Igelese Ete: Taking Pasifika Voices to the World Stage
HIS passion for Pacific Island culture and its people is what drives Igelese Ete to showcase our talent to the world in the form of Pasifika Voices – an auditioned youth choir who strive to impact their audiences through the use of our culture through the vehicle of music and dance. Early last year, 49-year old Samoan islander, Igelese, took it upon himself to travel to Walt Disney Studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles to leave a personal message at Disney Studios saying that ‘they cannot produce a movie about the Pacific and not include voices of the Pacific.’ Prior to his trip to Los Angeles, Igelese had watched ‘Lilo & Stitch’ but was not impressed with the Pacific choir from New Zealand that sang the soundtrack. “I know from the movie Lilo&Stitch, Walt Disney producers went to NZ and got a choir from North Island which is a place with just a few Pacific Islanders so I wanted to ensure that they got the soundtrack for Moana right and that was why I suggested Pasifika Voices.” “I really had to ensure from my perspective as a Pacific musician that our authenticity was justified through the music,” Igelese said. To justify himself and what he stands for, Igelese paid for his own travel expenses to Hollywood to share his views and also vouch for the talented Pasifika Voices being a given a chance to sing the soundtrack for the Walt Disney movie Moana. “I heard they were going to do a soundtrack for the movie Moana, I wanted to ensure that Pasifika Voices choir had an opportunity to be a part of that world class environment so I really had to make sure I secured that deal,” Igelese said. His trip to Hollywood was not in vain as Igelese got a positive response from the producers of Moana and negotiations were under way for the choir to arrange their visas and airfares to travel to Hollywood – the entertainment centre of the world. Surprisingly Igelese said they had lost the deal at one stage because of the delay in securing visas and airfares for the choir. “I was emailing the producers of the movie at Walt Disney trying to find the right words to convince them if there was any other option we could still sing the soundtrack,” Igelese said. “It was at this stage I came to realise how important business relationships are. I could have cut the deal off but I think we had developed a strong relationship with Hollywood and Disney and they had decided to come and record the sountrack here in Suva which was fantastic.” Igelese said they recorded the soundtrack for Moana on August 12, 2016 the same day that our Fiji 7s Rugby team won our first ever Olympic gold medal in Rio, Brazil. “For us recording the soundtrack on the same day was our golden opportunity as well but we were not allowed to reveal anything at the time because the movie was yet to be released but I am very proud of the members of Pasifika Voices choir and how far we have come.” Igelese who is the chairman for Fiji Arts Council and also the Head of Performing Arts at the University of the South
Pacific Oceania Centre did not think that music would bring him this far. “I was born in Samoa and I actually came to Fiji when I was 5-years-old with my Dad who to do his Bachelor of Divinity at the Pacific Theological College,” he said. “When I was 7-years-old our whole family moved to Wellington in NZ where my Dad humbly set up a church which is similar to the Methodist denomination.” His parents Reverend Elder Risatisone and Fereni Ete who have both been awarded the Queen’s medals for community service in New Zealand, pushed Igelese to learn how to play the piano when he was just 10-years-old and when he was 14-years-old his father appointed him to become the choir master in church. “That’s what was expected of me being a pastor’s son, to help out in worship and take the choir and I was working with the chiefs and elders so I was somehow thrown into the deep and told to swim,” he said. “I take my hat off to my parents for all they do, if it wasn’t for them pushing me on to take up piano classes and be the choir master in church because this is where my passion for music started even though I never took it seriously at first,” Igelese said. Today, Igelese time is scheduled around his work and family. He is engaged to local model Vasiti Radekedeke and they have a 9-month-old daughter Nafanua Moana Isareni. His daughter’s middle name, Moana was given because Vasiti was pregnant and at the recording studio most times when the Moana soundtrack was recorded. Igelese also has an 18-year-old daughter Aria and a 14-yearold son Naatapuitea from a previous relationship who both live with him and Vasiti at their married quarters at USP. Tall and shy Vasiti, 23, said she admires her fiancée’s work and he takes his work with him wherever he goes even if they are on a family break. “I do understand the passion my fiancée has about his work and I will support him all the way.” Vasiti said Igelese surprised her a few months back when his parents were visiting from New Zealand by proposing to her. “It was during a family dinner and I got a shock when Igelese got down on bended knees and asked me to marry him,” Vasiti said. The couple will be tying the knot in August. With the Moana soundtrack out of the way, Igelese plans to take Pasifika Voices to Hollywood in November to present Malaga the Journey – a production he wrote. “In Samoa, ‘malaga’ means journey and the production is about how Pacific islanders migrated to places and my vision for this trip is to try and secure a deal with Broadway,” he said. “At the moment we are looking for sponsors who will help is with our travel and we are working on that.” Igelese said he doesn’t know how Broadway will view his production but it’s a risk he is willing to take.