Te Vaka Is Ready To Rock Kaua‘i

The dynamic Polynesian-fusion band Te Vaka makes its debut on the Garden Island Nov. 6 at Kaua’i Marriott Resort

Te Vaka a band of 10 musicians and dancers from Tokelau, Tuvalu, Samoa, the Cook Islands and New Zealand will bring its voices, dance moves and rhythm log drums to Kaua’i Nov. 6.

Known for its keen Polynesian-fusion sound, Te Vaka has performed on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, but this is its first visit here.

Having released its seventh CD, Havili, Aug. 24, the band will wrap up an incredibly full tour that started mid-September in New Mexico and continued on to Chicago, Indiana, New York, Utah, California, Alaska, the Big Island and finally Kaua’i.

“The whole band is so looking forward to it,” lead singer Opetaia Foa’i says.

Local residents Koko and Julie Kaneali’i, volunteers with nonprofits such as Koloa Plantation Days, Heiva I Kaua’i and May Day, arranged for the band to come to Kaua’i, the first event the couple is producing as a business venture.

“There are many bands that come through the Islands, but Kaua’i usually gets bypassed and we’d like to change that,” Julie Kaneali’i says.

The Kaneali’i’s have been working on bringing the band here for roughly a year through their company KanakAttack Entertainment, an extension of the band KanakAttack. Kaneali’i says she and her husband were first introduced to Te Vaka while watching the movie Johnny Lingo.

“There is a song at the end called Tamahana,” she says. “I loved it so much that I looked up Te Vaka and found the CD and ordered it. Not long after, I found out from a friend that they might be coming to Hawaii as part of their 2011 North American tour.

I emailed their agent on Maui last October and got the ball rolling.”

A little bit of soul with a hypnotic drum rhythm and melodic mix of voices, the band, which Kaneali’i dubs as “infectious and upbeat,” includes Neil Forrest on lead guitar, flute, log drums and skin drums, Luavasa Foa’i on bass guitar and bass skin drum, Talaga Sale, Matatia Foa’i (son) on log drums, and vocals and dance by Olivia Foa’i (daughter) and Tremayne Lihou.

“(They) have a great message,” Kaneali’i adds.

Taking that message around the world is part of the metaphor behind the band’s name, which means “the canoe.”

“The band is named Te Vaka as it was the canoe sailing out to bring Pacific music to the other side of the world,” Foa’i says. “We have been touring for the last 15 years, and initially the journeys were made to Europe to bring the music that many people had not experienced before.”

Composing from a unique blend of influences, Foa’i wrote and arranged all the band’s material and co-produced its albums. Foa’i says music has been a part of most of his life, as he remembers listening to the traditional music of Tokelau, Tuvalu and Samoa as a child. “My father comes from Tokelau, my mother from Tuvalu, I was born in Samoa and came to New Zealand at the age of 9 years,” he says.

In addition to the traditional music of the islands, there’s also some Jimi Hendrix, Peter Gabriel and Doudou Rose in there.

Proud of the feedback he gets from people of a wide-ranging demograph- ic, Foa’i says he likes that the band’s music “makes people feel good.”

Having taken its proverbial canoe around the world, Foa’i fondly recalls the group’s first gig in Europe. “It was quite mind-blowing,” he says. “We had arrived from New Zealand and had no idea what to expect. The festival was in Switzerland and the surroundings breathtak- ing. The band went on stage and the crowd went wild. They demanded three encores and almost refused to let us off the stage. We knew then that we were doing something good.”

Of course, Garden Islanders are encouraged to see – and hear – for themselves.

“It is quite different from what many people expect,” Foa’i adds.

Doors open for Te Vaka at 6 p.m.; show starts at 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at Kaua’i Marriott Resort and Hotel Ballroom in Lihu’e. Cost is $35 for general seating and $40 at the door. Tickets are available at Havaiki Oceanic and Tribal Art, Hanalei; Kaua’i Music and Sound, Kapa’a; Pictures Plus, Kukui Grove Shopping Center, Lihu’e; Larry’s Music, Koloa; Scotty’s Music, Kalaheo; and Kaua’i Marriott Resort and Hotel.