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Te Vaka Bios

Te Vaka

Te Vaka is a unique group musicians and dancers from Tokelau, Tuvalu, Samoa, Cook Islands, and Aotearoa (New Zealand) brought together under the inspired leadership of Opetaia Foa'i, one of New Zealand's finest songwriters. They have been wowing international audiences since 1997, presenting a luscious mix of Polynesia's ancient culture with a modern rock sensibility. Winners of the “Best Pacific Group” award in the 2008 Pacific Music Awards”, Te Vaka’s celebrates the rich kaleidoscope of Pacific flavors in a genre all its own.

Te Vaka has performed in Hawai‘i and toured the continental U.S., the UK, Europe, Asia, & other parts of the world extensively since they emerged on the global world music scene, performing 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, USA. They are in demand for many 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. They will once again be back on the world stage when Disney's new animated feature Moana, based in the South Pacific, is released in November 2016 -- Opetaia Foa'i composed the songs and Te Vaka performs them on the soundtrack, giving the film its Pacific authenticity.

The islands of Tokelau, Tuvalu and Samoa were major influences on Opetaia's upbringing and his songwriting. He was raised in Samoa until the age of nine when his whole family emigrated to New Zealand. The Tokelauan community there continued to provide musical inspiration; every gathering was an opportunity for people to sing and dance, and this mood is sustained in the evocative spirit of the band. The addition of band members from many Islands in the South Pacific adds flavors from all over modern Polynesia to the music and dance of Te Vaka.


Opetaia Foa'i
, Guitar & Vocals
Founder of band: 1995

Opetaia Foa’i is the songwriter/ lead vocalist of the group. He also plays the acoustic guitar, lead log drum and choreographs the show -- he has been the mind, heart and soul behind Te Vaka since its inception in 1994.

Opetaia has composed, recorded and performed his work steadfastly over the years for audiences all over the world, sharing the pride in his culture and spreading the story of his navigating ancestors who conquered the largest ocean on the planet; the Pacific. From a young age Opetaia was exposed to a diverse array of musical influence and quickly grew a love for the likes of Jimi Hendrix and other contemporary artists but being Half Tokelauan, half Tuvaluan and born in Samoa always kept his heart close to home and his Polynesian roots.

On stage he performs as the Lead singer, acoustic guitarist and Lead log drummer but offstage he has been described as “one of New Zealand’s finest songwriters” and in 2005 won the Senior Pacific Artist award for his work in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the Pacific Arts of New Zealand. Opetaia has written 8 Te Vaka albums and is currently recording album number 9 which is scheduled for release in November 2016

"For me Te Vaka has always been about proudly presenting our beautiful culture to the world and after a much needed rest, I’m proud and excited to be back on stage with this awesome lineup of talented Pacific artists. I’m also looking forward to performing tracks from our new album “Amataga”. " - O.T.Foai

Douglas Bernard (aka Fresh, aka D. Burn), Vocals and keyboard
Fresh was a band member from 2004 – 2006 probably best known for the male vocal in Tamahana. A great musician with a good voice and stage presence, he is happy to be returning to the Te Vaka  lineup.

Matatia Foa'i, Drumkit, Master log drummer
Drum kit, log drums, skin drums, percussion. Born in New Zealand, Matatia is quarter Tokelauan, quarter Tuvaluan and half New Zealander. He joined Te Vaka in 2003 and makes his way around log drums, skin drums, percussion and drumkit with skill and ease. He also co-composed one of the percussion tracks on the latest Te Vaka CD.

Olivia Foa'i, Female vocals and lead female dancer
Vocals and dance. Olivia is part Tokelauan, Tuvaluan and New Zealander. Born in New Zealand she has performed with Te Vaka since 2005. As with many members of the group, Olivia is multi-talented and loves to perform - singing and playing keyboards when she is not dancing.

Max Stowers, Bass Guitar
Max is a bit of a legend in the South Pacific, the most in-demand electric bass player in Auckland. Says NZ Musician, “He is our funkiest - with some scary chops, seemingly infinite improv ideas, rock solid time and groove feels to die for... in a nutshell, Max Stowers is a prodigious talent.” With father jazz pianist  John Stowers and his mum June a singer Max has been working professionally since the age of 15. Max describes it as 'Polynesian Jazz/Funk'

Gerard Tatireta (Tioti), Male dancer from Kiribati
Gerard is a very exciting vibrant culture dancer who has also studied contemporary dance and recently performed and toured “Birds With Skymirrors by Lemi Ponifasio”

Joe Toomata, Lead guitar and Bass skin drum
Joe joined Te Vaka as the bass player at the end of 2001 and played Bass until 2006 but his real passion has always been the guitar. He has a great love of his culture and is very excited about returning to the band in 2015.

Etueni (Edwin) Pita, Lead dancer
Lead Dancer. Etueni (Edwin) is Half Tokelauan, quarter Cook Island and quarter Tuvaluan, born in New Zealand. He has been dancing since the age of five. Joining Te Vaka in 1997, he made his debut at WOMAD Pacifica. Since being with the band he has contributed his traditional and contemporary dance skills and also assists with choreography for the stage shows.