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Two SOUNZ composers win Waiata Māori Music Awards

On Friday the 13th, Club Hastings buzzed with energy as some of New Zealand’s leading Māori composers, performers and musicians gathered for the 2019 National Waiata Māori Music Awards.

Established in 2008 by Tama Huata, the Waiata Māori Music Awards is acknowledged as one of New Zealand’s most prestigious and iconic events for Māori Music and the celebration of Māori composers. Being the first of its kind, it was set up to seek, develop, encourage and honour outstanding musical compositions and performances.

SOUNZ Composer Maisey Rika and, alongside Tasha Tari alongside Kahurangi Māori Dance Theatre, led the way with the opening performance, setting the stage for a thrilling and entertaining night.

Among the amazingly talented finalists, this year were SOUNZ composers Pere Wihongi, Amba Holly and Maaka Fiso. Pere Wihongi took out the award for ‘Best Māori Male Solo Artist’ and, with his performance group Te Kākano, the ‘Best Song by a Māori Artist’ and ‘Best Traditional Album in Te Reo Māori’ awards.  Pere credits his mentors and supporters for his success, “I am a reflection of the multitudes who have helped, supported and guided me to where I am today.”

SOUNZ Composer Bic Runga graced the audience with her ever soulful vocals in a Te Reo Māori rendition of SWAY, which features on the new album Waiata Anthems. Produced by Hinewehi Mohi, the album celebrates both Māori Language Week and the twenty-year anniversary of Hinewehi’s historic performance of the New Zealand National Anthem in Te Reo Māori at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

When describing how she felt after sweeping up the awards for both ‘Best Female Solo Artist’ and ‘Best Māori Songwriter’, SOUNZ Composer Amba Holly quoted the famous whakatauki on social media, “Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini – My success should not be bestowed onto me alone, as it was not individual success but success of a collective”, highlighting the importance of this event for Māori composers and the exciting future in store.

Two SOUNZ composers win Waiata Māori Music Awards

In addition to encouraging emerging talent, this year’s awards honoured legacy artists Trevor Maxwell, Abe Phillips, Pixie Williams and Jarrod Huirama, who were acknowledged for their lifetime contributions to Māori Music. Pixie Williams’ song ‘Blue Smoke’, which is up for the 2019 New Zealand Silver Scroll Awards, was performed by SOUNZ Composer Kirsten Te Rito and The Victory Dolls.

The evening’s array of entertainment also included performances by SOUNZ composer Troy Kingi, who brought home the wonderful realities of how far contemporary Māori Music has come and the exciting and innovative future in store for emerging composers. New Zealand band Six60 closed the night with an upbeat Te Reo Māori version of their song ‘Don’t Forget Your Roots’, sending the audience home with positive and vibrant energy.

The Waiata Māori Music Awards truly stood to its aim of developing and promoting the diversity of all Māori music, showcasing its excellence and recognising the unique vision of Māori composers and musicians. We cannot wait until next year to see what is in store!