Big future for teen singing duo from Ōtaki

By Jessica Tyson

James Kereama Stent, 15, and Tui Tahere-Katene, 14, are kōhanga reo mates and have been singing together since they were 12-years-old.

The vocalists have entertained crowds at special events in the surrounding districts but in recent months their fame has started to rise.

Their performance at a concert on Anzac Day went viral on social media capturing hearts across the nation.

James says his grandfather fought in World War II and performing on Anzac Day was his way of paying homage.

“War is terrible. We paid respect to Anzac Day for the same reason as everyone else. War is a terrible thing. They sacrificed too much,” he says.

James' mum, Sonia South, says they had planned the event a month ago to pay tribute to the many Anzac servicemen who went to war.  

"My mum came along yesterday and she absolutely loved it. She's 81 and it just brought tears to her eyes,” she says.

As part of the performance on Anzac Day, the pair performed a selection of well-known waiata that were popular during the years of World War I, World War II and the Vietnam war.

“We did three duets and six solos each. We did Don’t Fence Me In, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, If You Were The Only Girl In The World,” says James.

Tui says, “There were a lot of people that were singing with us. They were clapping.”

On Tuesday James and Tui also performed their Anzac tribute concert for a rest home in Paraparaumu.

South says the rest home residents have not been able to get out because of their ages and limited mobility.

James says his favourite part about performing with Tui is when they sing in harmony.

“When we do a duet and there’s a big harmony moment that’s in every song and the crowd starts clapping in the middle of the song. It's common courtesy to clap in the beginning and the end but, if they do it in the middle, then you know they’re really into it.”

Both James and Tui are also featuring on Māori Television's up-and-coming talent show 5-minutes of Fame.

“Went on the show and it was super cool. It was kind of intimidating honestly because people there were so insanely good. It just shows we’ve got so much to learn. Back in the Kapiti Coast you’re king of the world and then go off to see the rest of New Zealand and you realise you ain’t got nothing.”

South says it is exciting the teenagers were selected to be a part of the new series.

"The talent is just phenomenal, it really is just out the gate, and we are just privileged to be considered, that the kids were of that same calibre."

Tui says she is passionate about kapa haka while James is interested in musical theatre.

After he finishes school James plans to go to university to study for a degree in music.

“I want a deeper understanding of how it works because I understand how to sing it and I’ve got a basic intuition but a deeper understanding of how it really works is what I’m after.”

Tui says one of her biggest dreams is to sing a duet with Maisey Rika “because she’s one of my favourite singers just to make my mum proud”.