Te Vaka is a group of musicians and dancers from Tokelau, Tuvalu, Samoa, Cook Islands, and New Zealand brought together under the inspired leadership of Opetaia Foa'i. Te Vaka has been enchanting the world with their own brand of South Pacific Fusion since 1997. Using the rhythms of the log drum ("pate"), combined with traditional and contemporary instruments, Opetaia Foa'i and the band deliver a kaleidoscopic array of Pacific flavors in a genre all of its own.
Te Vaka has performed in the USA and toured the UK, Europe & other parts of the world extensively over the last 13 years, appearing in such prestigious venues as London’s Royal Festival Hall and Ronnie Scott’s nightclub. The group has headlined music festivals throughout Europe and been favourites at WOMAD festivals around the world including the WOMAD Festival in Seattle, Washington. They are in demand for many important world events, and have represented New Zealand and the South Pacific with performances for the America’s cup events in Auckland, the Commonwealth games in Melbourne, the Rugby World Cup in Paris and the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Opetaia Foa’i is the songwriter/ lead vocalist of the group. The inspiration for his music comes from his multi-cultural upbringing - half Tokelauan, half Tuvaluan, born in Samoa and bought up in a Tokelauan community in New Zealand. Opetaia’s musical background spans both the traditional and the diverse influences of contemporary metropolitan culture. Described as “one of New Zealand’s finest songwriters” and “ a true son of the Pacific”, he won the Senior Pacific Artist award in 2005 for his contribution to the Pacific Arts.
Te Vaka has performed in more than 35 countries around the world and released six internationally acclaimed albums to date. The first, released in 1997 through ARC Music, a UK based record company, gained immediate worldwide acclaim and recognition for the group and was distributed to over 80 countries. The second album, released in 1999 through Warm Earth Records created an even bigger impact going to number one on world music charts and on mainstream radio in the South Pacific. The third album, released in May 2002, was described as “Phenomenal” and gained the group a nomination in “Best Roots” category in the New Zealand music awards and nominations for BBC 3 World music awards in the UK. The 4th album Tutuki , entered the European World Music Charts at no. 4 & the USA Global Rhythm top 10 chart at No. 3. It won a Tui for “Best Pacific Music Album” in the New Zealand music awards as well as Songwriting Awards in both the USA and Australia. The fifth Te Vaka album Olatia, released in July 2007, entered the European World Music Chart at No. 4 and won a “Tui” for “Best Pacific Album” in the 2008 Pacific Music Awards. Te Vaka has a very exciting future ahead of them with new album “Haoloto” already receiving rave reviews and tours to the USA, Canada planned for 2010 and 2011.
How do you describe your music to people, Opetaia?
South Pacific Fusion – Blending the power of the log drums and the spirit of the South Pacific with captivating vocals and globally influenced contemporary sounds
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
It happened quite naturally. When these songs came to me, I recorded them and was surprised when others in the music industry were excited by them too.
We then had the fun of transferring them to the stage.
What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Right now it's a cappuccino and a big slice of mud cake.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
I don't do the business, I write the material and rehearse the group for performances, those 2 things are more than enough challenges for me.
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
I wanted to do everything, but sport and music were definite winners.
In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
An excellent question. As a kid growing up in a very poor environment surrounded by sea - I was bombarded with beautiful traditional songs and dances of Polynesia.
Each night I would watch these performances with awe, the whole community came together performing to either welcome new arrivals or as a farewell - the performances were brought alive because of the real happiness or sadness they were expressing, and there is no doubt in my mind that these experiences were a major inluence on me as a songwriter/ musician.
What other artists out there do you love?
Ali Farka Toure, Peter Gabriel, Doudou Rose
What does your future hold?
As I gaze into my crystal ball - I see lots of ideas that I am very excited about in regard to the future, to music - the fun of course is in bringing them into being and I look forward to all of it.