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Native instruments meet traditional Pacific voyaging

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

In an ambitious undertaking, Māori music collective ‘IA’ have teamed up with Te Toki Waka Hourua to create a live music film which is a first of its kind. The band collaborated with Te Toki and film Director Moehau Hodges Tai to capture a live performance featuring taonga pÅ«oro/traditional Māori instruments while sailing the traditional waka on the open ocean.

The intention for the live performance on the waka was to showcase IA’s latest single titled Kōkōrangi released May 13. Featuring the voices of the traditional Kōauau (bone flute) and Ponga Ihu (nose flute), Kōkōrangi celebrates the art of traditional pacific voyaging. The word kōkōrangi translates to astronomer and the lyrics of this song talk about how pacific ancestors and current voyagers of today have sailed across vast oceans using the star systems and natural elements to guide them.

Kaihautū/Captain of Hinemoana, John-Reid Willison says, it was a unique experience captaining the waka as the band performed their waiata live. "This project was an example of how the waka can deliver so much. It was an honor to carry the band and work together to achieve an amazing feat. Bringing together traditional Pacific voyaging and mātauranga Māori music inspired us all."

Band member Moetu Smith said that the filming process was challenging, "combining sailing, filming and live performance was difficult, particularly when you consider these are very sensitive wind instruments. But we are all happy with the final creation."

The music itself expresses a minimal, driving sound with rolling bass lines and soulful vocals which take the listener on an emotive journey. Sound design techniques are used to sample the Ponga Ihu and manipulate the sound to achieve a contemporary musical effect.

Lead vocalist and taonga pÅ«oro player Reti Hedley says, it’s the experimentation with sound design that inspires him to keep discovering new frontiers with taonga pÅ«oro. "I’ve been looping and producing western instruments for a long time. But never have I looped traditional Māori instruments, which carry native melodies. I have been a musician and a player of taonga pÅ«oro my entire life and now I get to combine the two worlds. This keeps me motivated to keep exploring the music and push the boundaries even further. "

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