Pacific Media Watch

19 August 2015

NZ: Polynesian band Te Vaka to join next big Disney movie

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A Te Vaka performance. Image: Te Vaka

Vaimoana Tapaleao
AUCKLAND (The New Zealand Herald/Pacific Media Watch): A New Zealand Pacific band has been chosen to lend their voices to Disney's next big movie - Moana.

Te Vaka is a group of musicians and dancers from various Pacific Island backgrounds based in New Zealand.

Their unique music - a blend of traditional Island and contemporary tunes - has taken them around the world and they have a huge following around the Pacific region.

Led by composer and lead singer Opetaia Foa'i, the group will perform on the Moana soundtrack; for which Foa'i has been chosen to be one of its song writers alongside award-winning composers Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mark Mancina, who worked on the Tarzan and The Lion King soundtracks.

The announcement came over the weekend at Disney's D23 Expo in the US, where Te Vaka was invited to perform one of the film's key songs:"We Know The Way".

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson - who is the voice behind one of the main characters in the film, Maui - introduced Te Vaka as "aiga" (Samoan for family) before they took to the stage.

Speaking to the crowd, Johnson, who is half Samoan on his mother's side, said: "I am so excited to be with you here today to talk a little bit about Maui and our incredible story about Moana....Samoa is in my blood and to tell a story inspired by the South Pacific is truly a great honour."

'They really care'
Speaking from the US, Foa'i said they were shocked when approached by Disney two years ago.

"They went searching for a song writer from the Pacific and [my wife] Julie noticed that somebody had ordered everything on our site and then she noticed it said Disney at the bottom of the email.

"Then they brought me over here, so they could meet me...They thought they were checking me out, but I was checking them out. I didn't want to be involved with a movie that's going to make our culture look silly.

"I sit in on meetings with every top director in Disney and I speak my mind - and they listen. These people really care and they really want to present respectfully the culture of the South Pacific. I tell you, this movie is going to be something very special."

Foa'i travelled with some of the film's producers and directors to New Zealand and Samoa for research purposes and included an undercover visit to Auckland's Pasifika Festival last year.

The highly anticipated film, which is due out next year in November, follows a young girl named Moana Waialiki who travels the seas to fulfil her ancestors' unfinished quest. Along the way she meets demi-god Maui, who helps her along the way.

New Zealand already has a connection to the movie in Kiwi filmmaker Taika Waititi, who is behind the film's script.

Vaimoama Tapaleao is Pacific affairs reporter for The New Zealand Herald and an award-winning graduate journalist of AUT University.

Te Vaka website

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