Paul Diamond presents an overview of the life and career of Dr Hirini Melbourne (1949-2003).
Hirini Melbourne (1949-2003) belonged to the Tūhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu iwi. Throughout his life he was involved with two broad areas of work - as a musician and as a teacher of Māori language, culture and history. Melbourne was also known as a writer, editor and historian, and was involved with Treaty claims for his Tūhoe iwi.
While working as an editor for the School Publications Branch of the Education Department, Melbourne began composing songs. In 1978 he joined the Māori Department at the University of Waikato, becoming an Associate Professor.
Together with Richard Nunns and Brian Flintoff, Melbourne was a major figure in the revival of the making and playing of traditional Māori instruments, taonga pūoro. He toured the country, giving performances and passing on knowledge about the instruments.
Melbourne played a key role in the development of Maori music and mentored a new generation of musicians. An honorary doctorate awarded in 2002 acknowledged Melbourne's contribution to the Māori language and culture, citing: 'his scholarship and his creative mind have served to promote te reo Māori to many communities throughout Aotearoa'.
Melbourne's music features in a number of recordings, including Toiapiapi (1991), Te Kuraroa (1998), Te Ku te Whe (1994), and Te Hekenga-ā-rangi (2003). Many of his waiata have become New Zealand classics, performed by other musicians including Hinewehi Mohi, Moana Maniapoto, the Topp Twins and Mere Boynton. Te Whaiao: Te Ku Te Whe remixed won the Tui award for the best Māori album at the New Zealand Music Awards in 2007.