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Hero image for Song of the South Seas - The Life and Music of Bill Sevesi

Song of the South Seas - The Life and Music of Bill Sevesi

Short Film (Full Length) – 1992

Bill Sevesi was the 'Godfather' of Polynesian music in New Zealand; his impact can be heard in the strum of ukeleles in classrooms across the country. In this 24-minute film Sevesi (born Wilfred Jeffs) narrates his life story, including his childhood in Tonga, making his first guitar, and his role in bringing Pacific Island music into the dance halls of 1940's and 50's New Zealand. Sevesi's bands mixed Hawaiian steel guitar with pop tunes of the day, resulting in sunny hits like 'Kissing Hula'. Watch out for uke player Sione Aleki, Tonga's answer to Jimi Hendrix.

Persperation running off the walls ... poor Malo, his blisters burst, blood came out on the tea chest, I said 'Malo look at your hands, go put some plasters on' and he said 'no, I'm so bloody happy'. Boom, boom boom, he kept on going.
– Bill Sevesi recalls his bass player's commitment to the groove

Key Cast & Crew

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Richard Scott


Generic Profile image for Chris Todd

Chris Todd

Co-Director, Producer

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Chris Williams

Co-Director, Producer

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Ash Turner

Production Designer

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Bill Sevesi

Subject, Producer - Whaling Sequences

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Norman Chew

Producer - Whaling Sequences

See all 15 credits

Produced by

Chris Todd and Chris Williams


Chris Todd and Chris Williams


Made with the assistance of the Creative Film and Video Fund of the Queen Elizabeth ll Arts Council, Kodak NZ and Atlab


Includes performances by Bill Sevesi and his Islanders, Bill Wolfgramm, Koe Fisi Oe Pohutukawa and Fetu'u o Tonga