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.

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