Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Country music has a universal appeal that transcends time, borders and now culture. Sonny and Tiana Miti are a dynamic Polynesian duo who are taking the world of country music in Aotearoa by storm.
Known as the Mitis, their journey into the heart of country music began in the early 1990s, fueled by a childhood immersed in the sounds of the genre.
“We were raised on country music and my Mum had a big collection of country music tapes, cassette tapes, and that’s what we used to listen to as kids,” says Sonny.
“Back then, we didn’t even know it was country music, but we just thought it was just… music we had in the house,” Tiana added.
The early exposure ignited a passion for country music that would soon become their life’s calling.
Performing from a young age, Tiana expressed how the meaning behind country songs captivated her heart for the genre.
“I think for me, the thing I like most are the lyrics because (there are) a lot of songs that I can personally relate to. I think the lyrics touch me most of all, and that’s something I really enjoy about it,” she says.
The siblings were shocked to discover that country music, a genre they grew up with, wasn’t as popular as they thought.
“I don’t think many people know, especially our generation, all our parents’ grew up on country music… but like, it’s not until… obviously in school, like hip hop and R&B, those were the cool genres to listen to,” he says.
Setting them apart is their ability to weave the intricacies of their Polynesian culture into their country music performances.
A memorable moment for them was swapping out the banjo for a ukulele during a country music awards show in Gore, presenting a ‘duelling ukuleles’ performance that left a lasting impression.
While their talent has earned recognition on New Zealand’s country music scene, it’s their parents who hold a special place in their hearts.
“Every time I think about country music, it always brings back nostalgic memories and yeah, like mom and dad,” says Sonny.
The recent release of their debut single, ‘See You Again’ is also a way of honouring their family, with a heartfelt tribute to their late grandfather.
The song reflects on the small moments they shared with him and how they would cherish them if given a chance to go back in time.
The Mitis are carving a unique path into the world of country music and hope to encourage young Pacific people to do the same for the genre.