Arts & Entertainment

Mahani Teave, pianist who exchanged world fame for Easter Island

By Patricia Nieto Mariño

Santiago, May 3 (EFE).- Since spending her childhood on remote Easter Island, Mahani Teave, one of the most talented pianists in recent Chilean history, has never allowed anything to distance her from her roots, not even world fame, and she is now running the first children’s music academy on the island.

“My best legacy is having managed to bring so many people from all over the world together in such a beautiful project as this school. It’s been a dream come true,” she told EFE.

Teave’s life recently inspired the documentary “Song of Rapa Nui,” which was nominated for an Emmy Award.

She grew up surrounded by the tropical beaches and the iconic carved stone heads of Easter Island, located in Polynesia some 3,600 kilometers (about 2,230 miles) from South America. Now, however, she is 38 and her latest album “Rapa Nui Odyssey” hit No. 1 this year on Billboard’s classical music chart, an “unimaginable” achievement, she said.

Teave spent her youth practicing and training to be a concert pianist, but just when she was flirting with international fame she decided to leave it all behind to fulfill her dream: opening the first and only music school on the island so that native children would not have to travel to study music, as she had had to do.

“Music is one of the things that sinks most deeply into the soul of children and which marks and changes their lives most,” she said during a virtual interview with EFE.

On Rapa Nui – the local name for Easter Island – many children “don’t have the necessary resources or the instruments” and the school can help them to enjoy classes in piano, violin, cello and traditional instruments such as the ukulele, Teave said.

Since 2015, Toki Rapa Nui – as the music academy is known – has been standing on a hill on the island, built from recycled materials and featuring practice rooms, a studio, an auditorium and even an ecological vegetable garden which is at the disposal of the students.

Teave, the daughter of an Easter Island man and a US woman, was born in Hawaii and moved to Rapa Nui at age 1. There, she soon became interested in music and, thanks to an exiled German professor and Chilean pianist Roberto Bravo, she was able to train first in Chile and then later abroad.

After 10 years in Europe and the US, she returned to the island where she grew up and met US magnate David Fulton, a former violinist with the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who came to the island on a tourist cruise and convinced her to record her first album.

At that time, Teave has already won the Claudio Arrau International Piano Competition and had received the US Cleveland Institute of Music award, but she had never been inside a recording studio.

Shortly thereafter, she said, she began recording her first and so far only LP in the US, “Rapa Nui Odyssey,” which was released last January with a mix of numbers by Liszt and Chopin and even an ancestral Rapa Nui song. It became an international success.

“This project has gotten some people from the island interested in classical music and also (has made people) start to listen to Rapa Nui music on the continent,” she said.

Since then, the number of artistic proposals has flooded in and, although she is planning a concert tour abroad the pandemic, for the moment her work as director and teacher at the music school are keeping her on the island.

“My link with this land is very powerful,” she said, adding “I feel an umbilical cord that will always make me return.”


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