His music can’t be pinned to a specific genre because it can hold its own in many genres, and he himself can’t be labeled as a mere music artist because quite frankly, he’s more than that. Zhen (given name Maurice Zengora Uigaese) creates exactly what his name implies – zen music, or in other words, enlightened music. His eclectic sound is nothing but feel-good music at first listen and it only gets better with every subsequent listen. Zhen is one of many Urban Island artists who refuses to let his music be subject to what is the stereotypical norm or what is typically accepted. His music is for the world, not just Pacific islanders, and his lyrics are for everyone, not just Polynesians.
Many influences contributed to Zhen’s unique sound including his upbringing in Carson, CA and Hawaii as well as his family. Growing up, Zhen recalls listening to his grandparents, aunts, and uncles jammin’ on the porch and how much his grandma’s huge background in music had a great impact on him. But it wasn’t until ‘89 or ‘90 in La’ie, HI (the ‘h’ in Zhen’s name is his homage to Hawaii) when Fiji was really hitting the music scene that Zhen started pursuing music as a serious hobby then career choice. Zhen spoke of watching how Fiji works and how it has taught him so much. According to Zhen, Fiji never second guesses anything and he (Fiji) sheds so much light and insight and is a blessing to the island music industry. Traveling back and forth between Cali and Hawaii when he was younger helped Zhen to mesh all of his influences into a sound all his own; it just came naturally and over time.
Zhen describes his music as all honesty. Simply put, if he hasn’t felt it, seen it, heard it, or lived it, you won’t hear it in his music. Zhen thrives on writing about real things – everyday life, anything going on around him, his own imagination – and he sees the stage as his opportunity to escape and go wherever he wants to go and be whomever he wants to be. A personal mantra he sticks to is that “it’s not always what you say; it’s how you say it.” Being mindful of his vocal and lyrical delivery is precisely why Zhen writes all of his music and is evident in his being a huge fan of India Arie, whom Zhen says is so conscious about what she writes about. When performing, Zhen says that his shows have to be about the music and not about ego. He just wants to send love out to others and he “tr[ies] not to have a wall in front of him” because he wants his fans to know that he’s accessible like his music.
Collaborations with artists such as Fiji, J Boog, Pau Hana, Geerage Music, Jr. King of Common Kings, and many others have been great experiences for Zhen and as far as where he’ll be in the future, Zhen is perfectly fine with letting his music gravitate with his fans wherever they may be. Zhen’s latest album Like No Other has a little bit of everything in it; you name it, it’s in there and such a universal sound has built a following around the world including Japan, Guam, Brazil, and New Zealand among other places. Zhen is grateful for everything in his life and encourages up-and-coming artists to “be more than an artist. Be an all-around really good humanitarian.” Zhen is more than a music artist; he’s a husband, father, fan of music, performer, and an artist who produces eclectic music the only way he knows how – truthfully from his reality and genuinely from the heart.
-Article Written by: Juliet Uata
*photos courtesy of Selah Int’l
*YouTube videos courtesy of jaycen29