The release of their debut single, 'Who They Say You Are,' in late 2015 heralded their arrival and showcased their soulful electronic approach. More recently, Ete blew audiences away as a member of Fly My Pretties' 'String Theory' tour. Her song 'Mud and Stardust' was an audience favorite and provided the first music video to be released from the 'String Theory' album.
Ete's slinky smooth vocals provide the focal point for A Girl Named Mo and her enchantingly effervescent tone incorporates echoes of Lily Allen, Erykah Badu, Sade, Anita Baker, Nine Simone, and Bille Holiday. She started singing at the age of eight at the Congregational Church of Samoa in Wellington and was performing at thirteen. Not only is she known for her musical talent, however, but also as a gifted playwright, actor, and director in the Wellington acting community. She graduated from the prestigious Toi Whakaari Drama School in 2010 and her play 'Versions of Allah' was performed as part of the 2016 Kia Mau Festival. This story of a Samoan matriarch and her granddaughters was praised by The Dominion Post's Ewen Coleman for being a "thought-provoking … original and innovatively-staged piece of theatre."
Employing a plethora of electronic loops and pre-programmed beats, A Girl Named Mo's live show was an intimate experience that immersed the audience in a sonic landscape, accompanied by moving images. Backed by the accomplished rhythm section of Slade Butler (keyboards and programming) and Marcus Gurtner (drum pads), they crafted a refreshing and invigorating blend of soul, R&B, and electronica. Wellington-based Samoan visual artist Chris Ulutupu provided the original visual installation, using interludes filmed by Brandon Te Moananui, and designed specifically to accompany the show.
Ete combines her theatrical background with an indie-tinged, stripped down, electronic take on neo-soul, and hipster-hop elements, exploring various amorous experience through a process of musical storytelling. In her own words - "True love is always gracious and freeing. And if it slips from your grasp you will feel grateful that you had it and know that you will find it again. Women and men alike are stronger for having loved and been loved."