Rapa Nui belongs to Chile the way Hawaii belongs to the United States. Since European explorers first set foot there on Easter Day 299 years ago, the lonely speck of rock—“Easter Island”—has haunted the world’s dreams as the realm of the moai, guardian spirits in stone, monumentally arrayed along the shore, their backs to the Pacific.
Growing up in their shadow, a nine-year-old named Mahani Teave fell under the spell of an object scarcely less numinous: Rapa Nui’s very first piano, a humble upright. The visitor from abroad who had shipped it over had scarcely moved in when little Mahani appeared at her door, not to be turned away. Thus her studies began. Who could have guessed that in time this child of the island—born to an American mother and a local father—would emerge as an international concert pianist? Lang Lang, her rock-star colleague from the backwater of Shenyang, likes to quote a Chinese proverb to the effect that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.