by Silke Hartung

Q & A: Maisey Rika

by Silke Hartung

Q & A: Maisey Rika

The local awards season is now in full swing (two down, two to go) and it’s proving to be a BIG year for the ladies. The Waiata Māori Music Awards turned 10 in Hastings mid-September. The night’s big winner was Maisey Rika who cleaned up with awards for Best Traditional Māori Album (‘Tira’), Best Female Solo Artist, Best Song by a Māori Artist (Taku Mana) and also the Best Songwriter Award. With her mantlepiece re-arranged, Maisey kindly talked with NZM about her now highly-awarded, Christmas-flavoured album.

What do you think it is that the judges could connect with most, in both your winning album and Taku Mana?

With the album ‘Tira’ I was hoping that the listener would feel the wairua, the mauri, the spirit of the songs. I was hoping that some of the tunes would be familiar, Tapu Te Pō being the Christmas carol Oh Holy Night, Pomarie being Silent Night, T’Ariki Tama O Mere being What Child Is This, Mahorahora being God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Te Karanga A Tui being Silver Bells.

I was hoping listeners would connect with these more familiar and traditional tunes, and maybe open up their hearts and minds to the Māori versions. The other waiata are songs from the Kapahaka stage, written by prolific songwriters in that realm, hymns I’ve grown up with and originals I’d written for this project.

All of the songs are woven together with the themes of kotahitanga (unity), aroha (love), whānau (family) and home, which is essentially what Christmas time is all about to me. These themes are reflected in the songs and of course the amazing artists that feature on the album – Hinewehi Mohi, Tama Waipara, Troy Kingi, Beau Monga, Thomas Oliver, Seth Haapu, Modern Māori Quartet and more who all come from different faith backgrounds made this Christmas album quite unique, the first ecumenical album in Māori. 

I think having the theme of kotahitanga represented in the lyrics of the songs themselves and in the people that featured on it made it what it is. Each song is different as each artist featured on them have their own style or flavour, and that was my job, to make sure they were being well represented as well!

For Taku Mana what I did was ask the tauira or graduates from the Pao Pao Pao music mentoring program we’ve all been a part of to feature on this particular song because of what I am saying in it. I’m talking about the oceans, lands and mana. I’m talking about being grateful, preserving what we have now for the coming generations and so on. It is the last song on the album and pretty much sums up what I’m all about and gives an introduction or insight on what to expect next. 

I wanted the Rangatahi/emerging artists to say these words out loud and proud – “ko au te whenua te whenua ko au ko au te Moana te Moana ko au ko au Taku mana ko Taku mana ko au.” (I am the land the land is me, I am the sea the sea is me, I am my mana my mana is me.) “I ahu mai i te Atua i ahu mai oku Tīpuna i ahu mai te whenua te moana e, taku ihi taku wehi taku wanawana.” (My mana comes from God, from my ancestors, from the land and sea, it is my motivation, my fear my inspiration.)

I wanted them to be the ones chanting these words right at the end, a sought of re-affirmation to oneself I guess, that they hold the power to their own destiny, that they are ultimately the future of our world! My hope was that the listeners would notice and feel their way through this track and the whole album because it is for everyone from all walks of life, may all the listeners truly get a sense and feel of the wairua the universal language of music in this song, Taku Mana.

For us who are yet to learn te reo, what is Taku Mana about?

It’s about being grateful for what we have. In the song I am just stating where my/our mana comes from, “I ahu mai i te Atua i ahu mai oku Tīpuna i ahu mai te whenua te moana e, taku ihi taku wehi taku wanawana” (My mana comes from God, from my ancestors, from the land and sea, it is my motivation, my fear my inspiration I am my mana my mana is me).

Where does your mana or honour come from – is it in the work you do? Is it in how well you do? Is it in how well your children do? Is it in from what you do for others? Is it in how much money you make? What to you is mana, is honour? And how do you bring honour or mana into yourself and others around you? That is what this song is all about, asking the questions. I talk about mana from a Māori perspective – so before you are even born you have honour you have mana, it’s in your DNA from the Gods. From your ancestors.

Did a particular time in your life inspire ‘Tira’?

Yes, it was just one of those days that I was feeling grateful for all the small things – the air in my lungs, the land at my feet, the water I drink the actually for just being alive and well living in this beautiful country of Aotearoa and what a privilege and honour it is. How we must never take things for granted; our rivers, our mountains, our oceans and land are taonga they have mana and as Māori we do not own them, they own us. We protect them and they will nourish and protect us.