Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Singer Tenelle is championing a musical journey of inspiration

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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Hanalei Foliaki | Reporter/Director

Samoan singer-songwriter and Island Reggaeton sensation Tenelle, is making waves internationally.

At the tender age of 12, Tenelle realised that singing was more than just a hobby and as a proud Samoan, she is convinced that having Polynesian roots is the secret weapon. 

“Polynesians like myself, we’re kind of good at everything…and I’m just being very humbly honest [but] if we’re good at something, we love it. And when we love it, we love it hard” she says.

Born and raised in Carson, California, Tenelle’s passion for music has taken her to places she could have only dreamed of and for the past 15 years she’s travelled between America and Aotearoa as a background vocalist for familiar artists such as Common Kings, Sammy J and Fiji. 

“I love being a background vocalist and I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t learn from everyone that I was a background vocalist for” she says.

“This is the first time I’ve come to New Zealand as myself”. 

Growing up in a household where music was an integral part of daily life, Tenelle was exposed to a diverse range of sounds, from old school R&B to reggae and lovers rock.

“My parents always play old school music… But then reggae, old school as well, like Lovers Rock.. and just growing up in a Polynesian household, you still have Five Stars playing at grandma’s house… there’s just all kinds of just great musicianship that I’ve just kind of taken from” she says.

Tenelle’s roots are deeply intertwined with her Samoan culture, something she believes she learnt through her father’s strength and values. 

“My Dad, he’s just such a strong Samoan man… His faithfulness, his love and guidance, his tough love and his real love. And I think that we all learn that from our culture.” she says.

Tenelle has had her share of challenges, especially growing up in Los Angeles, a city known for its gang violence. 

But she believes its her unwavering faith in Jesus Christ that has been inspired by her personal hardships and tragedies. “God is so real” she says.

As the Samoan reggaeton star prepares to release her new album in the coming year, her aspirations to inspire others with her story of faith, determination, and love for her Polynesian culture is at the forefront of her journey. 

“I would encourage any aspiring artists to know why you do it and what you do it for before you do it. Because I do it for God and I do it for my family and myself comes last”.

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