When Greyson Mauheni, Puna Manuel, Pakanga Te Whitu were hanging out together at Ngata College in Ruatoria they used to make music on their guitars and dream of doing exactly what they’re doing right now.
The three members of East Coast Breevaz, won this year’s E Tū Whānau Song Competition for their original composition, One Love. They were the listeners favourites as well, gaining 5424 votes to win the Most Votes prize.
Pakanga said they were quite late entering the competition and didn’t fancy their chances when they saw the standard of songwriting and performance they were up against.
“We couldn’t believe the talent but we thought, hey, let’s finish this song we’ve been working on and have a go. At least we’ve participated. When we won, we were over the moon!”
Their success in the competition is the icing on the cake for a band that only started officially last year but has already played with some of the biggest names in Aotearoa, not to mention some international acts like Big Mountain from the States and veteran UK reggae artists, Black Slate.
Pakanga says the three mates had been just working on their music and playing locally when they were asked to play at the 2016 East Coast Vibes.
“We didn’t even have a name at that stage. East Cost Breevaz just came off the top of my head but I said, ‘yep we’re in’, and we ended up playing with Katchafire, Scribe, Smash Proof and those incredible overseas acts.
“They were all our childhood idols and we got to meet and talk and play with them.”
Now, he says, they’ve got tamariki coming up to them and asking for photos. It’s their music they hear blasting out of houses and cars and it’s their lyrics people are singing at parties up and down the East Coast.
Their music is truly accessible to everyone around them. They recently played to whānau of all ages at a gospel concert in Tikitiki’s St Mary’s church.
“Our Māori culture is a big influence on our music and I think that’s why we’ve become a bit of a household name on the East Coast.
“We talk about the people here and the life up here, living off the land and the sea. We explain the world through our own eyes and from our own experience and we don’t talk humbug. We don’t write rubbish.”
Like most Kiwi musos, they’ve all got full time jobs – Pakanga’s a sawmiller, Puna’s a teacher and a dad and Greyson works on the road and is also a family man – but winning the E Tū Whānau Song competition on top of their other recent opportunities has them focussing more and more on their music. Plans are forming for a studio album and video clip.
“We’re overwhelmed and truly humbled by winning this competition but it’s wonderful to know that the music mahi we’ve been doing over all these years is really paying off,” says Pakanga.
Watch East Coast Breevaz perform One Love here.