Seth Haapu is a modern-classic image of South Pacific identity who writes, produces, and sings with a velvet voice, reminiscent of R&B intimacy.
Yet, he has hardly pursued his solo career with force. For the last five years, Seth has worked quietly behind the scenes; writing and producing music for the likes of Stan Walker, Sons of Zion and Maisey Rika, all the while forming a ripple effect of anticipation for his own art.
"We trust you to lead us my friend on and off stage, the way you play, sing and where it comes from, that quiet wise old soul behind the musical mastermind that is you Seth Haapu" - Maisey Rika
As a collaborator, he conserves a self-effacing presence, producing under the name Kēhua, translated as ghost (writer) in Te Reo Māori. Of his role, Haapu says, "I love working behind the scenes. It is such a privilege to be a part of other people’s creative processes. For me it’s about having a presence but allowing the focus to be solely on the person I’m collaborating with" .
In 2016 Seth released Volume I; his second EP followed in 2017. By virtue of his nature, both works were an exercise in catharsis, revealing discoveries around his Polynesian heritage. Haapu, meaning refuge, is a village originally built over water on the island of Huahine, Tahiti; the home of his bloodlines before their passage to New Zealand. Despite minimal exposure, both volumes went to #1 on iTunes NZ Singer-songwriter chart, with nominations for APRA’s Silver Scroll Award, worldwide performance invitations and support slots for James Blunt and John Legend.
"Seth Haapu woke everyone up with an eclectic and electric five-song set. Serenading the audience like our own John Legend with the beautiful I Think I’m in Love" - Clayton Barnett, The 13th Floor
Beyond the Pacific, he discovered international contemporaries like Solange, Sampha and Daniel Caesar - all of whom found inspiration in their own unique cultural origins.
Today, Seth is combining origins from New Zealand and Tahiti and delivering an experience in and around water like the islands he comes from. His latest offering, ‘Volume III’, fulfils a journey of love (Volume I), loss (Volume II) and new beginnings (Volume III). Dual lead single, ‘New Wave’ and ‘Ngaru Hōu’ are about embracing new things. Recently, Seth was awarded ‘Kaitito Waiata Māori Autaia (Best Māori Songwriter) for his song New Wave at this years Waiata Māori Music Awards. Seth says of the song “It’s a karakia (prayer) and expression of thanks for all that I’ve been given and all that is to come. It draws on the ocean as a metaphor for finding peace in the calm before a break, diving in and coming up renewed on the other side”.
Coming to the process with an autonomous approach, Seth engineered, recorded, mixed and played the majority of instruments on ‘Volume III’. On creating the artwork he says, “The objects pictured are symbolic of the journey documented in each song. The natural elements, wood, sand and water are metaphors for a journey from home to land to sea - leaving comfort for the unknown and elsewhere. Sonically, ‘Volume III’ is led by Seth’s voice, piano, ocean field recordings and Polynesian percussion including Pahu - the heartbeat of the South Pacific.
Seth Haapu describes a new wave of South Pacific artistry and he rides on the crest of this wave.
Volume III is available now, released on his own label Kēhua Music.