Entertainment | Pasifika

Pacific group represents Aotearoa at barbershops' biggest event

A Wellington singing group is heading overseas in July, to compete in what’s been billed as the greatest barbershop show on earth.

Pacific Connection is travelling to Louisville, Kentucky to take part in the World Barbershop Convention.

Henrietta Hunkin-Tagaloa (co-director of Pacific Connection) says their crew has been together for just one year and is about to hit the big time.

“So in 2022, we entered our first national harmony barbershop competition, which we competed at in Palmerston North, and we won.

"We won that competition and we won with the highest score ever in New Zealand and the history of the competition. It was a huge shock for us to do as well as we did,” she says.

Their 2022 winning performance was a Pacific medley that included classics such as Isa lei, Tofā My Feleni, and Stan Walker's Tua.

First for Pacific songs

Hunkin-Tagaloa was thrilled her group made history by being the first to sing in Pacific languages at Aotearoa's national convention.

“It was a risk on our part because never had this competition had Pacific music. You kind of have to sing in languages people understand. But, with these songs, we turned it into a story that people could relate to and understand.

"Pacific music is probably not familiar to many people over there, so it is another risk on our part but again we want to showcase that and share that with the world, and we won’t shy away from it,” Hunkin-Tagaloa says.

The 2023 Barbershops International Convention will host two competitions: one for quartets (four people) and another for choruses (more than four).

Pacific Connection will take a team of 35 and have representations of many ethnicities within their team, including Niueans, Tokelauans and non-Pasifika.

Lead tenor Claudia Simpson is feeling excited about the challenge and travel ahead.

Stories of their ancestors

“What I’m most looking forward to is travelling as a team, as a unit, and as a family. I think what we have is really special and it’s a huge point of difference being able to share our beautiful cultures and our beautiful music on the international stage is going to be incredible.

"For most of our members, it’s going to be the first time that we have ever travelled overseas to perform on an international stage,” she says.

The Pasifika organisation plans to be the first ever crew to sing in Pacific languages on the international stage.

Hunkin-Tagaloa says no matter how they place in the competition, their top priority is to introduce Pacific voices and stories to the world of barbershops.

“The majority of the songs we are using out there are traditional, more old-school love songs. They’re all about love, which is great, and which is cool. But ours has a deeper meaning and a deeper story.

"It’s not something that has been made up. This is the story of our ancestors, people, and families. That’s what we’re really excited about putting on stage for the international audience,” she says.

The competition will take place from July 2 to July 9. For more information visit the website.