Singer Hinewehi Mohi on celebrating the growing use of te reo Māori in music

Hinewai Moti in black and white on brown paper background

Hinewehi (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāi Tūhoe) is a singer and songwriter who has released three albums. She was the first person to sing the national anthem in te reo Māori at an international rugby match, in 1999, and in 2004 founded the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre.

Music is all around me. It’s part of my existence. When it comes to music for anything, including relaxing, I am very focused on local music.

I have been working closely with Six60 and they have been developing the cultural involvement of their music. Drax Project are like the younger siblings of Six60. They are fantastic. They naturally switch from singing a song in English to singing it in te reo Māori and when they do the reaction from the crowd is massive.

Another artist I saw recently is Bic Runga, who finished a show by singing “Sway” all in Māori. She didn’t make a big deal about it. It was like a quintessential response to what is developing in Aotearoa. She is my distant cousin and I’ve loved seeing her journey of discovery.

I also love just chilling out to wonderful artists like Maisey Rika and Stan Walker, who releases a song in English and concurrently releases a Māori version. Only here can you get that, and that is for all New Zealanders to share and celebrate. It makes us feel extra special and celebratory – particularly at a time when the rest of the world is shut down and isolated and can’t celebrate much.

When I was a teenager – a time when you are trying to discover your sense of self, plus be like everyone else – I didn’t actually tell too many people, but I adored Barbra Streisand. Her voice was always very inspirational to me. And I still adore R ’n’ B – mostly out of America, but I do like to integrate traditional forms with it.

Hinewehi’s favourite songs to relax to

  • Greatest Hits by Barbra Streisand
  • Waiata/Anthems by Bic Runga
  • “Bigger/Tua” by Stan Walker

6 New Zealand musicians share their favourite songs to relax to

Listen to our relaxing Spotify playlist here.


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