Te Vaka | Te Vaka

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World: South Pacific World: World Fusion Moods: Type: Vocal
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Te Vaka

by Te Vaka

The vibrant blend of traditional rhythms, indigenous instruments and captivating vocals with globally influenced contemporary sounds creates a fusion that is both fresh and original. Te Vaka’s forceful rhythms, inspired melodies, and heartfelt songwriting
Genre: World: South Pacific
Release Date: 

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1. Tokelau
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2. Te Namo
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3. Pate mo tou vae
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2:56 $0.99
4. Papa e
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4:17 $0.99
5. Ki te la
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4:26 $0.99
6. Tautai e
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7. Vaka gaoi
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8. Tagi Sina
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9. Te Vaka
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10. E Keli
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11. Ika Ika
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12. Siva mai
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Album Notes
TE VAKA’s creative source - OPETAIA FOA’I - speaks about his
music and inspiration....

“I was fortunate to have grown up in a place where I was exposed to Tokelauan* Tuvaluan* and Samoan* traditional music and dance. This was the music that captured my heart and I grew to love.

Arriving in New Zealand at the age of nine, I was further exposed to other styles of music, for example: Jimi Hendrix and Joan Armatrading were two of my favourite artists.

I am now at a point in my life where I feel my musical journey has come full circle. I have purposefully retuned the guitar to open tuning as that was how I originally played it in Samoa. I’ve also used a Polynesian language (Tokelau) to express different aspects of Polynesia in the most honest and natural way I can. Although I speak English, Samoan and Tuvaluan as well, I was brought up in a Tokelauan community and I found this to be the most comfortable language for my song writing.

My main source of inspiration comes from speaking to the old people and extracting information passed to them by their parents. This valuable information is then put into music and preserved for the coming generations to appreciate. This is a very important part of my writing.

It is very fortunate that my music is appreciated by people from many cultural backgrounds here in New Zealand and internationally. It appears that the language is not a barrier and the music communicates all by itself, supported by the fact that I have achieved worldwide distribution .

Many celebrity musicians have made comments on the potential of the Pacific including Quincey Jones when he visited New Zealand a few years ago. He was quoted as saying something to the effect of, “The next great musical movement to impress the world will come from the Pacific.”

I feel this statement has a lot of truth in it and if Te Vaka can be part of a group of artists working to achieve or make that prediction come true then I will not only feel privileged but very satisfied at achieving much of my goal as a Polynesian artist.”



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If you are looking for something refreshingly new and bright. Rejoice, for Te Vaka is here to bring Island bliss to the heartland! Ceaselessly globe-trotting, this 10 piece ensemble is bringing the cheerful pleasures of Pacific Island Music to the world with colourful style and joie de vivre. An impeccable songwriter, Opetaia Foa’i crafts rootsy folk music sung in the Polynesian dialect of Tokelau with attractive swing rhythms performed on indigenous instrumentation, including log drum and open-tuned guitar. The songs “Papa e” and “Tautai e” don’t need English translations for one to savor the lovely male-female duets, powerful backing chorus, perky percussion, warm guitar rhythms, and beautiful melodies. Also, renowned for it’s percussive skills, the ensemble gives a dazzling virtuosic display on “Pate mo tou vae” complete with breath-expelled chants and traditional cheering. Gypsy Kings and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, move over. With such and abundance of skills and musical appeal, Te Vaka gets my vote as best new-world music group!


Reviewed in WIRED MAGAZINE USA by J.Poet
Opetaia Foa'i, group leader and main composer of Te Vaka, was born in Samoa and grew up in New Zealand. Accordingly, Foa'i’s vision of Pacific music combines elements of music indigenous to both, as well as Tokelau and Tuvalu (neighbouring Islands colonized by New Zealand), and lightly flavours them with Aboriginal and European styles.
The first sound on this disc to grab your attention is the polyrhythmic attack of Te Vaka’s percussion. Log drums and the Pacific version of the conga (originally made with sharkskins) are found throughout Oceania, and Te Vaka’s rhythms, especially on the tunes based on traditional dances, are as vigorous as anything coming out of the Africa diaspora. “Ika Ika,” in which a fisherman dreams of cooking the day’s catch, and the closing ceremonial “Siva Mai” may have echoes in the Caribbean, but it’s the scorching staccato of the log drums that makes these tracks rock. Melodically, Te Vaka is anchored by both the chiming tones of Foa'i’s inventive acoustic guitar picking (using open tunings favored by many Pacific Islanders) and the bands affable vocals, augmented here by male and female choruses that give the tunes an added spiritual depth. The group’s overall sound is soothing, full of melodies that celebrate the South Pacific’s easygoing lifestyle; yet Te Vaka also takes on the weighty subjects of economic displacement and the genocidal raids South American slavers made on Tokelau during the 1850’s.
With the exception of the current revival of the Hawai’ian slack-key guitar, most of the music that’s passed off as “Pacific”is either watered-down tourist fare or hokey, Martin Denny-inspired exotica. Te Vaka’s forceful rhythms, inspired melodies, and heartfelt songwriting offer a long - overdue, stereotype-smashing glimpse into the true soul of the South Seas. - j.poet