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The Music

The log drums (or Pate in his native language) are an important part of the sound, capturing the infectious rhythms of the South Seas and creating a Pacific groove.

Opetaia has a very deep and passionate involvement with the Islands of the South Pacific. He writes songs that tell the story of Polynesia, from the original pioneers who traveled across the largest ocean on the planet with a simple canoe (vaka) to the current destruction of many of the smaller Pacific Islands such as Tokelau and Tuvalu due to the effects of Global warming.  

The songs are mostly in the language of Tokelau, an original dialect of old Polynesia, but in the later albums there are songs in Samoan and Tuvaluan also.. This serves as a means of keeping the language alive as well as imparting, to the music, the rich colour and rhythm of the language itself.

The listener is offered something new and unique, the barriers of age and culture are broken down on a journey through Polynesia that reaches into the heart of us all.


Amataga, Te Vaka’s 2015 release, coming on the heels of the announcement that Opetaia Foa‘i is also composing the songs for the new Disney animated feature Moana, and Te Vaka is performing them on the soundtrack. Amataga takes Te Vaka in a new direction – the songs and harmonies evoke the distinctive melodious sounds of the Pacific while the lyrics express a heartfelt plea for our planet and for human rights, daily issues in the Pacific islands.



We were all determined that Te Vaka’s 2011 release Havili would be special. The decision to record a live album contributed greatly to making this album something that we are all extremely proud of. Recording in the best facilities available to us has definitely enhanced the richness and quality of the songs and we couldn't be more happy with the outcome. The album has 13 tracks, including 3 percussion/log drums tracks, it is the classic Te Vaka sound and more.



Haoloto (“Free”), coming at the end of 2009, is dedicated to the rescue workers who responded to the devastating tsunamis in Samoa and the Pacific and the earthquakes in Indonesia. Notes Opataia: “The trauma and upset inflicted by these forces of nature is overwhelming. They can only be countered by immediate action on the ground taken by those who risk their own lives in order to help their fellow man…This album has been the most challenging and most satisfying of all the Te Vaka albums. Once the canoe got rolling with all on board, there was a feeling that we were heading for somewhere special.”


The fifth Te Vaka album Olatia entered the European World Music Chart at no. 4 and has received great reviews. This one is a very environmentally aware and almost spiritual album. Opetaia's message in the inside frontcover is as follows: “I was very honoured to have been invited to perform in three of the biggest venues in Polynesia in 2005 : the Waikiki shell in Hawai‘i, Apia Park in Samoa and Tahiti’s Toata Stadium. It was the reasons why we were invited that was most satisfying.To experience first hand each of the Island’s concerns and to be there supporting was most humbling. Whether it was the Hawaiian’s concern for their land with the US of A, Tahiti’s desire for self-rule from France or Samoa defending their land from the might of the Asian Banks, it is clear that there exists an awareness to preserve our endangered cultures before they are replaced or lost. These are exciting times but to succeed we need a few more of these strong ethical leaders to protect and preserve our cultures from these natural and not so natural forces. It is to these leaders that I dedicate this album.

The fourth Te Vaka album, Tukutuki won "Best Pacific Music Album. The first Track "Samulai" won second place in the World music category of the USA international songwriting competition. This album has been described as "Traditional but not too provincial, funky but not too Western, polished but not too slick". In this one Opetaia takes up subjects of concern in the South Pacific such as over-fishing and AIDS but balances it well with inspired tracks about the positive aspects of Pacific life. Again, the band's stunning blend of original, traditionally influenced Polynesian music has infected people all over the world with it's infectious pulsating log drum rhythms and uplifting melodies.

The third Te Vaka album, Nukukehe is dedicated to Greenpeace and all the other environmental groups around the world caring enough to do something about it."My journey to Samoa, Tokelau and Tuvalu in 2001 and 2002 brought much inspiration for the writing of this album. It was a time of great happiness and celebration but it was also tinged with sadness. Seeing for myself the effects of climate change, brought home to me the reality that these islands with their unique and individual cultures, will not endure if something isn't done to reverse this trend in the very near future.It is real to me now, that we all need to do something, no matter how small, to help.Despite all this - to visit the place where I was born, and visit both my Mother and Father's Islands, has been a source of great inspiration for me. I was amazed to see that the houses in my village were still the same - thatched roof, no walls, one room fits all. Happy childhood memories came flooding back. I experienced the people, the music, the dance, the awesome hospitality and I left there hoping that all this will always be there."

Te Vaka's second album Ki mua, is dedicated to the original pioneers - the Polynesian fleet 'Kau tufuga fai vaka', forebearers and ancestors to all Polynesian cultures in the Pacific. This music will make you want to dance with it's powerful, tribal, rootsy feel. It is melodious and relaxing yet earthy and atmospheric.



The band's first album, 'Te Vaka' which means "The Canoe" has been described as "a stereotype smashing glimpse into the true soul of the South Seas. It does away with the preconceptions that Pacific music is about Ukuleles and Palm trees. Te Vaka music is an inspired combination of forceful rhythms, inspired melodies, and heartfelt songwriting.