Take two brothers from New Zealand, add a cousin, and you have one of the most exciting singing trios to ever come out of the Land of the Long White Cloud, writes Julie Houghton.
“Sol Mio” means ‘my sunshine’, and SOL3 MIO is brothers Pene and Amitai Pati with their cousin Moses Mackay. Listening to their glorious harmonies and the joy they create with their recent album, A Very Merry Christmas, musical sunshine is what they deliver.
Families who sing together have a natural advantage because their voices blend, but producing three opera singers from the one family is certainly unusual.
Pene, Amitai and Moses also share a strong Christian faith, a legacy of their Samoan heritage. Their grandmother moved from Samoa to New Zealand in search of a better life, bringing a strong church tradition with her. All three members of SOL3 MIO strongly believe that God has blessed them with their musical talent.
Moses says church was a very important part of growing up, because it was something they did as a family, while Pene credits his childhood churchgoing for the person and singer he is today, telling Warcry that faith still plays an integral part in his life.
“I believe a higher power is there. Faith means so much to me, and I think if you don’t believe in anything, it’s sad,” he says.
Amitai says church helped him to become a better person.
“We were always taught humility, fellowship and to prioritise the things that make us happy. I also learned a lot about my culture and where I come from,” he explains.
Pene and Amitai are tenors, while Moses is a baritone with additional guitar and ukulele playing skills, who composes and arranges some of the group’s repertoire.
All three young men have studied at the prestigious Wales International Academy of Voice in Wales (WIAV), so expect to hear much more of them both as individual singers and as SOL3 MIO.
Pene recalls that music was a huge part of his life through school and teenage years, but it took until his early 20s for him to consider it as a full-time career. He worked as a construction labourer, a night security guard, and as an aged care assistant. Some itinerant music teaching and music production at various schools completed his eclectic employment mix before he decided to sing full-time. But what convinced him to make that leap?
“I was told that I had something special. That’s all it takes, someone to believe in you, even when you don’t. I realised, man, I am actually good at this!” he recalls.
He started a Bachelor of Music in Auckland, but it was his Master’s degree at WIAV that led him to international competitions and an opera young artists’ program.
Pene also impressed fans with his daring when he proposed to his opera singer girlfriend, Amina, during a concert.
“I proposed to Amina on the big stage because it was fitting, as we both belong to the stage. We met at a singers’ program in Christchurch, run by San Francisco’s Merola young artists’ summer school. They wanted to hear New Zealand’s best 12 singers, and we got talking because I was the only one left at the buffet table!” he chuckles.
While Pene’s aim is to sing on the big stages of the opera world, he adores singing with his ‘bros’.
“I love the ease of it—I can’t explain what it’s like, but when the three of us sing, it’s so much fun, and we have each other’s backs.”
Pene believes that God has blessed him with his musical talent.
“If it weren’t for God, I wouldn’t be here doing what I do. I thank God every day, and I love inspiring others. Nothing is more satisfying than knowing you gave some random person the inspiration to become better.”
If it weren’t for God, I wouldn’t be here doing what I do. I thank God every day, and I love inspiring others.
~ Pene Pati
Moses used to write and record songs with his brother in their home studio, and would busk throughout the summer to earn holiday money and later he sang in school choirs and played in an Irish pub.
“I have had many jobs, from cleaning toilets in train stations, breaking concrete for 12 hours each day, to being an extra on American television programs. But now it’s wonderful to get paid for doing something I would do even if I wasn’t getting paid!” he laughs.
His path to professional singing wasn’t always an easy one, but has had great rewards for him.
“There were many moments of self-doubt but I think just working constantly to understand my craft has been the biggest journey. When I joined forces with Pene and Amitai to take on the music industry, all that crossed my mind was that we sound great, what a buzz to sing with family, and people love it,” he reflects.
Moses also writes and collaborates with other artists, drawing on his background as a singer-songwriter.
“I want to write more and share as much love and music to the world as I can. Seeing what our music has done for people is the most rewarding thing of all.”
Like his brother Pene, music has always been a huge part of Amitai’s life, singing at a rest home with his siblings as a five-year old, followed by choirs and music classes. While he was deciding what to do with his life, he worked in a picking/packing factory, in retail and in an Irish bar.
“I had to find what my passion was. Music was obvious because it was a part of my life from the beginning. I also looked at studying medicine and health science, but music always drew me,” he recalls.
Singing alongside Pene has always been a great joy for Amitai.
“I have a great role model in my brother to look up to and to aspire to be like. He’s a huge step in my progression to becoming a professional,” Amitai says.
When Amitai first started singing with SOL3 MIO, it quickly became obvious that people hadn’t heard something like this for a very long time.
“I love the camaraderie and the fun we have, as cheesy as it sounds. I’ve never gone onto a stage with these two feeling nervous or scared—I know I’m going to have a great time and make some amazing music with my bros,” he says.
Like Pene, Amitai is grateful for the gift God has given him.
“I believe that God is always with us in what we do. He also gives you the tools you need to become whatever you want to be. Work hard, keep the faith and give thanks—our talents are tools that we chose to work with in order to give back to our communities and the Lord.”