Auckland trio Sol3 Mio are causing a sensation in one of the most unconventional musical circles – the international classical and opera scene.
Tenor brothers Pene and Amitai Pati from Mangere, and their baritone cousin Moses Mackay, are usually mistaken for hip-hop artists, with their down-to-earth, laid-back attitudes, but are making waves across the globe with their amazing operatic vocals, as well as a brilliant collective sense of humour.
The classically trained band, who formed in 2011, have spent most of this year apart. Pene (26) joined the prestigious San Francisco Opera Company, where he was called a “tenor star” by the San Francisco Chronicle, while Moses (23) and Amitai (24) are taking operatic training at the Academy of Voice in Wales.
Moses even managed to squeeze in stage performances in Italy during his scholarship at the Georg Solti Academy.
But the guys somehow managed to align their busy schedules to release a debut self-titled album, out this week. They play the piano, double bass, ukulele, guitar and drums between them, and are rapt with the release – which features a mixture of crowd favourites and classical tracks, such as Eduardo di Capua’s Neapolitan song O Sole Mio, Kiwi folk classic Ten Guitars and the 1961 Arthur Lyman hit Yellow Bird.
With appearances on New Zealand’s Got Talent and TV One documentary series NZ Story, Sol3 Mio are fast becoming household names. But the guys haven’t forgotten their humble beginnings.
Pene and Amitai’s first public singing was in the rest home their father worked at, and Moses used to sing in front of his mother’s occupational therapy patients.
The band say their music reflects the sacrifices their families made when they emigrated.
“Samoa is like this tiny dot in the ocean and we get such a sense of pride to know we come from nothing, and to know we made it,” says Pene. “When I first performed in San Francisco, I felt like the smallest fish there, but then I thought about where I came from and now I hold my head up.”
The guys are looking forward to New Zealand’s Got Talent later this month, and although they say they aren’t tough enough for a reality show themselves, they do have some advice for the contestants“I say just give it a go – there’s so many people holding you back, you need to just give it a shot because you never know what could happen,” says Moses.
“Positive thinking plays a huge part,” adds Pene. “You need to choose the right act or song that makes you different, because you can’t be on the same train as everyone else.”