Review | Songlines

Te Vaka Beats: Vol I

Rating: ★★★★

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Album and Artist Details


Te Vaka


Spirit of Play


With ancestral links to the small Pacific islands of Tuvalu and Tokelau, Polynesian group Te Vaka originally formed in New Zealand and these days members are based both there and in Australia. Having always been a family band, led by patriarch Opetaia Foa'i, the ensemble has enjoyed considerable international success, and Foa'i recently contributed compositions to the animated Disney film Moana, with his daughter Olivia also featuring on the Pacific-based soundtrack.
Now it's percussionist son Matatia's turn. Bringing his complex Polynesian rhythms to the fore on this new ten-track release, the sharp sounds of pātē (log drums) dominate, along with accompanying skin drums and other traditional percussion. Deep male voices provide the chanting counterpoint to the fast-paced wooden slit-drum rhythms, giving emphasis and vocal punctuation to these ten short but highly energised tracks. Only on ‘Maua Tokelau’ do women's voices join in, instilling a fuller community feel, but you can easily imagine the hip-swivelling female Pacific dancing that would normally accompany this music.
Mastered in Los Angeles by the Grammy-winning engineer Eric Boulanger, Te Vaka Beats: Vol I carries on the larger ensemble's dedication to contemporising authentic Polynesian music and culture.

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