Selevasio Tu'ima could sing before he could talk. As a young boy, he was happy to entertain himself while always humming a tune – "even in the bathroom", says Sele's mum, Meleane.
Now the 13-year-old St Paul's College student is sharing his remarkable voice with New Zealand, given the perfect platform before thousands at this year's
Selevasio, (or Sele as his family and friends know him), sent chills through the crowd as he sang Silent Night and Hallelujah on the
"It comes naturally to him," Sele's mum, Meleane says. "The stage is where he was born to be."
Sele pushed past his nervousness with the help of his vocal coach Nainz Tupa'i – one half of celebrated RnB duo Adeaze, and co-director of Saintz Up Performing Arts, where Sele has been learning from Tupa'i since he was seven.
"At home, it's non-stop singing," says Sele, the eldest of four children, who reckons he's been singing since the age of one. "It's really noisy. There's singing in the shower and in the car. Mum tells us to stop singing before we eat. Even when we do our prayers, we sing a song."
His opportunity to sing on stage at
When Sele stepped up and delivered Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, he blew the audition panel away. "There wasn't a dry eye in the house. He was a special, beautiful surprise," Merito says.
Merito knows how the
"Sele has the whole world at his feet," Merito says. "That voice is incredibly magical. One of the most special voices I have heard in a long time. He's stepping into his destiny, to bless people and share that special, special voice that made us all cry at the audition."
Before the Auckland show, Merito and Harder offered the teenager the same sage advice: "Have fun."
"He is quite a brave young man… standing on that stage at his age; I wasn't doing that," says Harder. "His voice is very pure, it just soars through the park."
Now Sele, a Year 10 student next year, is about go to into the studio and record songs Tupa'i has written for him. But school still holds top priority.
"It's trying to find a good balance of school life and music life," Tupa'i says. "No doubt, I know this kid is very excited to have a career in music." He could one day be, Tupa'i says, "one of the most memorable singers in New Zealand".
But the humble Sele is a little more modest. "I would like to be known as a musician. Where I see myself in a couple of years is basically doing what I'm doing now." And as long as he's having fun, his family will be proud.