Te Reo Music on the Airwaves

In 1991 Moana and the Moahunters mixed house beats with a lyrical plea for the importance of preserving the Māori language. It was not the first time te reo had been heard on Aotearoa’s airwaves. This Spotlight collects together classic songs which are wholly or partially in Māori: from 1981 Deane Waretini chart-topper 'The Bridge' to 2014’s 'Aotearoa'. Which is not to forget (and who would want to?) Poi E taking over Patea, Prince Tui Teka and his wife Missy doing 'E Ipo', Howard Morrison’s version of 'How Great Thou Art', and a documentary showcasing the iconic  'Pokarekare Ana'. 

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AEIOU

Music Video, 1991 (Soul, Te Reo)

This was the first music video funded by New Zealand on Air. The song is a colourful plea for Māori youth to preserve their culture by learning the reo  it also doubles as a handy guide to Māori pronunciation. Director Kerry Brown created vibrant animated backgrounds to match the song’s hip-hop beats. The cameo appearances include Moana Maniapoto’s father, MC OJ and the Rhythm Slave, Mika and various crew members. The Moahunters were Mina Ripia (who went on to her own act Wai) and Teremoana Rapley (from Upper Hutt Posse, who went on to manage King Kapisi).

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Poi E

Music Video, 1984 (Pop, Te Reo)

This uplifting promotional clip is as famous as the chartbusting song. Accompanied by Jo, the breakdancing guide, for a tour of Patea and surrounds, the Patea Māori Club are captured "bopping and twirling like piwakawaka": at the local marae, in Wellington's Manners Mall, and on Patea’s main street, where milk tankers and sheep trucks pass by the Aotea canoe remembrance arch. So does the impresario himself: Dalvanius does a pūkana out a car window. In 2010 'Poi E' re-entered the charts thanks to Taika Waititi hit Boy. A documentary on the song was released in 2016.

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Aotearoa

Music Video, 2014 (Pop, Te Reo)

Launched for 2014's Māori Language Week, the NZ Music Award-nominated video for 'Aotearoa' is a showcase of Kiwi scenery and musical talent, led by main vocalist Stan Walker. 'Aotearoa' began when TV producer Mātai Smith, aware 1983’s 'Poi-E' was the last te reo song to hit number one, thought it might be nice to repeat the feat (in the end he had to settle for number two). Walker wrote the track with his Mt Zion co-star Troy Kingi and singers Vince Harder and Ria Hall. Hall calls the result “a song to celebrate our nation, our landscape, our uniqueness, our language and our people”.

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Pokarekare Ana - A Māori Love Song

Television, 2002 (Documentary, Te Reo, Music, Māori)

This 2002 documentary explores the stories behind one of Aotearoa’s most beloved songs: ‘Pokarekare Ana’. Claims for the authorship of the waiata aroha are examined, and Kiwis famous and lesser known reflect on the song’s place in the culture. Directed by Chas Toogood, the doco features classic performances: from St Joseph’s Girls’ Choir singing in the Waitomo Caves in 1960, to Inia Te Wiata going low in English, Kiri Te Kanawa soaring in concert, Hinewehi Mohi enlisting a 30,000 strong league crowd as backing singers, and sailing away in a 1987 America’s Cup campaign song. 

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Ngoi Ngoi - performed by Patea Maori Club

Television, 1992 (Te Reo, Music, Māori)

Appearing on magazine show New Zealand Today in 1992, the Patea Māori Club perform their single 'Ngoi Ngoi', which appeared on the same album as their legendary hit 'Poi E'. The video sees the group performing on stage while maestro Dalvanius Prime sings backup, while holding his dog. Prime is strikingly dressed in purple and sporting a fairly unique pair of sunglasses. The song honours Ngoi Pēwhairangi — who was instrumental in helping Dalvanius learn about Māoritanga and wrote lyrics for both 'Poi E' and Prince Tui Teka's earlier hit 'E Ipo'. She passed away in 1985.

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The Bridge

Music Video, 1981 (Easy Listening, Te Reo)

This heartfelt 1981 hit was the first song sung in te reo to top the NZ singles chart. It was written by Te Arawa elder George Tait for his cousin Deane Waretini, who recorded it with musicians he could only afford to pay in fried chicken. Tait based the melody on Italian Nini Rosso’s 1965 hit ‘Il Silenzio’, but the lyric refers to the linking of Pākehā and Māori cultures at the time of the construction of the Mangere Bridge. The TVNZ video features the less imposing but rather more picturesque valve tower turret, at Wellington’s historic Karori reservoir.

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E Ipo

Music Video, 1983 (Te Reo)

Music legend Prince Tui Teka performs his greatest hit ‘E Ipo’ in this excerpt from a TVNZ special recorded at Auckland’s Mandalay Ballroom. Based on a traditional Indonesian folk melody, ‘E Ipo’ was written by Teka with Ngoi (‘Poi E’) Pewhairangi, when he was courting her niece (and his future wife) Missy. The two join Tui Teka on stage (along with Pita Sharples’ Te Roopu Manutaki cultural group) for a rousing rendition performed with his trademark verve and humour. The song reached number one, following te reo-dominated chart-toppers 'The Bridge' (sung by Deane Waretini) in 1981, and Howard Morrison's 1982 version of 'How Great Thou Art'.

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Sir Howard Morrison - Time of My Life

Television, 1995 (Variety, Documentary, Māori)

Ol’ Brown Eyes celebrates 40 years in showbiz with this variety concert, alongside some of his mates including Ray Columbus and Bunny Walters. The show is mostly live entertainment, punctuated by a few nostalgic field stories where Sir Howard acknowledges his upbringing and Māoritanga. The show ends with the Morrison whānau performing, followed by the hymn that gave Sir Howard a number one hit in 1982: ‘How Great Thou Art’.  This TV special was dedicated to Sir Howard’s mother Kahu, who was an outstanding singer in her own right.