Kaiaruna whose father is Rere Kaiaruna, has been living in New Zealand since 2017 and was recently awarded the Lion Foundation Song Writing Competition Award for a song she composed herself.
She told Cook Islands News: “Music has always been a part of my life. When I moved to New Zealand, my parents sent me to Kings College for the music programme and that helped me a lot and pushed me to do what I like doing.”
She is passionate about music but says it’s is more of a hobby than a career for now.
“I have been singing for a long time. The first song I sang was Hotel California by the Eagles - it was because of Dad’s taste in music,” she said.
The first song she ever composed, “A Normal Day,” was Kaiaruna’s way of expressing her own feelings.
“I was going through a break-up. I guess music or writing lyrics is a way for me to express myself and my feeling so I just put all of my emotions into my lyrics.”
The members of her music class were asked to compose three songs that year and the first song she wrote was submitted to the “Play It Strange Competition.” It won first place.
“Those who were judging the competition said the reason I won was because the lyrics was touching and everyone could relate to them, even if you did not go through the experience I went through. I thought it was cool.”
Looking back to before her song was submitted for the competition, Kaiaruna said she did not think that the song was that good. In fact, she thought it was pretty average.
“The head of the music department thought it was cool and told me she wanted to submit it. I said no at first and it took her a couple of weeks to convince me. I did not expect to win or come anywhere.”
She said her family did not fully understand what the win meant, but her Dad was proud and happy for her.
“It took a while for the family to understand I had won a big thing.”
Kaiaruna, who prefers to be called Deena, said if an opportunity came along to be a musician in the future she would take her chances. However, she would not chase after a career in music.
“I like performing and composing, but not studying music.”
Deena is part of the Buritones, a school band made up of all the best musicians at her school and she is the only female singer - Kings College is an all-boys school.
The founder of , former Split Enz member Mike Chunn, presented Deena with her award at the Auckland airport where she and her fellow band members were waiting to depart on a music tour.
Her mum Leanne said: “She was always singing as a child. Her dad’s a musician. Music is part of her. When she told us she won, we were shocked. When she messaged she had won, we were like ‘good… OK’, and it wasn’t until I saw it on Facebook (I realised) that this award is huge for her. It took us a while to process.
“She loves singing”
Next year Deena will go on to Auckland University, where she hopes to pursue a career as a psychologist or more probably, a journalist.
She is visiting Rarotonga for a month but returns at the end of to record her new album.
The new album will feature one of her original songs and the rest are songs written with her band.
So what advice does she have for up-and-coming young musicians?
“Things happen for a reason. I never expected to become anything. I did what I loved and if you’re passionate about something and if someone is supporting you, then you can make it.”
Ten years from now- where does she see herself?
“If my music career takes off, I can see myself doing tours and concerts and if it doesn’t and I continue with my university pathway I can see myself probably as a psychologist or a journalist, helping in the community.”