Brave and true like her ancestors
Why did you incorporate English on your new album as opposed to pure Te Reo Maori?
I’m hoping this will bring more people to Te Reo Maori. Te Mangai Paho opened the door to fund albums with English content so I decided to explore it. Hopukia means to grasp. It’s about grasping those opportunities and seizing the day. My songs are built around this kaupapa.
Is there a shift in sound, too?
Paddy Free and Gareth Farr are a dream team and they bring the best of their worlds to this project. Musically, the sound is from ambient and dub to very high energy electronica, with hints of classical in the Gareth collaborations. This collaboration is quite tribal, driving, and earthed.
What inspired the songs on the new album?
My ancestor, Whakaaha. In his short but brave life he did some amazing acts, like grasping the Huata spear in mid-flight before it killed his leader Haenga. From that act we were bestowed our surname Huata. My song Hopukia te Tao is about being loyal, brave, and true. Another song, A Muri ra, is about my hopes and dreams for my children and descendants. Other themes are home, love, land, culture, language, environment, dreams, and Matariki.
Are you doing any theatre or performing alongside promoting the new album?
After the launch I am performing at the Wharewaka on July 27 with other Maori music artists and then heading to Auckland for more shows. We’ll be in the UK and Europe in October, Australia in November and then a wider international tour after that. WOW will be using my song Hopukia te tao. I saw He Reo Aroha whilst in the Solomons and it made me miss theatre so I may look further into that. We are hoping to take Maui – One Man Against the Gods to Hawaii in 2013.
You were raised by your grandparents in Hastings – is yours a musical whanau?
I had a musical upbringing with choir, kapahaka, tap and modern dancing and just the whanau constantly playing the guitar and ukulele around the house. My grandparents were a huge influence in my life and I went to a lot of hui with them. I’ve always had a lot of love and support from my parents, aunties, uncles, siblings and cousins. I didn’t foresee a life as a performer and started my working career as a hairdresser, which has certainly contributed to our appearance and presence on stage.
You have two children – are they as musical as their Mum?
They are. Our boy, Te Okanga, is eight and has always had a strong voice and clear reo. He is very musical and artistic. Our girl, Ropine, is three and she is very quick to pick up movement and mimic vocal calls, tone and singing. They keep it real for me.
This is your third time at the Festival of Pacific Arts – do you feel drawn to perform more traditional Maori music in this context?
I perform where my heart is at the time. Acoustic to highly produced, delicate to haka, Maori to bilingual...it all works as the people here are so embracing of what we share.
What’s it like being part of the Festival?
The time of my life! Not only getting to know our 120 artists in our delegation, but the Solomon people have really put so much into this festival – fireworks every night, built villages, stages, auditoriums. We went to Malita, which is three and a half hours one way by boat to perform the other day and it was a completely different and very authentic world. I absolutely loved it even though a lot of us got sick from the journey. It was worth it to experience true Solomon Island language and culture.
Hopukia, Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, 1pm, July 22.