This long weekend she gets her wish, filling the special guest spot in Monday’s Beats of Betela concert fundraiser amidst a lineup of popular local performers including Traders Band, Boogies, 3U, Otherside and The Nira Boys.
Smith’s friend and fellow Kiwi musician Tiki Taane performed at the last Beats of Betela in 2016, but while CINews wondered if hearing good things from Taane was what got her over here for this year’s concert, you get the idea she definitely didn’t need any encouragement.
“I was just lucky enough to be approached!” Smith exclaims. “Tiki has played in Raro so many times now it’s hard to keep up. But I know it’s one of his favourite places, as it is mine.”
Smith’s very first visit to Rarotonga was some years ago. She accompanied her mum Jos, who travelled here to compete in the Rarotonga Triathlon so she could qualify for the World Games.
“My stepdad, myself and my partner at the time (Barnaby Weir, frontman of New Zealand band The Black Seeds) did the team event,” Smith recalls.
“I did the swim and only just survived to tell the tale. Mum insisted Muri lagoon was always waist-deep and always calm. It happened to be a very, very rough day that year.”
Not put off by her near-drowning, Smith has returned to Rarotonga at least half a dozen times since then.
“Being runners, Steve and my mum generally come annually to do the Round Raro Road Race, so me and my sister will try to make it when we can as our little family break,” she explains.
“My stepdad, Steve McDonald, is a musician also and has played at Shipwrecks on a number of occasions.”
Having once described Rarotonga as her best “get-away-from-it-all” place to escape to, Smith says she loves “living off the land and fish and being on island time”.
“I enjoy being able to enjoy the ocean whenever and having the best excuse to not be attached to my phone.
“We’ve always rented homes, so we’ve never done resort life here, which just makes it feel so much more like home.”
As well as performing her first gig in Rarotonga, Smith will also notch up another Cook Islands first for herself during her visit, having scored a free trip to Aitutaki courtesy of Air Raro.
“So excited for Aitutaki,” she says. “I have always wanted to go but getting to Raro is always hard enough on the wallet! So I’m very grateful that I’m able to go.
“Marika Hodgson, my amazing sidekick who will be playing bass and guitar for me, has never been to Raro before and is just quietly losing her mind with excitement – and Aitutaki totally put her over the edge!”
This isn’t the last the Cook Islands will see of Smith this year either, as she will be returning to our shores in November to perform at the BlueMoon Raro music festival alongside other Kiwi performers such as Tiki Taane, King Kapisi, Laughton Kora and PDigsss from the band Shapeshifter.
“Funny right! I’ve been to Rarotonga probably about seven or eight times and I have never done a gig here – have always wanted to but it never happened and now two in one year! I’m very lucky!”
If you haven’t picked up your Beats of Betela ticket yet, they’re on sale at the Creative Centre, Treasure Chest stores, Reefside Coffee opposite The Bond store, and at “The Café” in the Beachcomber. There will also be same-price gate sales on the day – $20 for adults, with kids under 14 free.
Gates open at 2pm, with the entertainment kicking off from around 3pm and running until 8.30pm.