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LIFE & LEISURE
mitai Pati jokes that his own
childhood was a bit like growing
up as part of the Von Trapp family.
Like the family in famed 1959
musical The Sound of Music,
Pati, who is of Samoan heritage,
grew up within a large extended family in Auckland’s
gritty southern suburbs, where music was a constant
throughout his early years.
An accomplished tenor, Amitai is part of three-piece
opera trio Sol3 Mio (pronounced Solay Mio), along with
brother Pene and cousin Moses Mackay, a baritone.
Since the group’s rather ad hoc establishment – they
began a series of performances to cover their tuition
costs at a prestigious Welsh opera academy – the trio
have been wowing audiences in their home country with
their soaring harmonies.
Their debut, self-titled album was the highest-selling
album in New Zealand of 2013 – outselling Grammy-
award-winning Kiwi pop sensation Lorde.
Sol3 Mio are now due to embark on a sold-out
national tour on the back of their album, which went
five times platinum and remained at number one on the
New Zealand chart for nine consecutive weeks.
To coincide with the April 25 launch of their album in
Australia the boys will also be embarking on a tour here.
The album features a selection of opera classics from
such as ‘O Sole Mio’ and ‘Nessun Dorma’ to more
contemporary tracks, including ‘My Way, We are Samoa’
and ‘The Rose’, one of his mother ’s favourite songs.
“It’s a really personal album. Every song played a vital
role in how we grew up or has some sentimental value,”
That the group has been able to breathe new life into
what is often considered a rather staid or “posh” musical
genre is down in part to their affable and laid-back stage
The trio, who enjoy a pint of beer and play rugby,
have helped broaden the reach and appeal of opera to
Kiwi audiences, with their shows drawing a wide cross-
section of age groups.
“Opera is a very posh and prestigious art form and we
don’t want to take anything away from that, but we just
try to be ourselves. We’ll go out for a pint; we’re just
regular guys,” says Amitai.
Amitai credits his father, who he describes as a
“backyard” musician, for inspiring their own love of
“We were immersed in the music scene from a young
age ... He always encouraged us to put our head down
and work hard. You know, he’s pretty much the reason
we do what we do,” says Amitai, who grew up in a family
of six, although the household often swelled to include
up to 15 people at any one time.
“We were a bit like the Samoan Von Trapp family,” he jokes.
He said the group’s success was a tribute to the sacrifices
their parents made, who immigrated to New Zealand in
search of better opportunities for their children.
Wanting to break out of traditional stereotypes surrounding
Pacific Islanders, often pigeon-holed as rugby players or hip
hop or RnB performers, the group joined local choirs and
trained classically. Between them they play the piano, double
bass, ukulele, guitar and drums.
Pene and Amitai’s first public performance was at the rest
home their father worked at, while Moses honed his vocal
chords in front of his mother ’s occupational-therapy patients.
In 2008, Moses and Pene sang in the backing choir behind
famed Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
When a high school teacher told Pene that music wouldn’t
get them anywhere that only made them even more
However, it wasn’t until university that the trio began
taking their music more serious and looking at ways to
further develop their natural talent.
“We started performing at university. It was at the time we
were trying to figure out how to meet people and how to get
along when we realised we were the only brown faces in the
class,” Amitai laughs.
All three graduated from University of Auckland with a
Bachelor of Music and went on to be selected to attend the
Wales International Academy of Voice.
Tuition doesn’t come cheap at the exclusive Cardiff
school, and the trio set out to raise the combined sum of
$NZ100,000 needed to cover their costs with a series of
The trio enjoyed an extraordinary groundswell of public
support, launching their concert series in a half-full school
hall and concluding with a sold-out show at Auckland Town
Hall in October 2012.
The group went on to sign with Universal Music and
recorded their debut album in London.
Amitai said their operatic training in Cardiff has had
enormous benefits in terms of their professional and personal
development, adding that they had also enjoyed the Welsh
hospitality and humour.
In what was a big year for the trio, Pene joined the
prestigious San Francisco Opera Company, earning
impressive reviews, while Moses performed on stage in Italy
during his scholarship at the Georg Solti Academy.
In the year ahead they are focused on getting their music
out to audiences, and will continue to challenge some of the
stereotypes around opera.
“One of the exciting things is being able to perform in
places we’ve never been before. We want to keep making
opera accessible and to give people a taste of our music,”
For more information visit www.sol3mio.com. For your
chance to win one of 10 copies of SOL3 MIO see page 58.
www.rotar ydownunder.org 55
LIFE & LEISURE
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