26 Sep 2020

Waiata 'spark the fire' in Pere Wihongi's soul

From Music 101, 5:45 pm on 26 September 2020

Performing music is a key to happiness for singer, songwriter, presenter and all round talented Kiwi Pere Wihongi. He spoke to Music 101's Charlotte Ryan about coping strategies, and the positive impact music can have on mental health.

Pere performs his new track High on Ingoingo live in RNZ's Auckland studio

Pere performs his new track High on Ingoingo live in RNZ's Auckland studio Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

This audio is not downloadable due to copyright restrictions.

On Thursday night Pere hosted a one-hour livestream showcasing Māori musical talent.

The Facebook special was organised by Hāpai te Hauora - Māori Public Health with the aim of celebrating wellbeing through waiata and kōrero.  

Pere told Music 101 that music could help enhance mental health within the whānau, especially during the unprecedented times that Covid-19 has brought about.

Pere's goal was to "help uplift, enhance and offer a space to talk, to see, and to, I guess, outlet our feelings and emotions through waiata".

Both his grandmother and father have worked in the mental health field so there has always been "a consciousness of it" in his whānau.

He grew up near Kaitaia in Northland and had an amazing childhood, he said. However, while he seemed a confident person, he had been on his own mental health journey since he was a child. He was bullied at school and challenged by others who tried to impose their thoughts on who he should be.

"What I've been able to do is learn from it, and be so thankful, because I, like many others have gone through that dark space..."

He said it was important to find your own focus and know that you could get through difficult times, but he had been lucky to be supported by friends and family. He is currently on holiday in Queentown  with some of those friends who had helped him during the dark times.

Those who were struggling needed to do things "that really spark a fire in your soul".

For him it was performing music as well as talking with friends and family.

"But I also love having my own time at home, just alone and chilling at home. One generic tip I could probably give is be open to talk and to communicate. It's harder having to fight a battle alone and having to go though things alone.

"That's what pushes us to go to darker spaces."

Having space in wananga (a meeting space) both to talk about feelings and problems as well as hear other perspectives was vital, Wihongi said.