Te Vaka

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Te Vaka
Origin New Zealand
Genres South Pacific Fusion
Years active 1995–present
Labels Warm Earth Records
Website Official website
Members Opetaia Foa'i
Joe Toomata
Douglas Bernard
Olivia Foa'i
Matatia Foa'i
Etueni (Edwin) Pita
Manase Foa'i
Past members Sulata Foai-Amiatu
Alana Foai-Auimatagi
Vai Mahina
Melodee Panapa
Jeff Harris
Talaga Sale
Neil Forrest
Simona Hope
Tremayne Lihou

Te Vaka is an Oceanic music group that performs original contemporary Pacific music or "South Pacific Fusion". The group was founded in 1995 by singer and songwriter Opetaia Foa'i in New Zealand. They have toured the world constantly since 1997 and have won a number of awards including "Best Pacific Music Album" award for their albums Tutuki (2004) and Olatia (2007) from the New Zealand Music Awards and "Best Pacific Group" in the 2008 Pacific Music Awards[1] They have also been acclaimed by the BBC as "the world's most successful band playing original contemporary Pacific music."[2]


Te Vaka is a group of eleven musicians and dancers from Tokelau, Tuvalu, Samoa, Cook Islands, and New Zealand formed in 1997, under the leadership of award-winning songwriter, Opetaia Foa'i. That year, they released their eponymous debut album through ARC Music, a UK/European record company. The album gained immediate success and recognition, being distributed to over 80 countries. Their follow-up album, Ki Mua, was released through Warm Earth Records, and went #1 on world music charts and mainstream radio in the South Pacific.

In 2002, the band released their third album, Nukukehe. The album gained the group a nomination in the New Zealand Music Awards and the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music. Their next albums entered the European World Music Charts, as well as winning numerous awards.

Through their career, Te Vaka has performed extensively around the world, performing in London’s Royal Festival Hall and Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, as well as headlining music festivals throughout Europe like WOMAD. They have also performed at the APEC ministerial dinners and America's Cup events in Auckland, the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, the Rugby World Cup in Paris[3] and the Olympic Games in Beijing.

In 2010 and 2011, the group completed two tours in North America. That same year, Te Vaka released their seventh album, Havili.

Musical style[edit]

Te Vaka uses traditional musical instruments from the Pacific region like pate (single and double log drums), pa'u (indigenous goat skin conga), and bass drums.[2]

Most of their songs are written in Tokelauan language, reflecting the heritage of band founder, singer, and main songwriter, Opetaia Foa'i. Foa'i was born in Western Samoa, to a Tokelauan father and a Tuvaluan mother, and raised in a Tokelauan community in New Zealand. He has said that the inspiration for his music comes from his multi-cultural upbringing. However, some songs are also written in Samoan and Tuvaluan languages, which are the native tongues of most of the other band members.

As a result of this mixture of sounds and diversity of influences, their music has been referred to as "a truly pan-Pacific sound".[2]


Year Nominee/Work Award Result
2002 BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music Nominated
2003 Te Vaka BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music - Audience Award Nominated
Nukukehe New Zealand Music Awards - Best Roots Album Nominated
2004 Tutuki New Zealand Music Awards - Best Pacific Music Album Won
2005 Opetaia Foa'i Senior Pacific Artist Won
2008 Te Vaka Pacific Music Awards - Best Pacific Band Won
Te Vaka Australian Songwriters Association Awards - Best Live Performance of the Night Won
"Tamahana" Australian Songwriters Association Awards - International Won
2010 Haoloto New Zealand Music Awards Nominated
Te Vaka Pacific Music Awards - Best Pacific Group Won
Haoloto Best Pacific Language Album Won
2011 Haoloto Hawaiian Music Awards - Polynesian Won
2012 Havili Pacific Music Awards Nominated
"Lovely" ISC Awards - World Music Nominated


Studio albums[edit]


  • 2003 Live at Apia Park
  • 2007 Live in Concert 2006[4]


  1. ^ pacificmusicawards.org.nz
  2. ^ a b c Lusk, Jon. "Te Vaka". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 4 April 2008. 
  3. ^ nzmusician.co.nz (Rugby World Cup) Retrieved 28 September 2009.
  4. ^ amazon.co.uk Retrieved 30 September 2009.

External links[edit]