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NZSO to stream award-winning children's story in Te Reo Maori to music

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

An award-winning children’s story in Te Reo Māori about a giant with a kind heart has been reimagined by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Te Tira PÅ«oro o Aotearoa for a special whānau-friendly video to premiere this Sunday.

Tio Tiamu, written by Kurahau and illustrated by Laya Mutton-Rogers, tells the story of the giant Tio Tiamu (Toe Jam) as he overcomes many challenges. The enchanting and moving story won the Wright Family Foundation Te Kura Pounamu Award for Te Reo Māori in this year’s New Zealand Book Awards.

To celebrate Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, with the support of Huia Publishers and Read New Zealand Te Pou Muramura, the NZSO commissioned composer Tane Upjohn-Beatson to create music to accompany a reading of Tio Tiamu by acclaimed actor Maaka Pohatu.

Tane is an accomplished composer and sound designer, including music for films. The NZSO has worked with Tane before, recording his score for the interactive online storybook Oat the Goat created by the Ministry of Education as part of a national bullying prevention campaign in 2018.

Maaka has toured with the NZSO as a member of the Modern Māori Quartet and is one of the stars of hit TV mockumentary series Wellington Paranormal.

"On first reading Tio Tiamu I was surprised and delighted to discover it was a story of great emotional depth ripe for musical expression," says Tane.

"I was also fascinated by how much more detail and resonance there was in the Te Reo Māori as opposed to the English version. Te Reo Māori has a rolling rhythm which spools this story out bit by bit, like a song.

"I wrote the music with the aim that even an audience member who understands little to no Te Reo Māori could still get caught up in the emotional journey, and enjoy the poetry of the language."

"He tino taonga tēnei pūrakau, kī ana i ngā kare-a-roto maha me ētahi kaupapa tino mīharo. Nōku te tino whiwhi ki te mahi tahi mātou ko te NZSO kia kawe i tēnei kaupapa ataāhua ki te katoa," says Maaka.

"Ngā mihi matihere mo Te Wiki O Te Reo Māori!"

The video will premiere on Sunday 20 September at 7pm at

Tio Tiamu is the first in the NZSO’s Storytime series recorded entirely in Te Reo Māori. It follows four Storytime instalments released in July, with original music by composer Claire Cowan accompanying readings of children’s stories Mrs Wishy-Washy’s Farm, The Bomb, The Stolen Stars of Matariki and The Little Yellow Digger.

Since March the NZSO has streamed and live-streamed more than 50 performances and special events, which have had more than three million views. Other family content has included Music Room, a selection of educational videos about music.

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