Dame Hinewehi Mohi inducted into New Zealand Music Hall of Fame

7:30 am on 18 May 2024

Dame Hinewehi Mohi has been inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame.

A musician and producer, Dame Hinewehi is best known for her double platinum album Oceania (1999) and its lead single 'Kotahitanga'.

She learnt te reo Māori because of her dad's determination to reclaim his birthright and connect with his cultural identity.

"He started to realise that there was something missing in his life and something missing in his understanding of himself," Dame Hinewehi (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tūhoe) told RNZ's Music 101.

Dame Hinewehi, who was 10 at the time, became immersed in the language through her dad's teaching and listening to te reo Māori records.

"Isabel Cohen, she was gorgeous, I used to listen to her voice and mimic it and that's how I developed my higher voice, mezzo soprano, an imitation of Isabel Cohen," she said.

Also significant in her language and musical journey was her time at St Joseph's Māori Girls' College in Napier.

Dame Hinewehi Mohi

Dame Hinewehi Mohi. Photo: Jane Ussher

"That's where I was exposed to the wonderful tutelage of Dame Georgina Kingi."

She developed a taste for performing.

"We'd perform everywhere, all the time, at chapel and class, performances for visitors or out in the community.

"And I just adored it. I loved it so much," she said.

Later, at the University of Waikato, she studied Māori language and waiata under Sir Tīmoti Kāretu and the late Dr Hirini Melbourne and Wharehuia Milroy.

She told Music 101 it was a "golden time".

"We were very blessed to have such amazing tutors."

Dame Hinewehi Mohi at St Joseph's Māori Girls' College

Dame Hinewehi at St Joseph's Māori Girls' College. Photo:

It is a significant year for Dame Hinewehi. As well as being inducted into the Hall of Fame, it is 25 years since her famous performance of the national anthem at the Rugby World Cup and the release of Oceania.

The album, recorded entirely in te reo Māori, was produced by Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman.

The record was an unlikely collaboration between her and the punk artist, producer and musician who helped to establish York Street Studios after moving to Aotearoa.

Coleman asked Dame Hinewehi to sing a waiata to open the York Street Studios, she said.

"He said, 'ladies and gentlemen, I think it's only appropriate that we open this house of music with a song introducing you to' and he looked at me and I could tell he'd forgotten my name and he goes 'Heenie Weenie'.

"I've been Heenie Weenie ever since!"

Dame Hinewehi Mohi's double-platinum album Oceania (1999)

Oceania was recorded entirely in te reo Māori. Photo:

In 2019, Dame Hinewehi initiated the Waiata Anthems project, supporting artists to record their hit songs in Māori.

"I just saw that as a privilege to be a part of something so special where it was epiphanies abounding and everyone got something different out of it."

She told Music 101 that she was honoured that her life's work was being recognised.

"Honestly, my life has kind of gone in all sorts of different directions, but always I end up coming back to music, my real heart project, and love for waiata."

Dame Hinewehi will be celebrated at the Aotearoa Music Awards on 30 May.

RNZ is the official media partner and will livestream the event on its website and across its social media channels.

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