Christmas is upon us in a couple of days and I am reflecting on an incredible year that I am not so sure I want to end. The overwhelming success of Moana has left us all feeling so good, knowing that all the work that went into this movie really was worth something because people are loving it, you cant ask for more than that.
Wow!!! I mean seriously wow!!! Sitting in our hotel room in LA writing this blog I am in a place where all dreams can come true. Myself and the Te Vaka team could not have dreamed or hoped for anything better than the experience we had on the evening of the 14th of November at the Moana World premiere Blue (red) Carpet event in Hollywood. Arriving at the El Capitan theater in the afternoon for soundcheck there were still a few logistics to get through like how were we going to walk the blue carpet with suits and gowns then get backstage in time to surprise the audience with a live show. The plan and the setlist had changed constantly for the last week and it changed again on arrival but this time we were happy with the change. Te Vaka was to perform three songs - "Logo te pate", "Innocent warrior" and "We know the way" - that was the perfect choice.
It's been a busy 3 years working with Walt Disney Animation Studios on the upcoming Epic feature film, "Moana" but I fear it has only just begun. Next week we begin the media work with a full band performance of a track written by Opetaia for the movie at the Australian International Movie Convention in the Gold Coast.
We have all been back in Australia and New Zealand respectively for a couple of days now but no-one has landed yet, our heads are still floating in the magic of what we have just experienced. Having all the great Te Vaka singers from 1994 through to 2016 all singing together on the Moana soundtrack was an historical moment for many reasons. Not only had they all never sung together before but to have Pacific voices singing in a Pacific language on a Disney movie has never been done before. The impact was huge! The Disney music team were moved by the voices, the pride and the authenticity of what the singers brought to the movie.
News of the MOANA movie is spreading far and wide with the first teaser now doing it's rounds. This one focuses on Maui but is very cool with Te Vaka log drums and announcing Opetaia as one of the writers - not something ususally seen on movie trailers so a nice little bonus. All the paperwork is in progress for the rush visas and all the best Te Vaka singers past and present are getting ready to fly to LA to give "Moana" their very best at the Warner Bros recording sessions.
Opetaia was unable to be at the Pacific Music Awards in Auckland last night but we were more than adequately represented by Sulata, Vai, Edwin and Neil not to mention Opetaia's sister Mary and good friend Malcolm Smith. Sulata accepted two awards on Opetaia's behalf - The APRA "Best Pacific Song" award for "Papua i sisifo" and the coverted, Recorded Music New Zealand award "The Tui" for "Best Pacific Music Album" which will be presented again at the NZ music awards in October.
Its been a crazy busy week and that is nothing compared to whats coming next. When we first started work on the "Moana" project and actually right up until last week the plan was to record the drums and voices for the movie in Australia as an easier option to flying everyone to the US and having to get work visas for everyone. Then out of the blue, during a Disney zoom meeting the producer announced she wanted our list of Te Vaka singers pretty much immediately so we could get started on the work visas!!! Wow!! this is exciting!!! No doubt about that. Recording at Warner Bros Studios in Burbank is a huge amount of fun as we discovered in the log drum recording sessions last year.
We've had a pretty good start to the year - 5 nominations for the Amataga album so far and it's only April. It's always a bit hard when you release an album and then immediately go on tour as many of the important aspects of a release, like getting the review copies sent out, can get a bit neglected. Luckily we didnt miss the deadline for the ISC (International songwriting competition) and "Tele ve ko koe " is a finalist in the World Music Category. There are a number of songwriting competitions out there but this seems to be one of the better ones with a pretty impressive lineup of judges and some nice prizes for the winners. Amataga really is a world music album so it would be very exciting to win this category - winners will be announced out at the end of the month.
The new album is happening! Of course Opetaia has to fit the writing in around the music that Disney wants for “Moana” but I think that good old saying “ If you want a job done, ask a busy man” is definitely relevant here. So we were both already busy then, out of the blue came the trip to New Zealand for Pasifika! Writing Pacific-orientated albums demands a connection with the culture, so what better way to do that than to go to the annual Pasifika Festival held in Auckland every March. Te Vaka first started performing at Pasifika back in 1996 and in those days it was a massive event with heaps of culture, complete with a ceremonial stage and a contemporary stage.
There has been so much happening that I have failed miserably in my efforts to keep this blog up to date. But as time allows I will do my best to fill in important events that have been missed. 2015 was such an incredible, unbelieveable, outrageous year for Te Vaka but I believe 2016 will be insane.
Fantastic night in Gainesville, the audience loved the show even got a standing ovation. Before the show we got given our Gator pins and a few tips about this university town so when the whole band broke into the Ika Ika dance at the end of the show, which the audience sang along to with great enthusiasm, the dancers threw in the move that expresses the chomping Aligators jaws and the place went wild.
The Jetlag is extreme after traveling for 2 days with no sleep but everyone is coping. The first show is tomorrow night at the Gainesville University and we have just got back to the hotel after the required drinks and Hors d'oeuvres with the donors of the university. An interesting night at the Gainesville countryclub with some rather wealthy people in a very beautiful environment.
There are never enough hours in the day but leading up to a tour when you have just released a CD things can be extreme. Even with an extraordinarily tight schedule there are certain things that just have to be done so thankfully we have now managed our customery gathering to autograph the pre-ordered CDs after rehearsal tonight.
So little time and so much to be done before the tour. The band arrived a few days ago and rehearsals are intense - songs from the new album to add to the show, re-creating and improving old favourites. Lots of laughs but lots of sweat too.
Over-joyed, relieved, happy - we picked up the new CD (Amataga) today and it is perfect! The booklet looks exactly like it is supposed to, no colour disasters, no mistakes of any kind and the music is all there and it plays beautifully.
The headlines are all over the internet now, but we have had to keep this exciting news a secret since the middle of 2013 - more than 2 years!!
The forces are aligning, the music is brewing and we are getting ready for a spectacular 2015.