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Style: Folsom | El Dorado Hills

Opetaia's Te Vaka Brings Dynamite Polynesian-Rock Fusion to Folsom

Oct 15, 2015 09:16AM ● Published by David Norby

Photo courtesy of the Harris Center

Te Vaka (The Canoe) is a dynamite Polynesian-rock fusion band that has been called “the finest South Pacific roots band” and “the heart and soul of the Pacific.” After taking time off for other projects, the group is back, with a new CD release scheduled and a movie soundtrack for Disney in the works. 

Pacific Islander musicians and dancers from Samoa, Tokelau, Cook Islands and New Zealand Maori, under the inspiring leadership of Opetaia Foa'i, create a unique mix that combines log drums with electric guitar and Polynesian dance with drum kit and bass, for a contemporary sound infused with the ancient rhythms of the Pacific.

Keeping the integrity of their cultural traditions while bringing them into the modern age, their songs address contemporary issues of cultural and environmental preservation. Their music was selected as the soundtrack for the opening of the renovated Pacific Wing at Honolulu’s renowned Bishop Museum. They were awarded Best Pacific Group awards in the 2008 and 2010 Pacific Music Awards and Best Polynesian Music Award at the 2011 Hawai‘i Music Awards. Most recently, they have commissioned to help compose and produce the official soundtrack for Disney’s newest animated film Moana, about a Polynesian princess.

Opetaia’s Te Vaka performs on Sunday, October 18, 2015 at 3 pm. Tickets are priced at $19-$39; Premium $45. Tickets are available online at or from Harris Center Ticket Office at 916-608-6888 from noon to 6 pm, Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time. Parking is included in the price of the ticket. Harris Center is located on the west side of Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, CA, facing East Bidwell Street.

On August 14, Disney announced at its sold-out fan expo D23 that Opetaia Foa‘i is composing the songs for the new Disney animated “princess” feature Moana (scheduled for November 2016 release). The musical team includes Tony-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (lyrics) and Grammy-winning composer Mark Mancina (TarzanThe Lion King  ̶  film score). 

The Maui News called Te Vaka "adrenaline-powered, bare-midriffed, percussion-pulsed, infectiously happy, beautiful people bringing ancient traditions into the modern world.” With Opetaia on vocals and lead guitar, using open tunings often associated with slack key techniques, the band brings its lively energy to a mix of traditional and modern instruments, from log drums to electric guitar, bass, and keyboards. The beauty of the rich vocal harmonies, dancing that evokes Pacific traditions, and the poetry of lyrics in Tokelauan and Samoan languages belie the serious intent of many of the songs, which address current issues in the Pacific including climate change, family and cultural displacement, the more recent tolls of the tsunami in Samoa, while still delivering up a rocking, joyful evening as the multi-talented musicians and singers double as dancers and chanters (Pacific-style). The music is life-affirming, every concert a celebration.

Boasting an international following, Te Vaka has appeared at London’s Royal Albert Hall, at the Beijing Olympics, headlined music festivals throughout Europe, and been favorites at WOMAD festivals around the world. They have received numerous awards, including Best Polynesian Music Award at the 2011 Hawai‘i Music Awards, Best Pacific Group twice at the Pacific Music Awards as well as awards for Best Pacific Language Song for their newest CD Haoloto (2010) and Best Pacific Album for Tutuki (2008).

Te Vaka has performed in 35 countries around the world and released six albums to date. The first self-titled Te Vaka album, released in May 1997, gained immediate worldwide acclaim for its original style and powerful tribal, rootsy feel and generated widespread recognition for the group. Released through ARC Music (a UK based Record company), the album was distributed to over 80 countries. The second album Ki Mua, released in 1999 through Warm Earth Records created an even bigger impact going to number one on world music charts and on mainstream radio in the South Pacific.

Opetaia Foa’i is the songwriter/ lead vocalist of the group. The inspiration for his music comes from his multi-cultural upbringing - half Tokelauan, half Tuvaluan, born in Samoa and bought up in a Tokelauan community in New Zealand. Opetaia’s musical background spans both the traditional and the diverse influences of contemporary metropolitan culture. Described as “one of New Zealand’s finest songwriters” and “a true son of the Pacific,” he won the Senior Pacific Artist award in 2005 for his contribution to the Pacific Arts.

Fifth Anniversary Season of Great Shows. Up Close. In Folsom! 

Now in its Fifth Anniversary Season, the Harris Center for the Arts at Folsom Lake College brings the community together to share in cultural experiences featuring the work of artists from throughout the region and around the world.  Built and operated by the Los Rios Community College District, the $50 million, state-of-the-art regional performing arts center boasts three intimate venues with outstanding acoustics, an art gallery, a recording studio, elegant teaching spaces, plenty of safe parking and all the other amenities of a world-class performing arts venue.  Each year the Center hosts over 400 events attracting more than 150,000 annually.  

Event Summary

What:   Opetaia’s Te Vaka

When:   Sunday, October 18, 2015 at 3 pm

Where: Harris Center for the Arts at Folsom Lake College 
10 College Parkway 
Folsom, CA 95630

Ticket Price:  $19-$39; Premium $45

Tickets are available online at or from Harris Center Ticket Office at 
916-608-6888 from noon to 6 pm, Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time.

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