West Auckland Youth Wins Homai Te Pakipaki

Roland Williams sang way beyond his years, a tune released almost 20 years before he was born, to take top honours on Friday night in the live grand final of Maori Television’s hit singing show, Homai Te Pakipaki.

Williams, 18, gave a silky rendition of Me And Mrs Jones, originally released by Billy Paul, again showing his preference for ‘old school’ classics, to win the 2009 title, and $10,000 prize money.

“They say song choice is everything, and for this singer, old school has proven to be the right choice every time,” says the show’s producer, Erina Tamepo.

His heat win was with Gregory Abbott’s Shake You Down, and his semi-final performance was You To Me Are Everything, by The Real Thing.

“When I was young, all I ever heard in my house was the old school music. I grew up with it, and for me it has more meaning, more complex chord changes and more variety,” says Williams.

His performance beat out nine other singers from around New Zealand, as voted by text by viewers.

A Glendene resident, Williams is a student at west Auckland’s Kelston Boys High School, but originally from Fiji.

He was the last of 20 singers to come through from the heats. He has no family living here, but enthusiastic support soon emerged from a number of quarters.

“He definitely had strong support and awareness in the Fijian and Pacific Island communities, and of course, the Kelston Boys’ wider community were backing him,” says producer Erina Tamepo. “But I think in the end his support came from all over. The viewers tuned in, checked out the talent, and simply thought he was the most deserving for their votes.”

His win has been big news in Fiji – the Fiji Times have run his story as front page news – and he says he’s still processing the surprise of winning: “I’m still very much in shock about the whole thing, and especially all the attention and recognition. But it is really a humbling experience and I am indeed blessed.”

Williams says the winnings will go towards his study, and he also intends to fly his mother over from Fiij.

Homai Te Pakipaki series three has been running since May. Previous winners were Jasmine Taare, of Gisborne, in 2007, and Pikiteora Mura-Hita of Pukekohe in 2008.

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