The family that plays together, stays together

Front row left to right: Ezryus (aka Darius the 3rd), Joshua (Marguez), Zephanaiah, T-Nei, Raymah, Caleb, Ezekiel. Back row: Izayaah (Kid 99) and Sapphire (Saffire)

Avondale resident Clera Matāfai is standing in the local body elections with the City Vision team for the Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board. She is not new to local body elections, having been previously elected to the Portage Licensing Trust. Her brother-in-law is Simon Matāfai, who was the first Samoan and youngest ever (at 24) to be elected to the Whau Local Board in 2013. His sister Te’evā Matāfai was elected in the 2016 election to replace his seat. The Matāfai family is, however, perhaps poised to become better known for the musical talents of Clera’s young family.

With her husband, Isaiah, Clera is Co-Director of Dunamis Music, a record label the pair established for the sake of nurturing the musical talents of their seven children – (from eldest to youngest) Sapphire, Ezekial, Izayah, Caleb, Gabriel, Zephaniah and Elijah.

Clera says the musical talent comes from Isaiah’s side of the family, as he began teaching church choir at the age of 10. However, she has also lead worship teams in the Choir Master role. With Simon’s help, they pulled together the non-denominational Auckland Gospel Choir securing practise premises for it at Avondale Community House in Rosebank Road. With the Auckland Gospel Choir, the family has performed backing-vocals for a number of big-named singers and for the X Factor New Zealand TV series.

It was when Izayah (aka producer, Kid99) left school to study sound engineering that the family was prompted to begin producing its own music, and to move the music onto a new level of creativity.

Through Dunamis Records, Clera and Isaiah aimed to provide their children with the resources they needed for success and to fully realise their God-given talents. “Dunamis is Greek for ‘the power of God,’” says Clera, “and being a faith-based family, Isaiah chose the name to recognise that it is the supernatural creative power that allows our children to create.” The couple purchased a mini-studio and set it up at home in Avondale. Since then, the family’s creative output has certainly seemed nothing short of a miracle.

In just over a year, the children have had five songs on the New Zealand charts, received 5 million hits on social media pages, and performed on Australian and Samoan stages.

When young cousin, Fata Tuialii, graduated from media studies at university, they asked him to have a go at creating a video. His first, of now 35 videos, was of 10-year-old Zephaniah, who has been singing since the age of three. It was the first song to put the family on the map, receiving 250,000 views, so they were quick to follow up with a second video.

Clera was working as a teacher at Avondale College at the time, and as several of her children were attending the school, she says, there was significant interest in the music. “I’d walk through the school and hear the kids listening to our tracks, so I knew we were on to a good thing!”

Then the eldest, Sapphire, made a remake of American hit, “Don’t Mess With My Man,” picking up 100,000 views and a bunch of positive feedback from other young women, who felt they could more readily relate to her larger-framed, Samoan vibe. It inspired Sapphire to follow up with a second song, “Get Down,” released in August, and she has since been asked to headline a tour to run throughout Australasia.

Kid99, Ezekiel and Isaiah’s nephew, Ezryus – a rapper – teamed up to form trio Truce - “It seems they are a magnet for the ladies,” laughs Clera.

Meanwhile, Gabriel (aka Raymah) is a big-ballad soloist, and son Caleb a dancer on the videos. Between them, the family now write their own music, produce, perform and make videos. Creative NZ has funded the family’s latest video, “Faded,” due to drop mid-October. It will be the first to pick up serious mainstream radio play.

“We’re still learning how to do things and may need some help taking things to the next level,” says Clera, “but we are pleased to be able to work through everything as a family.”

Additional to her family’s busy schedule, Clera works as Curriculum Leader of Pacific Advance Secondary School (PASS) in Otahuhu, the first Pacific School in New Zealand, which, incredibly, was opened just four years ago.

As per her own personal kaupapa, the school sets out to embrace its students by understanding who they are in terms of their culture and everything that they bring with them. Its values are underpinned on love first and foremost, and it has been referred to as “the hugging school” as teachers greet the kids at the gate each morning with a hug and enquire after their welfare.

“The kids feel loved here and know we have their best interests at heart,” says Clera. “In this environment, no one plays up and the learning just happens.” Like her own home, it’s an environment where the children excel.

Through all, Clera has still found time to go door-knocking to introduce her political ideologies to the neighbourhood. Unsurprisingly, she stands for equitable economies, and has a passion for ensuring a better future for our children and safer communities for everyone.

“It’s been nice to hear what people have to say and to encourage everybody to have a voice by voting,” says Clera.

This is one politician who has certainly put her money where her mouth is.

Check out Dunamis Music channel on Youtube.