Sapati Apa-Fepulea’i, aka Disciple Pati, is quickly becoming one of Tāmaki Makaurau’s newest powerhouses, and will be remembered for her outstanding performance at the streamed 2020 APRA Silver Scroll Awards. In the live awards’ tradition, Pati and her band performed a funky-rendition of Reb Fountain’s track Don’t You Know Who I Am? as part of the live-streamed ceremony filmed around various locations in Aotearoa.
While she has as yet only a few released singles to her name, awards success has already been achieved with the fantastically theatrical and detailed video of her very first single The Boy Who Cried Woman (which she co-directed with Shae Stirling) winning the Best Video at this year’s Pacific Music Awards – against some hot competition. Youtube also has a clip of her performing the song live with her band for the PMA’s streamed ceremony, perhaps a more honest reflection of her powerful, natural soul presence.
It was after performing at the women-led Milk and Honey festival earlier this year that Pati and band were asked to be part of the Silver Scroll event by the 2020 MD Julia Deans. Drawing experiences from various band members to prepare for Don’t You Know Who I Am?, a song written about Native Americans, they passionately rehearsed for the rendition. Pati says that she felt a connection to the theme of the song and felt compelled to shine a light on the lyrics.
“I felt it – not only as a Pacific woman, but like somebody who definitely sees a lot of injustice happen against my own community, and also watching Māori people and tāngata whenua consistently have to go through deep-rooted injustices.”
For Pati, her musical identity cannot be separated from her band. She feels deeply connected to them and says she is very fortunate to have a tight group of talented friends and loved ones performing beside her. Take producer Leaping Tiger, Pati has known him since they were both children. They started performing together in high school but have only produced songs together since she graduated from university.
Music has always been very present, starting for Pati with her mother’s love for Prince, and her father playing The Doobie Brothers – both influences to her music.
She found out music could make her a bit of cash in her high school days doing corporate gigs in a band called The Burtones. When they entered into Smokefree Rockquest and had to perform original music she started writing my own songs. She credits her vocal coach Leza Corban, who invited Pati to be her back-up vocalist, as the person who introduced her to the art of performance.
“My favourite thing to do ever, point-blank, period, is to perform live. The majority of the time I make music to perform live, not the other way.
“You have all these people that love you and support you,” she says, referring to their performance opening for The Beths back in October. “You’re all enjoying this thing you get to do together – and to look to my right and see my sister there playing the sax with me is just the best feeling!”
Disappointed with not being able to perform during the lockdowns, Pati took advantage of the downtime to reflect on her artistry.
“I could take the time to just sit back in and appreciate how far I’ve come, and figure out what steps I wanna take to help me to be a bit more intentional about where I wanna go, and what kind of music I wanna make.”
Now Pati is ready to get back up and perform again with her sophomore single release Atma just released.
“It will be a really important gig for me to just showcase not just the electronic stuff, not just the alternative R&B stuff that I’m doing with my recordings, but it will also give the audience a chance to hear my roots. I want to give the audience a chance to appreciate the funk-soul side that I come from, that actually birthed me as a performance artist.”
And as for the future, Pati has got some busy times coming over the summer months.
“We’ve got gigs next year, and hopefully, I will be releasing a few more singles over the next few months – but we will just have to wait! I’m very excited to let people see what we have in store.”