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Iconic Award recipients announced

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Aotearoa’s Godfather of Hip Hop Darryl Thomson and long-time Māori composer, the late Te Taite Kupa will be honoured at this year’s National Waiata Māori Music Awards.

Both artists grew up in Hawke’s Bay where the awards event has been held since 2008 and they will be recipients of the event’s Iconic Awards, which recognise those who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

The category is not judged but is awarded to highlight the work of past and present performers, singers and songwriters working in the Māori music sector.

Darryl Leigh Thomson, Ngāti Kahungunu, grew up in Maraenui in Napier and is better known in the music industry as DLT. He was part of the pioneering hip-hop group Upper Hutt Posse and later led the development of hip-hop culture in Aotearoa winning numerous national awards.

Te Taite Kupa, Ngāti Kahungunu, from Hastings, composed the waiata, Te Hokinga Mai, with Bishop Takuira Mariu and the Pakipaki Community, to celebrate the return of taonga which featured in the Te Māori Exhibition that toured North America in the mid-1980s.

DLT will receive the Lifetime Contribution to Māori Music Award, Te Tohu O Manawa Rahi Ki Te Ao Pūoro Māori, recognising his work as a singer, songwriter, producer and mentor for many young Polynesian hip hop artists, as well as being an advocate for all things Māori.

Te Taite will posthumously receive the Iconic Māori Composer Award, Te Tohu Kaiwhakairo I Te Kupu o Nehe recognising decades of work performing and writing songs internationally which continue to inspire new generations of Māori artists.

This year’s awards will be a virtual, online event, on Friday, October 9, 7pm.

Darryl Leigh Thomson

DLT moved from Hawke’s Bay to Upper Hutt in the 1980s where he, along with Dean Hapeta, formed Upper Hutt Posse and released what is believed to be New Zealand’s first hip-hop single, E TÅ«, in 1988.

The two wrote the song when they were still teens. It tackled themes around inequality and racism, and encouraged young Māori to draw upon the strength of their tipuna, challenging them to "e tū, stand proud, kia kaha, say it loud".

E TÅ« received the Taite Music Prize and the 2016 Independent Music NZ Classic Record and Upper Hutt Posse was inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame at the 2018 New Zealand Music Awards, receiving the Legacy Award.

DLT went on to lead a very productive career in the music industry in the years that followed Upper Hutt Posse.

He released two solo albums including The True School which featured the song Chains, sung by Che Fu. Chains won Best Single at the 1997 New Zealand Music Awards and Che-Fu was awarded Best Male Vocalist for the song.

DLT’s second album, Altruism, remained in the top 40 albums for several weeks and included singles, Liquid Skies and I’m Your MC.

His music production work in the 1980s and 1990s was highly influential for younger musicians coming through the industry. He used music to work as an advocate for te iwi Māori wherever he could. He worked in radio and television which furthered the development of hip-hop in New Zealand.

DLT advocated for all aspects of hip-hop including graffiti for which he is also recognised as a leader in the art form. He has now turned his hand to fine art under the tutelage of New Zealand artist and painter, Dr Sandy Adsett, also from Hawke’s Bay.

The story behind the single, E TÅ«, is retold in a Radio New Zealand podcast, featuring interviews with Upper Hutt Posse members Te Kupu (Dean Hapeta), DLT, Teremoana Rapley and Bennett Pomana.

Te Taite Kupa

The waiata Te Hokinga Mai remains one of the most well-known and celebrated songs of Ngāti Kahungunu, the iwi where its co-author Te Taite Kupa is from.

It was written in late 1985 to mark the return of Māori taonga which had formed part of the Te Māori Exhibition in the US.

In 1986, Te Taite tutored Pakipaki Bilingual School, one of the schools where he was educated in Hastings. He gave the school many of his own waiata, including Te Hokinga Mai.

The school recorded the song and it featured in a television documentary about the Te Māori Exhibition.

Te Taite had enjoyed a busy and prosperous career overseas before returning to New Zealand in the mid-1980s.

He was based in Los Angeles in 1962-63 and was the musical director and choreographer for Maori Ora Entertainers, which he described as perhaps the first mini kapa haka group, it had just six members, to leave New Zealand.

Their show was made into a 20-minute film for the National Film Unit as a school Māori resource on kapa haka, and was shown in New Zealand and overseas theatres as a tourist promotion.

The group toured California and Arizona performing one hour programmes in junior high schools in 1962 and 1963.

Te Taite worked with many groups when he returned to New Zealand, including the Patea Māori Club, New Zealand National Youth Choir and Wellington kapa haka groups such as Ngāti Poneke, Te Herenga Waka and Māwai Hākona.

He graduated at Victoria University with a Dip Māori in 1992 and a B.A. in Education in 1994 and was the first tutor in Māori performing arts at Whitireia Polytechnic in Wellington.

In 1996, he lectured the Māori component of "The Social Contexts of Learning" and "Theory into Practice" for the Department of Teacher Education at Victoria University.

He had been working on his M.Ed Thesis and a book based on the thesis, entitled "Framing the Māori Image".

Te Taite also worked at the Film Archive and with many government and educational institutions including ACC, Wellington City Council and Weltech, as a tikanga advisor, kapa haka tutor and composer.

His work also continued with Ngāti Pōneke and various Kāhui Kaumatua Kapa Haka groups.

Te Taite passed away in Wellington on July 28, 2020, three and a half weeks shy of his 80th birthday. A member of the Pakipaki whanau will accept the Iconic Māori Composer Award.

-Information for Te Taite Cooper sourced from SOUNZ Centre for New Zealand Music.

This year’s awards will be a virtual, online event, on Friday, October 9, 7pm. It will be a mixture of live and pre recorded performances.

Please visit the National Waiata Māori Music Awards Facebook page for more details.

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