Singer Hinewehi Mohi has worked with some of the biggest names in the music business to create an album of contemporary waiata. We're playing it in the Atrium on Takutai to celebrate its release for Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori.
Twenty years ago at a Rugby World Cup quarter final in Twickenham, Hinewehi Mohi sang New Zealand's national anthem in Māori to the 70,000-strong crowd, and controversy erupted.
Nowadays, it's common practice to sing one verse of the anthem in Māori, and the other and English. But at the time Mohi made her decision to share her language with the world, the climate was less, shall we say, accepting. "At that time, talkback radio was the mouthpiece of the people," she remembers, "and there was a very loud voice saying 'it's not important to us, it doesn't represent us'. It was a difficult time".
Nevertheless, Mohi's choice to sing the anthem in Māori provoked a discussion about identity and the place of Te Reo Māori in modern Aotearoa, as well as leading to the acceptance of the bilingual anthem that is commonly sung today. She's chosen to mark the anniversary of that momentous decision with Waiata / Anthems, an album featuring 11 of Aotearoa's most-loved artists singing their hit songs in Te Reo Māori. The album features contributions from well-known singers including Stan Walker (top left) and others such as Six60, Bic Runga, Teeks, Tiki Taane, Shapeshifter, Tami Neilson and more, as well as a performance of 'Aotearoa / God Defend New Zealand' by Hātea Kapa Haka.
It would have been possible for Mohi to ignore the 20-year anniversary of that fateful performance. But she thought it was better to mark the occasion. "I thought, rather than not talking about it - because it is important to talk about painful things sometimes - I would try to find a way to make the anniversary significant and use it as a platform to promote Te Reo Māori," Mohi says. "Because it's not about me. 20 years on we're in a much better position because many, many hundreds of people have made a contribution to that shift in people's thinking. Now we have queues of people trying to get into Māori language classes."
Mohi initially intended to create a bilingual album, but was pleasantly surprised when the artists told her they wanted to do their songs entirely in Māori. Only one of them was a fluent speaker, so for most of them it was their first real opportunity to sing in Māori. Sir Timoti Kāretu assisted with translations.
Bic Runga describes the experience as "something I've always wanted to try but I was at a loss to know where to start. Having Hinewehi Mohi guide me through this process so generously has been really wonderful. I had to record the vocal well over 50 times to get it even close to right, but to finally sing in my own native tongue has been a really moving experience. The Māori language sings so beautifully, it's warm and percussive, and to have 'Sway' translated by none other than Sir Timoti Karetu has been a huge honour. I've always written love songs, and somehow always felt a part of the tradition of the Māori love song, but without my language. So this is a little homecoming for 'Sway' of sorts. It's been a really meaningful project to me."
Wehi hopes that, like the singers on the album, Waiata / Anthems will make listeners feel empowered to try to learn a little more Te Reo Māori. "Music knows no bounds," she says, "so it's the perfect platform to express our unique heritage language and culture, within Aotearoa, and to the world."
Britomart is proud to be able to play Waiata /Anthems over our sound system in the Atrium on Takutai for the duration of Māori Language Week (September 9-15). The album is available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music, and for sale on iTunes and in music retailers.
TRACKLISTING OF WAIATA / ANTHEMS
Hātea Kapa Haka - Aotearoa / God Defend New Zealand
Six60 - Kia Mau Ki Tō Ūkaipō / Don’t Forget Your Roots
Stan Walker - Tēnā Rā Koe / Thank You
BENEE - Kua Kore He Kupu / Soaked
Drax Project - I Moeroa / Woke Up Late
Shapeshifter - Ngā Kano / In Colour
Kings - Kei Aro Atu Koe / Don’t Worry Bout’ It
Tiki Taane - Kei Tōku Ngāka u Nei Koe / Always On My Mind
Sons of Zion - Pōtere Ana / Drift Away
Bic Runga - Haere Mai Rā / Sway
TEEKS -E Kore Rawa E Wehe / Never Be Apart
Tami Neilson - Roimata / Cry Myself To Sleep