The stereotype is that you have to be big and European to sing opera …
and if you’re a Pacific Islander you’re often pigeon-holed as being hip-hop artists or rugby players!
Rebecca Murdie chats with Moses MacKay, Amitai Pati & Pene Pati
The award-winning operatic trio – tenor brothers Pene and Amitai Pati and their baritone cousin, Moses Mackay – rose to the top of the NZ popular music charts with their debut album. They’ve experienced great success internationally, and have now shared some of that journey in their very own book Sol3 Mio – Our Story. Rebecca Murdie caught up with them at Universal Studios for a round-table chat.
1. You’ve created a stir internationally – and now you’re about to hit the road again here. Is it good to be home?
PENE: Definitely! It’s been a crazy year. But we’re so happy to be back in New Zealand, very excited about the Christmas show at Villa Maria Winery (Sunday Dec 21) and about touring the heartland again in February & March. We’ve been preparing lots of new material, and we can’t wait to bring it home!
2. How did you come up with the band name Sol3 Mio?
PENE: Well, O Sole Mio was the first song we sang together as a group. There are three of us, of course. And ‘sole’ is slang for brother – hence Sol3 Mio!
3. What language does each of you prefer to sing in?
SOL3 MIO: (In unison) Italian!
PENE: It’s so similar to Samoan – the vowels, for example. And it’s so articulate and romantic! If you sing opera and classical music, you just want to sing Italian!
MOSES: Yeah. The first time I heard Italian being sung, I fell in love with it.
4. So you can sing Italian, but can you speak it fluently?
PENE: We’re pretty close. We can understand it better than we can speak it. But if the three of us lived in Italy for a month, I believe we’d soon be fluent. We just need to be immersed in it for a while.
5. What’s the biggest misconception about being opera super-stars?
PENE: The stereotype is that you have to be big and European to sing opera …
MOSES: … and if you’re a Pacific Islander you’re often pigeon-holed as being hip-hop artists or rugby players!
6. Have you ever serenaded a girl? If so, what did you sing – and was it successful?
AMITAI: Unfortunately, I haven’t serenaded any girls … ever. But, in saying that, I would love to sing something for my girlfriend. I’d try and think up the most romantic song (Moses chuckles in the background) and make it as unique as possible. Something that’s me singing, rather than the artist. Something just for her. Chances are it would probably sound horrible – haha! But hey, it’s the thought that counts! (Round of applause from the others)
PENE: I once sang Dein ist mein ganzes Herz to a girl. It’s a German piece meaning You are my heart’s delight – and it worked! (Room erupts with oohs, ahhs, high-fives and laughter!) I also sang a Marvin Gaye number at a karaoke bar – and that worked like a charm, too!
MOSES: The girls were swooning …!
7. What’s your pre-stage ritual? How do you prepare before going on-stage?
MOSES: It can become overwhelming, singing to all those people, so we just try and keep calm. But the adrenaline you get is amazing!
8. If you could be a musical instrument, which would you be and why?
PENE: I would probably be a cello. I love the mellow sound – it’s not high, and it’s not like the violin or the double base. It soothes the soul.
MOSES: One of my favourite instruments is the French horn! I love the brass sound. I don’t always like the intensity of brass instruments – sometimes the trumpet can be really in your face! But I find the French horn is almost like a muffled hug – do you know what I mean? The sound feels so warm …
AMITAI: I would have to go with the piano – the grand piano. People think it’s easy to play, but it’s not; it’s very difficult.
MOSES: Everyone loves the pianist. If someone’s just full blast on the piano, it’s like … WOW! But not if it’s someone just playing Chopsticks – that’s not attractive!
9. You’ve been nominated for some major Vodafone NZ Music Awards, including Album of the Year, Best Group, and People’s Choice Award – which would you most like to win?
PENE: Definitely Album of the Year! It would really mean something if we won that!
10. What’s one thing you’ve learnt in life that you’d like to pass on?
MOSES: If you get hit, get back up. Have the confidence to take a hit – and the courage to get back up!
Issue 4 2014 Take 10 (347 KB)