By JERRY TSINABI
IT is not common for a child in Papua New Guinea to be born into stardom, let alone follow in their famous parent’s footsteps. But for Irau Jessie, daughter of local artiste, Jessie Joe Oata, this is the case. As they say “like father, like daughter”, Irau has truly inherited all of the singing genes from her father.
Irau, who is not new to the spotlight, was recently awarded a gig at the City Boutique Hotel in Port Moresby where she sings every Friday night. The contract lasts for three months (which started in October) and will continue until January 2020.
Irau, who just turned 16 on Nov 27, although only a teen, has a very mature voice and amazing singing tone.
Her father who is more commonly known by his stage name Jessie Joe and sometimes dubbed PNG Shaggy, was born, on July 11, 1982, and raised at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) where his father was an employee. He is from Mou (Kairuku) and Ianuabui (Mekeo) in Central.
Joe attended Waigani Primary School from 1990 to 1997 and later Gerehu High School. He furthered his education at UPNG, from 2000 to 2002.
His music career began at a very young age. He grew up near the university’s Faculty of Creative Arts, and everyday music intrigued him.
“While I was still in primary school, I got to know a British lecturer by the name of Dr Elizabeth Barber. She kind of adopted me and after school every day she would teach me how to play various musical instruments.
“I quickly picked up and started teaching myself how to play other instruments as well,” he said.
Teengager Irau could one day outdo dad Jessie Joe.
Joe did not attend the faculty of arts nor did he attain any certification in music but as he grew older, he began to learn even more musical instruments. He now plays the lead and bass guitars, keyboard, drums, kalimba, harmonica, flute, recorder, saxophone, clarinet, trombone and even traditional instruments such as kundu and other traditional wind instruments.
He recalled that it was iconic bands like Sanguma and Tambaran Culture amongst many others that gave him the drive to become better, as he really wanted to be like them.
The artist’s first real taste of fame came in PNG’s most popular singing contest at the time, Ice Discovered, in 2000. Joe made it to the finals and became a household name for his unique style of singing but unfortunately did not win the competition and was devastated as that was his chance at doing music.
He proceeded to form a band called JBX with his friends.
“We started the band in year 2000 and performed at functions, events and normal gigs at night clubs but things didn’t work out so we split on Oct 17, 2002,” he said.
But life must go on and so Joe was lucky to secure a job with Eda Ranu.
“I Joined Eda Ranu – Bristol Waters (NRW) and worked from 2003-2006 as a leakage inspector, but as the years passed my passion for music grew and so I resigned and joined CHM Multimedia in 2006 and worked as a sound engineer until 2009,” he said.
“In 2006 I released my first single Kaukau. It did very well on the airwaves and went on to number one on FM Central.”
His ambition for producing quality music grew further and in 2007 he opened his very own music studio, Hot Home Productions, which was sponsored by his late dad Joe Oata. According to the artist, the studio was called Hot Home Productions because his little studio required them to record on the verandah of their UPNG home which was always very hot.
It took a while for Jessie Joe to be formally recognised in the music industry after years of releasing hit singles but his long-awaited award finally came in 2013 when he was awarded the Digicel Yumi FM Musik Awards Rookie Of The Year.
Jessie Joe then stayed out of the limelight for a while but continued doing what he loved and that was producing music. In late 2016, he released Booking Mahn, a song about how informal money lenders front up at offices to claim their takings with interests.
“The song stayed on the top in the Yumi FM Top 20 Countdown for four months.
“Since then I have been just playing as a freelancer at nightclubs,” he said.
Joe met the mother of his children while playing a gig at the then JJ Club. She had been employed there and he was “mesmerised by her” is how he put it. He asked her out, she agreed and the rest, as they say, is history.
On Oct 19, 2002, Jessie Joe who was only 20 years old at the time, married Debbie Tau, who was then 19. She is from Rigo in Central and Popondetta in Northern. Today, after 17 years of marriage the couple has seven children; Irau, Eddie, Joe, Grace, Angela, Jessie Joe Jnr, and Terrance.
Eldest daughter Irau is surely following in her father’s footsteps. She looks and sounds like a born star on stage and her father has been supportive of her since she was only a toddler. The 16-year-old loves to sing and has a beautiful voice that projects high and low notes flawlessly.
Just like her father, Irau was born at the UPNG campus, just like her father she started loving music at an early age and just like her father she is currently enrolled at Waigani Primary School. She is currently in grade seven.
A song bird is born
When Irau’s mum was expecting Irau, her father would sing to her in the mother’s womb every day. When she was born, he would always sing lullabies for Irau to fall asleep.
This singing eventually caught on and “when she was two, I recorded her repeating what I was saying and so her first song was recorded with CHM under Niugini Hits called Daddy I love you.
“She has had so many highlights in her life’s singing career.
“When she was four she sang with me live at the Jack Pidik Park with participants who had come back from New Caledonia from the 4th Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture.
“When she was five, she played at the 5th Melanesian festival of Arts and Culture alongside Mereani Masani and me at the UPNG forum square,” Joe said.
She continued singing and not shying away from the stage. Again, just like her father, she entered a singing competition, the NCDC kid’s karaoke at the age of 13 and went a step ahead of her father by winning the competition.
As she grew older, the child star began getting more recognition for her talent. At 14, she performed at the grand opening for a church and then in the same year she played for the Investment Promotion Authority (IPA).
In between these years, she recorded singles with her dad and played live with her dad at family gatherings.
When she was turning 15, she recording a few songs which became hits. Songs such as Kairuku alongside DJ Travvy, Mr Rent Man, Pou Voro, Tou and Tears.
They have also recently released a single called Father Christmas which can be heard on the airwaves.
“When I am on stage, I do not feel shy or afraid, I am always confident. When I see people I am always psyched.
“I see my dad as my role model and I want to become an international artist and bring PNG to the next level. The same dreams my dad has.
“Regardless of how much I sing, I have been singing since I was very young so it is already in my blood and so I don’t feel confused when I go back to school. I am able to juggle both my singing and education.”
Irau has acquired dad’s taste in music. She likes local and western contemporary music, blues, jazz, classical, techno and island reggae.
Female artists she looks up to are Calypso Rose, Vanessa Quai, Shania Twain, Celine Deon and Shakira.
She was recently awarded a contract to sing at the Citi Boutique Hotel in Port Moresby for three months every Friday night. She said it was nerve-wrecking at first but she loved singing.
“I am working on a song called Bingo which is about people who play bingo and it will soon be released. We also released Father Christmas last month,” Irau said.
Irau plays the guitar very well and is currently teaching music to her younger siblings.
The father-daughter duo recently performed at the Ben Moide Club in Port Moresby where they helped raise funds for a new teacher’s house to be built in Biotou (Kairuku).
“Many times we like helping those who are in need, playing for charity.
“It is a good thing to help in such occasions, and we will tell our children and grandchildren that we helped make that project happen. We were a part of it.”
Irau’s mum, Tau, is very proud of her daughter. She said this was possible because her husband, Joe, was very supportive in the family and the community and he was very talented.
“I call him man of all trades. He always spends time teaching his children when he is free.
“The advice we give to our children and that all children should take is that practice makes perfect, stay simple and humble. Your time and practice will one day take you to your dream and goal, and your art will be heard and respected,” she said.