The world’s most successful band to play original contemporary Pacific music, Te Vaka, are based in Auckland.
Founded in 1995 by the Western Samoan singer-guitarist Opetaia Foaí (whose Tokelauan language is a legacy of his Tokelau Island heritage), Te Vaka is a 13-strong collective of musicians and dancers from Tokelau, Tuvalu, Samoa, Cook Islands and New Zealand (seven of them from the extended Foaí family). Their compelling, upbeat brand of fusion has its roots in the chants, harmonies and log-drums of the Pacific Islands: their lyrics encourage awareness of the environment, stress the importance of community, and take politicians to task. Nominated for a BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music award and with four lauded albums under their tapa cloth sarongs, Te Vaka have performed in 30 countries around the world and forged a formidable live reputation in the process. Here’s why.
As great as they are on record (and they are), live they are something else. This DVD shows the band in two separate concerts; at Toata Stadium in Tahiti and Apia Park in Samoa. A traditionally dressed line-up of impossibly beautiful men and women playing everything from electric guitars and kit drums to pate (single and double log drums) and pa’u (indigenous goat-skin conga and bass drums), Te Vaka evoke the spirit of the islands through music and just as importantly through dance. The deft camerawork includes wide shots of the stage, behind-drum-kit shots, close-ups of dancing feet and the delighted faces of two spellbound audiences, raising their arms in the air and singing along word for word. Male dancers in grassy anklets slap their bodies percussively, their ancient fatele dance enhanced by the chants and rhythms of a row of tribal-tattooed drummers. Female dancers in coconut-shell bras and grass skirts enact ancient tales with baskets of flowers, swaying hula-like figures of eight. There are music videos of the hits ‘Tamahana' and ‘Lakilua’, as well as behind-the-scenes footage from the Tahitian tour- and of the bands arrival in Samoa. They are greeted with songs, dance, garlands and pride, revered as envoys of a beautiful, fragile part of the world.
Songlines Magazine UK