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Teve Gaualofa, 16, is proud to show off his Tokelauan heritage through the songs and music he writes. Photo / Supplied
Pacific music icons Te Vaka and Vaniah Toloa are a big deal in the region – and they may also be considered the only household names in the international music industry representing gagana Tokelau, the language of Tokelau.
Aspiring musician Teve Gaualofa, from Cannons Creek in Porirua, wants to be the next name on that list and hopes to one day inspire the next generation of Tokelauans around the world to keep their connection to home and history – through music – alive.
“Even though they may have not been born in Tokelau, they can still learn and understand the language and maybe even produce their own,” the 16-year-old says.
“Music is how we pass down our stories and traditions and keep our culture alive.”
Teve is a year 12 student at Bishop Viard College in Porirua.
He described his upbringing as one in which Tokelauan words and aspects of the culture were taught to him through song and the Bible.
“My culture is very much embedded in me. From an early age, I was taught to be respectful and say tulou and fakafetai (pronounced hakahetai), excuse me and thank you – the basics of Tokelau language,” he said.
“We were encouraged to speak the language through song, Tokelau hymns, saying prayers, reading the Tokelau Bible, or saying tauloto, which is like a scripture that I would preach, but in my own language.”
Teve has just released a new single – Toku Fenua – which has themes of family values, empathy, love and kindness.
The song shares teachings from his parents and grandparents and pays homage not only to his Tokelau roots, but his home of Porirua.
Music producer on the track, StudioXJireh, is inspired by Teve’s commitment to Tokelau language in music and praised the young man’s talent.
“His passion and love for his dream is raw and real. Teve has reminded me about chasing our dreams no matter the situation/culture or background you come from.”
Around New Zealand, there are pockets of Tokelau communities – from Auckland to Rotorua and in the Wellington region.
Teve says even though Porirua is a small city, the Tokelau community is strong and there are plenty of opportunities for him and other young people to connect to their roots.
Nine Pacific Languages have their own week for acknowledgment, celebration and strategic investment from the Government every year in Aotearoa.
In a message to the Tokelau community on Facebook, Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio stressed the responsibility of the New Zealand government in supporting the retention of gagana Tokelau.
“Tokelau language holds a very special place in our hearts in Aotearoa as a territory of New Zealand, gagana Tokelau is an indigenous language within the realm of Aotearoa New Zealand.
“It is the only language during the Pacific language week series which is severely endangered,” Aupito said.
Last month, the Government announced The Pacific Languages Strategy 2022–2032.
It takes a long-term approach to coordinating support for Pacific languages across government, communities and other key stakeholders.
Built on the idea that thriving Pacific languages build a prosperous Aotearoa, the strategy is aimed to recognise the value of Pacific languages in Aotearoa, strengthen pathways and resources for learning in Pacific languages and create environments for those languages to be used more often, in more spaces.
The Centre for Pacific Languages offers free gagana Tokelau classes in person and online, with downloadable resources for language basics and greetings.
Looking to the future, Teve is excited to pursue a career in music and will continue to serve his community.
“I think it’s important for us young people to embrace our Tokelau language, not just for the week, but in everyday life.”
His song Toku Fenua is streaming now on all platforms.
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Porirua teen Teve Gaualofa, 16, is hoping to release more music in the Tokelauan language.

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