Spotlight on The Yandall Sisters, Samoan doo-wop superstars

In a nod to Samoan Language Week – which started on Sunday and runs through to Saturday – and to round off New Zealand Music Month, Curator Pacific Cultures Rachel Yates put the spotlight on the Yandall Sisters, who ruled the New Zealand ’70s music scene.

Do you like good music? That sweet soul music? If you answered ‘yeah, yeah’ then you need to know about the acclaimed Yandall Sisters.

The Yandall Sisters are of Samoan heritage and the singing group originally consisted of Caroline, Adele, and Mary. They became a quartet when a fourth sister, Pauline, joined – and then returned to being a trio when Caroline left the group.

They were the first-ever recipients of the Pacific Music Awards Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1977 won Entertainer of the Year at the New Zealand Music Awards.

The Yandall sisters were regulars on the cabaret scene and on television screens singing their own hits or performing as back-up vocals for many artists, including Prince Tui Teka, Sir Howard Morrison, John Rowles, and Bunny Walters. With the help of Bill Sevesi early on in their careers, they released an album recorded in the Samoan language, Samoa Ea (1966).

Check out the following footage from Sweet Soul Music, a four-part TVNZ series that hit the airwaves in 1986. Dedicated to the genre of soul, various episodes focused on a particular city in the United States and its soul influences.

Here is a clip of The Yandall Sisters singing the Supremes hit Stop! In the Name Of Love at the beginning of this medley (other New Zealand artists performing include Peter Morgan, Tommy Ferguson, Dalvanius Prime, and Diann Wingeatt).

 

The most popular release by The Yandall Sisters was their version of Sweet Inspiration (first recorded in 1967 by The Sweet Inspirations). The song stayed on the New Zealand Top 20 chart for several weeks in 1974. It remains a popular tune in the Pacific today.

One notable thing about the sisters is that whenever they performed, they were dressed to the nines and always wore impressive matching outfits. In our collections here at Te Papa, the sisters feature on the official CD of the Pasifika Festival 2012 (20th anniversary), and some of their costume designs from the Sweet Soul Music series are present as part of New Zealand designer Liz Mitchell’s archives.

Drawings of costume designs

Sweet Soul Music costume design drawings. Te Papa (CA001147/013/0001/0004)

Drawings of costume designs

Sweet Soul Music costume design drawings. Note that this design is worn by the sisters in the clip above. Te Papa (CA001147/013/0001/0010)

In 2012 at the age of 62, Mary Yandall sadly passed away after a short battle with illness. Often referred to as ‘the smallest sister with the biggest voice’, Mary is remembered and her contribution of The Yandall Sisters acknowledged in this dedication video from Tangata Pasifka.

 

Check out the full list of Samoan Language Week events here.

Want more from the Yandall Sisters?

Check out the full first episode of Sweet Soul Music here.

Yandall Sisters – Sweet Inspiration:

 

EMI Yandall Sisters interview:

 

Fa’afetai tele lava!

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