One of my highlights for 2021 was seeing The Shades perform in Napier.
The opera-singing quartet of Samson Setu, Ipu Laga'aia, Taka Vuni and Manase Latu would be among the most charismatic and talented performers I've ever seen live.
At a rough count, I reckon they sung in seven different languages that night in Hawke's Bay, captivating the crowd of largely middle-aged Pakeha with their incredible voices, showmanship and humour.
I'd gone with a friend, John Tapu, who was promoting The Shades' tour.
In his day job, Johnny runs a television production company called Kava Bowl Media. If you subscribe to Sky, and are interested in sport, you might have watched Pacific Brothers & Sisters, for instance, which was shot in Johnny's garage in Mangere.
That's where I first came across The Shades, who would perform a number from their repertoire while the closing credits rolled.
Johnny is Samoa-born, Otara-raised and attended Auckland Grammar School on an academic scholarship.
He creates television shows and takes The Shades out on tour because, in his words, he wants us to all "hang out.''
He reckons we fear what we don't know. That we harbour prejudices and put people in boxes.
That the more we know of each other, the easier it is for us all to hang out.
Johnny could shoot his shows at Sky, but prefers his garage. For Pasifika families in New Zealand, he says the garage is a meeting place, somewhere to relax and have fun and be yourself.
Nothing has made me prouder to be a New Zealander in 2022 than seeing the fans of Mate Ma'a Tonga pack Mt Smart Stadium for the team's rugby league Test match against the Kiwis last Saturday.
It's not the first time that stadium has become a sea of red. That started with the Rugby League World Cup of 2017 and has been replicated each time Tonga has played there.
We are increasingly a cultural melting pot in this country and wonderfully so. That's what dismays me at attempts to divide us all down a bi-cultural line.
New Zealand is bigger than Maori and Pakeha. It is home to Indian and Chinese, Korean, Samoan, Fijian, Tongan, Dutch, Greek, German, Irish, Scottish, English, American and Argentinian, among others.
If you can point to a nation on the map, then chances are someone of that heritage lives here.
More than that, you hope they feel valued and included and cared about in this country. That they view New Zealand as a place where they can hang out and be themselves.
Someone asked me where were all the New Zealanders, when the Kiwis and Tonga met on Saturday?
Everyone there was a New Zealander, it's just that the majority were supporting the team in red.
Some major sports, such as rugby, are really struggling in this country. Playing numbers and viewership are down, but that's in part to playing to the wrong audience.
No-one knew so much support existed for Mate Ma'a Tonga because no-one bothered to look. They just put all Pacific Islanders in a box and ignored them.
Well, I hope scenes such as Saturday's remind us all that there might be more to New Zealand than we think. That we are the sum of many parts and are interesting and worthwhile and are really good fun to hang out with.