More than 6 weeks have gone by and we are still buzzing from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra tour. Four sold out shows in Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington with their respective Orchestras of more than 60 instrumentalists in each. Performing the songs of Moana, from the heart, with an Orchestra bringing out so much emotion has really had an impact on all of us, in the best possible way.

It all started at the beginning of 2017 when we received the invitation from Kirsten Mason of Orchestra Wellington. Kirsten had taken on the task of co-ordinating the Te Vaka/Moana/Symphony Orchestra tour. At that stage we thought Auckland was going to be included, but someone in their wisdom decided against this, which was a shame as it would have been so great to have been able to do this show in the band’s hometown – but it wasn’t to be.

Once the contract was signed there was a bit of nervous hysteria coming from the band. They all know that Opetaia’s middle name is “change” and no-one was quite sure how we were going to lock him down to play a prearranged, arrangement of the songs so that the band and the Orchestra were on the same page. It took some figuring out but finally the Orchestration man, Thomas Goss was sent something to base his Orchestra arrangements on. Of course, this did change, constantly, right up until the end. But when we arrived in Christchurch for the first and only rehearsal with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra we managed to change the last couple of things so that everyone would be playing the same things at the same time on the night.

Now living in Australia, we don't always make it to the New Zealand Pacific Music awards and in fact we haven't attended since 2010 when Te Vaka won two awards for the 'Haoloto album' and the band performed live on the night. When Universal music nominated, Opetaia, Olivia, Vai, Sulata and Matthew for categories in this year’s awards we were not sure whether we could make it but when they were all announced as finalists, with Olivia in two categories - the "Best Pacific female artist" and "Best Pacific language song" we thought we had better be there. You do get over flying when you have flown as much as we have in the last few years and we had only just returned from the Music Manager Awards but we had to be there so bags were packed and we headed to the Airport already looking forward to getting home again.

Te Vaka has been nominated for and won many awards over the last 20 years but I have always stayed behind the lines, just working by myself mostly, occasionally seeking advice from others in the industry but because Te Vaka isn't a pop or rock band I have had to figure a lot of it out as I went along. When I received the email to say I had been nominated for the MMF (Music Managers) "International achievement" award I was pleasantly surprised but didn't really give it a lot of thought. I was still busy with Disney stuff, even though the movie is already out and wasn't really sure if we had time to fly to New Zealand to attend the awards or not. However, Opetaia was insistent on us going, so about a week before the awards night I booked tickets for Opetaia, myself and Olivia and invited all the Te Vaka team in New Zealand to share the night with me.

Tomorrow we will find out if Moana wins an Oscar or two at the Academy awards. Whether it does or not, doesn't change the fact that it is an awesome movie, created with passion by some very talented and special people. The journey has been one of extreme highs and the ocassional low. A lot to learn in a short space of time, working with people whose creative output in a day is more than most people do in months or even years. Working with the Disney team has been an incredible experience and a dream come true for all of us. So here we sit on the eve of the Oscars, hoping that the movie we worked on and loved for more than 3 years wins an Oscar.

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. 

On the 25th of September we are releasing Te Vaka album no. 8 

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. 

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