Having seen the movie before our interview with Opetaia Tavita Foa’i , I was already intrigued by the man and his music. The music he created and performed is full of emotion and sweeps you up in it as you listen. He is fiercely proud of his culture as we soon found out in our chat.
Opetaia Tavita Foa’i was born in Alamagoto, a small village in Apia, Western Samoa. His father is from Tokelau his mother from Tuvalu, they met while attending school in Samoa. His early upbringing was in a small Tokelauan settlement in Alamagoto. The houses were the traditional thatched roof kind, no walls and only one room for the whole family and everyone slept on the floor.
Musically, Opetaia has traveled full circle, from traditional music to many other styles and musical influences and now feels he is back home. He is enjoying the satisfaction of doing something that he’s really proud of, something that comes from his own roots and he is constantly encouraging others to explore and create from their own roots instead of always looking toward other peoples cultures.
On working and collaborating with Lin-Manuel Miranda..
It was quite an amazing combination cause you’ve got Mark who, of course, is very experienced along that line and you’ve got Lin who’s very good with lyrics and directing. And there’s me who, I don’t read music but I do write from emotion.
I can grab a scene and I can get emotion out of it very quickly so we found that that combination worked really well. I’m very childish in the Studio and luckily so was Lin and so we had a lot of fun together.
On his journey in life……..
In my culture music is like breathing air. My journey is really to promote my culture. I’ve traveled the world and people got sick of me talking about these people that are the best Navigators, best Sailors in the world, everywhere. And to be honest, I thought I’d reached the end of my run and I was ready to, you could say, hang up my horse unless the opportunity came up.
What’s song had the most meaning to you that made it on the Soundtrack?
Well the first track that I wrote was “We Know the Way”, we knew something was special about this.
We had the pleasure of watching a live performance of “We Know the Way” by Opetaia Foa’i, his daughter Olivia Foa’i and his band Te Vaka before the Hollywood premiere of Moana.
Te Vaka is a group of musicians and dancers from Tokelau, Tuvalu, Samoa, Cook Islands and New Zealand brought together under the inspired leadership of Opetaia Foa’i. Te Vaka has been enchanting the world with their own brand of South Pacific Fusion since 1997. Using the rhythms of the log drum (“pate”), combined with traditional and contemporary instruments, Opetaia Foa’i and the band deliver a kaleidoscopic array of Pacific flavors in a genre all of it’s own.
Did you have a lot of free range when it came to your vision?
This is my first experience with Disney, so it was unknown territory. I didn’t know where I was going but all I know was that I needed to just keep true what and who I was. I’m just so thrilled, just so happy that you guys are actually looking into my culture. Thank you.
I’m very proud of it and I do mean when I say the Ancestors, I think they’ll be happy with this Movie. I’m proud of it.
The Moana soundtrack can be ordered HERE. . The Moana original motion picture soundtrack features 14 tracks and will be available wherever music is sold and streamed on Nov. 18, 2016. The Moana two-disc deluxe edition and the digital deluxe edition soundtrack, which are also available Nov. 18, feature additional tracks including demos, outtakes and instrumental karaoke tracks.
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Disclosure: I was provided with an all-expense trip to LA by Walt Disney Studios to attend the Red Carpet Premiere of MOANA, as well as visit ABC televisions sets and attend the BFG brunch. All opinions are 100% my own.