Toni Fonoti Profile

Glen Moffatt
11 Feb 2015

As a schoolboy in Auckland, Toni Fonoti fantasised about being a rock star. When the fantasy started to come true in his late twenties with Herbs, he turned his back on the limelight and quit the band.

Thirty years later, 16 of them spent living in Brisbane, when Fonoti was to be inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame for his groundbreaking work with Herbs, a vicious assault on one of his sons kept Fonoti away from the ceremony.

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Herbs - Dragons and Demons
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Herbs reunite on the eve of their induction into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame, 2012. Left to right, Gordon Joll, Thom Nepia, Will ’Ilolahia, Toni Fonoti, Alan Foulkes, Willie Hona, Phil Toms, Tama Lundon, Spencer Fusimalohi.
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Herbs in Mascot Studios, circa 1980/81. Left to right: Dilworth Karaka, Spencer Fusimalohi, Fred Faleauto, Phil Toms, Toni Fonoti.
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The Herbs line-up that opened for Stevie Wonder in 1981. Left to right, Spencer Fusimalohi, John Berkley, Dilworth Karaka, Fred Faleauto, Toni Fonoti.
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Herbs - Azania
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Toni Fonoti (centre) with members of House Of Shem and family and friends, Brisbane, 2012. Fonoti’s replacement in Herbs and House Of Shem leader Carl Perkins is middle row, extreme right. Fonoti’s sons Yacob (left) and Noah are front, extreme right. 
Photo credit: Photo by David Walker
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Simon & Fire, 1988. Toni (left) and Brian Fonoti in London on their way to Ethiopia.
Photo credit: Toni Fonoti collection
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Herbs as they appeared in Tu Tangata magazine, 1982. Left to right, Morrie Watene, Toni Fonoti, Spencer Fusimalohi, Fred Faleauto. Phil Toms and Dilworth Karaka absent.
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Toni Fonoti aged 20
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Herbs reunite on the eve of their induction into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame, 2012. Left to right, Spencer Fusimalohi, Dilworth Karaka, Toni Fonoti, Willie Hona.
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Herbs - French Letter
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Trivia:

Toni Fonoti met early Herbs bassist Phil Toms when his car broke down outside Toms’ home the night Herbs opened for Stevie Wonder at Western Springs in 1981. Toms had been at the concert and when he mentioned he was a bass player Fonoti said the band were looking for one.

Toni Fonoti was due to appear with other former Herbs members as Pacific Herbs at Ragamuffin 2010 in Rotorua but withdrew when he discovered the reunion did not have the blessing of the then current Herbs line-up.

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