Even the damp Auckland weather couldn’t keep punters away from this year’s colourful 12th annual Vodafone Pacific Music Awards where prolific music and dance group Te Vaka and multi-talented Australian based singer/producer Vince Harder have taken out the top accolades.

Always likened to the “poor cousin” of the bigger Vector Arena event, tonight’s grandiose show and performances at this year’s awards have dispelled those myths, it even seems to be closing the gap.

“It’s important because our community have been part of music for so long.” Says musician Sofi Pua. “We’ve never been recognised so I’m grateful we’ve been recognised here. For us, it’s about being proud of our Polynesian background.”

Te Vaka is a regular visitor to the Vodafone Pacific Music Awards podium and picked up two awards last night. The group’s songwriter and lead vocalist Opetaia Foa’i was noticeably missing from the awards ceremony but for good reason; he is currently writing the soundtrack for the upcoming Disney film Moana.

Long-time stalwarts Pacific Underground were recognised with the Manukau Institute of Technology Lifetime Achievement Award for their continuous commitment to Pacific Music, an accolade that has been long overdue for this Christchurch based music group.

Tonight’s theme was strongly Polynesian, it’s a celebration of this culture that has enriched not only our musical history but the fabric of Kiwi society, cousins and fanau to this nation. As musician Tommy Nee (who has an e.p. out this year) notes “It’s a night to celebrate Pacific success especially in a kind of Eurocentric society like we live in, it’s a very important celebration of Pacific music.”

Taulu Schuster is one of the twelve musicians playing with Niuean Mal Lakatani tonight and is “excited” to be here. Lakatani is nominated for the Sunpix Best Pacific Language award for his album Fiti Lagakali’.

“I think throughout the years it’s really grown from the small stage to the big stage.” He says. “I think having Pacific Island music a lot of others have thought “it’s time to create our own.”. It’s really cool to see Island people come up with originals in their own style, in their own genre.”

Other successful recipients tonight have been American based group Common Kings for this year’s Flava Best International Pacific Artist award for the album ‘Hits & Mrs’, Sol3 Mio’s ‘On Another Note’ is the winner of the Radio 531PI Best Pacific Group, while TJ Taotua is the Auckland Council Best Pacific Gospel Artist for his song “Firstly”. Both are previous winners in these categories demonstrating continued success in their respective genres.

Another Special Recognition Award for outstanding achievement went to Vika & Linda Bull. The Tongan sisters have been making waves in Australia for 25 years with the Black Sorrows in the late 1980s and then with eight albums of their own. Their next project will see the sisters going back to the deep harmonies and spiritual resonance of traditional Tongan music.