Taniela Otuafi better known as “Nela” is a songwriter/producer at K&Nela Music. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was born in Laie, Hawaii and raised in San Diego, California. He is also the writer and composer of the popular song sung in many parts of the world called “How Can I Be.” The song, released in the summer of 2010 was 13 years in the making and rapidly became a worldwide internet sensation.
Nela believes that music should bring people to do good. From a very early age, he knew that music was more than just a casual interest. After learning music from his father and other talented members of his family, he soon decided to commit to a serious study of the art. He attended the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts where he studied Music and Music Theory under Dr. Arne Christansen. He also studied Vocal Music Solo/Choral with one of the most influential Vocal Educators in the United States, Gail Mckinney. In 1995 he enrolled in the Music Engineering Program at Southwestern College in Kansas where he studied Sound Engineering and Music Programming. While at Southwestern, he founded one of the most innovative groups in the Polynesian Community known as “Pau Hana.”
It was through the group Pau Hana, formed in 1996, that Nela got his first opportunity to introduce his music to the world. In that same year, he released his only album with Pau Hana. The album contains 12 songs which he wrote including: “Nani,” “Wake Up My Darling,” “Island Girls,” and a ukulele ballad that he wrote for his then girlfriend, now wife, Niki, called “2 Years 2 Eternity.”
In 1997, in the midst of Pau Hana’s immense success, Nela decided to leave the group to serve a two-year full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Panama. Hence the name of Pau Hana’s 1996 release called “Return With Honour.” When Nela returned home from his mission he married his longtime girlfriend Niki and started a family. His music career also took on a new direction.
In 1999, he became a part of the Mana Poly All-Stars. The goal of the group is to write and produce “Feel Good” music and take it to the world. He released two albums with the Manu Poly All-Stars – the critically-acclaimed “S.Pacifik Musik” and the award-winning “Riddim+Blues.” His work on S.Pacifik Musik included a song licensed for use in the Toyota Tundra advertising campaign called “The Game.” S.Pacifik Musik received several nominations for the Southern California Music Award for “R&B Album of the Year,” and also the Orange County Music Awards “Out of County Album of The Year.” The album “Riddim&Blues” proved to be one of Nela’s most gratifying works thus far as he had the opportunity to collaborate with producers and musicians from Jamaica to New York and the West Coast. It also afforded him the chance to establish a writing relationship with his long-time friend, Kalani Hafoka. Today they write under the banner of K&Nela Music. The songs “Good Love,” “Ready and Willing,” “One Step Behind,” and “Guarantee” are licensed by Shaka Laka Inc. for their National Marketing Campaign on U.S. major television networks.
Nela has received numerous awards and accolades in his music career. The award that he is perhaps the proudest of is winning the 2009 Independent Music Award “Social Action Song of The Year” for “Gunshots” on the “Riddim&Blues” album. He also won the 2009 Hawaiian Music “Reggae Album of The Year” and was nominated for the coveted 2009 “Na Hoku- Reggae Album of the Year” for “Riddim+Blues.”
Taniela Otuafi is also the father of five children and when asked how he manages to keep his life in perspective, his unwavering answer is, “God, Family, Music. In this order, I will always have something to write a song about”.
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