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E te rangatira, e te pāpā Richard Nunns QSM (1945-2021)

Credit: Tim Cuff


E te rangatira, e te pāpā, moe mai rā. Nā te hau e pū mai nei, kia māharahara mātou tō oro aroha, nō reira moe mai, takoto mai, okioki atu rā. - Tama Waipara

SOUNZ is deeply saddened to hear of the loss of Richard Nunns. Richard was highly respected and recognised for his significant contribution to taonga puoro and the music of Aotearoa New Zealand through his research, performances and recordings.

“We will mourn the loss of a beloved artist, musician and friend, Richard Nunns. His passionate exploration of te ao pūoro is iconic and has made a lasting and memorable impact, says SOUNZ Co-Chair Tama Waipara.

“His participation, celebration and love of Māori music alongside the late Dr Hirini Melbourne will forever sit as a rich contribution to the continuum of our ongoing musical tapestry in Aotearoa. We extend all our aroha to Richard's whānau and friends at this time and say thank you for exciting the air with sounds to cherish and remember. Moe mai rā e te rangatira”, says Tama.

Eve de Castro-Robinson SOUNZ Co-Chair, shares some of her memories of Richard: “My first encounter with Richard Nunns was at a Nelson Composers’ Workshop in the early 90s. There was a solemnity in the air, with an anxious undercurrent – no-one knew what to expect as we entered the space where a slightly stooped strawberry blond fellow had laid out a collection of taonga puōro on a long table. This was a ritual, and, for those of us who were as yet unfamiliar with tikanga Māori, let alone these precious instruments, which whispered and throbbed with the very spirit of this land, it was stirring, a revelation. Richard proceeded to charm the gathering of mostly young composers with his genial, faux-gruff manner, introducing and demonstrating each instrument and its provenance.

“He immediately addressed the elephant in the room, that he was a Pākehā, but explained he had a personal commitment to assist the revival of taonga puōro. A couple of years later, the ever-adventurous Rattle Records released Te Kū Te Whē, a superb sonic treasure. Here were these sounds of this land, gifted by tangata whenua to the care of Nunns, Hirini Melbourne and Brian Flintoff, and soon to reach the world.

“Many years later, I had a little house-warming ceremony at my new home. Gillian Whitehead brought Richard along, and quietly suggested he do a blessing. He pulled a kōauau out of a little pouch, and blew a benediction on the space. If I sit very still, I can feel the embrace of warmth and protection. Haere rā.”

Richard was awarded an honorary doctorate by Victoria University of Wellington and in 2009 he was awarded a QSM (Queen's Service Medal) for services to taonga puoro. In the same year he was admitted to the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame and became an Artist Laureate of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.