Sweet-sounding Samoans on top of the tree

TOP SELLERS: Sol3 Mio are Pene Pati, left, Moses Mackay and Amitai Pati and they have swooped in late to claim the title of top-selling album of the year.
TOP SELLERS: Sol3 Mio are Pene Pati, left, Moses Mackay and Amitai Pati and they have swooped in late to claim the title of top-selling album of the year.

She's been lording it around the world's pop charts this year - but here at home Lorde has been knocked off her perch by three young opera singers.

In just five weeks since its release, the self-titled album by Samoan Kiwis Sol3 Mio has become the top-selling album of the year, and looks sure to be stuffing Christmas stockings nationwide.

Tenors Pene Pati, 26, and brother Amitai, 24, and their baritone cousin Moses Mackay have gone triple platinum and overtaken the likes of Lorde, Bruno Mars, Pink and Taylor Swift - who all had several months' head-start on them.

"It's crazy, we did not expect this, especially with someone like Lorde on the scene, it's like ‘Why?'," laughed Mackay. "I think we're really blessed by it."

Their powerful voices and cheeky sense of humour have seen them quickly rise in popularity, with shows on an upcoming 15-gig March tour already selling out.

Mackay said they were trying to break down the idea that opera was "snobby", and to show it could be listened to by anyone.

Musically, they drew inspiration from great Kiwi singers such as Sir Howard Morrison and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

"There were all these old-school awesome singers, and no-one really followed them and took that New Zealand sound to the world stage," Mackay said. "It's like bringing out music from the past, it's really rewarding.

"We were brought up in a world of R&B and pop, and what we're trying to do is bridge that gap and bring the young over to the old school."

All three started performing young, singing in retirement villages as children.

They are all bachelor of music graduates from the University of Auckland, but Mackay said the trio was created after they sang together once at the New Zealand Opera School in Whanganui.

"The crowd just went crazy, and they said, ‘You guys should form a group', and we laughed at the concept." People often asked whether they scripted the jokes for their shows, he said.

"We tell them straight up, we say that's just us boys being boys.

"We're the kind of guys that always look on the positive side of things . . . our parents like that we are happy, and that we're doing something good with our lives."

Civic Event tour co-promoter Brent Eccles said he thought the album would do well, but the fact it had sold in such numbers so quickly was a suprise. "I think it's really touched middle New Zealand. They're incredibly good singers, and when you add the humour to that, it's a really interesting mix.

"Not only is it the No 1 album, but it's No 1 at this time of the year, which is amazing because you're up against the Beyonces and all sorts."

Sol3 Mio recorded the album in London with producer Nick Patrick, who specialises in classical crossover music.

Lyall Bay Warehouse manager Jeremy Prentice said the store needed to restock the album regularly, as everyone was rushing to buy it in time for Christmas.

"It's been popular since it came in, it's been flying out the door."

After winning the Lexus Song Quest last year, Amitai Pati told The Dominion Post he had a clear ambition: "A huge stage and audience full to the brim and knowing everyone is there to see you sing."

After their March tour, Pene will take up a position with the San Francisco Opera, while Moses and Amitai head back to Cardiff to study at the Wales International Academy Of Voice.


1 Sol3 Mio – Sol3 Mio

2 Pure Heroine – Lorde

3 Unorthodox Jukebox – Bruno Mars

4 The Truth About Love – Pink

5 The Love Club EP – Lorde

The Dominion Post