Things have changed a lot for Anika Moa since the beginning of her journey as an award winning musician, but her song remains the same – filled with truth, gratitude and love, it’s a sound that comes from a very humble heart. Famous for her grounded, no-nonsense approach, Moa is a girl whose magic comes from the knowledge that reaching in is just as important as reaching out .
These days, life in Moa’s world is defined by love – for her music, for her family, and for her new partner. Moa is gay - recently joined in civil union with a circus performer, even. The subject of wife Azaria Universe is never far from the conversation, when I talk to Moa at her central Auckland home.
“ She is so talented, so brilliant" Moa tells me. “She’s performing in this incredible show called The Carnival of Mysteries, in Melbourne, in October. If you’re there, you should go” . We discuss the show more than we discuss Moa’s latest album Love In Motion ; it is clear that this is a partnership of true mutual respect. In marriage, Moa has found a muse, a sometimes manager and a best mate. “ She’s very efficient. On tour she’ll be the one getting us all up in the morning for a run. And I’ll be saying – go away, stop organising me!"
This is said with a loving laugh, as is just about everything else Moa shares. When the subject is not her wife, we talk about whales. “God I’m sad" she says, referring to the recent beaching deaths of dozens of whales in the Far North. “ I helped with a documentary about whales, that looked at why they die this way. There’s been all this study about why they do it and still nobody knows for sure. There are three factors – the lay of the land; sandbars that can mess with how they hear things and communicate . The weather. And then, if one is sick – and drifts toward shore – they all follow, like a family. To stay with it.” It seems that she relates well to their plight and indeed, family is a word she uses often; speaking with audible pride of both her own and Azaria’s . Spending valuable time with each is a large part of their life together.
Other than this, when I ask about life outside music, it’s a pointless question – for Moa there’s no division - she says her life is all about music. “ I write, I play ... I’d listen to a gig every night if I could. My life is music, music, music.”
This year will see Moa tour for two months promoting Love In Motion, as well as time spent working on a new project – an album in Maori. “ It’s important for me to stay connected with the language” she explains- but admits the reality is harder than she thought. “ I want to adapt my sound, and pop writing, to this very old language. It’s hard .. but I know I can do it. I want to bring it to a wider audience, show people that its beautiful ” she says. “ I want to see it in a contemporary setting, on store shelves, right up the front .”
Moa is used to doing things her way and is not afraid of challenge , but rather defined by it. She famously turned her back on a lucrative yet potentially soul destroying US record deal early on, and has chosen largely unbeaten paths ever since. She came out as openly gay in 2007, she has admitted family violence in her own past, and she is a tireless supporter of Womens Refuge ; not the most pleasant of causes to discuss over champagne. “ I’m not a person who walks into a charity event to just say hi" she tells me flatly. “I want to take part in direct action, raising lots of money that doesn’t go on venues and expenses ... it goes straight to the houses." She is referring to the Womens Refuge houses in New Zealand, which help women and children affected by domestic violence – the organization helped almost 30,000 victims in 2006 and relies heavily on public donation . Next year, Moa is planning to organise a concert of women performers to help aid the cause, and she has recently used Trademe to raise $7000 in funds.
Moa is a natural activist and holds authentic commitment but plays down the drama when I commend her. “ It’s real simple, real easy" she tells me. “ I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty."
Like a true star, she is also not afraid to scrub up and show support for her other more glamorous friends, attending several functions during New Zealand Fashion Week. “ I love it, I love getting dressed up. And it’s not about playing the game, it’s about being there for people I know , getting behind them" Moa says. “And when I want to get away, I get away. We go up north, we see our families, I write my music. We just go ."
Moa has been performing all her life, and is constantly in collaboration with other artists – most recently with Shihad’s John Toogood – but will tour solo this year. She will play intimate shows throughout the country between October and December and says she can’t wait , that she loves the dual experience of travelling and performing. Azaria will be there, to be organised and efficient, and Anika will be there .... to be Anika. She will sing – it’s real simple, real easy.
Phone 0900 REFUGE to make a $20 donation to Womens Refuge
See www.anikamoa.com for tour dates