[Spirit of Play (2009)]
Haoloto is the sixth recording by this New Zealand-based band that play music inspired by the South Pacific islands. Their name means “The Canoe,” and their journey is guided by lead vocalist, guitarist and main songwriter Opetaia Foa’i.
This ten-member group tours worldwide as ambassadors for the music and culture of the South Pacific. In a live setting, they feature dancers and drummers as well as the conventional rock band setting of electric guitar, bass and kit drums with male and female lead vocals. On record, the focus is on the singing, with Opetaia sharing the main vocals with the female leads. Opetaia’s lyrics draw their inspiration from Polynesian legends, contemporary issues such as global warming and drug abuse, conventional love songs as well as songs of inspiration and hope.
The music is in an enchanting melodic pop style, with Opetaia’s warm flowing voice, shimmering acoustic guitars, log drum percussion and female vocals casting a musician spell. It’s simple, sincere, appealing music and very much a guilty pleasure. There are also some traditional-style log drum tracks that feature the men chanting. All but one song (sung in English) are in Tokelau, but English translations are provided.
This is probably their most consistent recording and a wonderful place to start for those who might be interested in their music. They do tour the U.S., and present a live show that shouldn’t be missed. Catch them if you can. [www.tevaka.com]
—Jim Lee (Simi Valley, CA)