23 Feb 2019

Auckland Festival put Waiata Māori at the heart of their program

From RNZ Music, 2:00 pm on 23 February 2019

Two Auckland Festival shows in March put waiata Māori front and centre - a free sing-along event in Aotea Square called Tira, and another called Tōku Reo Waiata. The brains behind the shows, creative associate Tama Waipara, and performer Annie Crummer tell Kirsten Johnstone about the kaupapa.​

Tama Waipara and Annie Crummer

Tama Waipara and Annie Crummer Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

"It's really about what the power of waiata has done for us as people here in Aotearoa" says Tama. 

"I think of Annie, and Hinewehi [Mohi] and Moana [Maniapoto] and Maisey [Rika] ... what these champions have done throughout their careers to uplift our languages".

He stops to clarify that he means all the languages of the Pacific.

"These wonderful artists have used their songs to hold places for our language and our identity and our stories."   

Tama says that these shows are part of a wider commitment by the Auckland Arts Festival to give Māori culture a platform, and to help normalize te reo Māori. 

It's 20 years this year since Hinewehi Mohi sang the National Anthem in te reo Māori at Twickenham for an All Blacks test against the English. There was a public outcry, because she had just sung the Māori version. Since then though, it has always been sung in both languages. 

"We're in a much more progressive and exciting place today than in many ways we've ever been, as a nation" says Tama. "I think we still have a long way to go, but I feel really excited, particularly by what I see young people doing." 

Maimoa are one of those acts, and they'll perform as part of Tōku Reo Waiata. In the last two years the collective have racked up millions of YouTube views, with polished pop hits - all in te reo Māori. There will also be performances from Maisey Rika, whose rendition of 'Hine E Hine' earned her a NZ Music Award aged 14, and Moana Maniapoto will perform her 1991 anthem 'A-E-I-O-U', a handy guide to pronunciation. 

There's also a couple of non-te reo Māori speaking performers - Annie Crummer, who is Cook Island Māori and Tahitian, and Canadian Tami Neilson, who will be doing her first song in te reo. 

"There's room for everybody" says Tama.  

Annie says that when Rob Ruha, or her father Will Crummer sing in their reo, she sees the reactions from the audience, and has her own strong feelings.  

"I don't have to understand the words, but my goodness, the wave of how it can just throw you to the back wall, of feelings that you get inside of you when you're receiving those beautiful waiata. You can feel it. I watch people weep when my father sings, and yet lots of people have never even heard of The Cook Islands." 

Aotea Square will resound with waiata for the opening of the festival on March 7th, with Stan Walker, Ria Hall, Maisey Rika and Troy Kingi leading the audience in songs including 'E Papa Waiari' 'Tangaroa Whakamautai' 'Maioha award winner 'Te Ahi Kai Pō' and Leonard Cohen's 'Halleluljah' - Hareruia, in te reo Māori.  

"The feeling of being able to be a part of something, even if it's a really small part, is what we want to celebrate." 

Tira in Aotea Square, March 7th 6:30pm (a free event) and Toku Reo Waiata in the Auckland Town Hall March 16th are part of the Auckland Arts Festival