Talented tenor recognised in Arts Pasifika Awards

04 November 2015

As a child growing up in Tonga Manase Latu always sang in church. But as the youngest in his family with three older sisters who had their own singing trio, he was not very confident. Manase was shy and quiet and could barely hold a note.

So the nineteen year old School of Music vocal student was surprised and thrilled to hear he had been awarded a 2015 Creative New Zealand Arts Pasifika Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Pacific arts.

A talented tenor, Manase will fly to Wellington this week to receive the 2015 Iosefa Enari Memorial Award. Named after the late Samoan opera singer who was at the forefront of Pacific opera, the $4,000 award recognises exceptional Pacific singers from classical genres.

Manase, who was born in New Zealand, returned to Tonga with his family at six months old where his mother was a Minister in the Methodist church.

When his family eventually returned to New Zealand to live he joined the choir at St Kentigens College. The choir’s director Lachlan Craig saw Manase’s potential and started giving him vocal lessons.

Lachlan took the young Manase along to meet Associate Professor Karen Grylls, the director of the University of Auckland Chamber Choir. He joined the choir and shortly after, while still at high school, was awarded the George Wilson Turner Scholarship to attend the School of Music at the University of Auckland.

He is currently in his second year of a conjoint degree, pursuing a Bachelor of Music in classical voice performance taught by Dr Te Oti Rakena, and Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting.

“My whole family sing and my three sisters have the most beautiful voices” he says. “Singing is a big part of my culture and religion but didn’t really come as natural to me as it does now. That is why my family are especially surprised at my drastic change”.

His family who he lives with in Otahuhu is enormously supportive and incredibly proud of his success.

“Living with my family helps me stay grounded and ensures I always remember my roots,” he says.

“They have set a high standard. Not only do my three sisters all have amazing voices, they all have bachelor degrees too and my mum has a masters degree. I’m the only member of the family who doesn’t have a degree yet so I’ve got some catching up to do,” he laughs.

Manase says his dream is to one day sing opera on the world’s stage. But for now he is focussing on his upcoming exams and preparing for his performance at the Creative New Zealand Awards ceremony. He admits to feeling a bit nervous. He’s planning to sing Allerseelen by Richard Strauss after he’s presented with his award.