News | 8 September 2022

Uplifting te reo Māori through music

Over three decades, the family-owned music production company Minaaka has dedicated their lives to the revitalisation and everyday use of the Māori language, through the medium of music.

Wai whānau.
Maaka McGregor, Maaka Fiso, Mina Ripia and her son Uta Te Whanga.

With Te Wiki o te Reo Māori just around the corner, the team are preparing for a showcase at Te Auaha that will honour and uplift te reo, using their experiences to give others a platform.

In 1999, Mina Ripia and Maaka Phat created a Māori Electronica Roots band named WAI, in honour of Mina’s Pāpā. After his passing, music became a way of honouring him, says Mina.

“E Pa was a waiata on our first album as WAI, which was written for my Pāpā. It speaks of being by my father’s side when he took his last breath. That experience led me to write this song to guide him on his return to Hawaiiki nui, which in Māori custom is the sacred resting place of our people. I will never forget my father, the pain of losing him pinches at my heart. He is now the brightest of stars shining down upon me.”

With a vision of honouring her Pāpā, the group was created to raise the awareness of Māori artistic expression both nationally and internationally, and performs in 100 percent te reo. 

After decades of performing and sharing their voices with the world, they have used their knowledge to help other performers through the creation of their family business, Minaaka. 

Wai group album cover.
Mina Ripia on the cover of an album for WAI.

Now they are also audio producers, award winning composers and engineers with the sole purpose of lifting up the language through music, says Mina.

“We have worked extremely hard to create opportunities for Māori language artists. It is through the relationships that have been built, and reputation that WAI has established, that provides Minaaka with the opportunity to represent ngā waiata Māori i roto te reo Māori to world stages. 

“Singing in te reo Māori is my life and it’s my passion to keep te reo Māori music at the forefront of hearts and minds.”

Their kaupapa is 'Ehara, taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa, takimano', which translates to 'my strength is not of an individual, but that of the collective.'

Wai music group performing.
WAI performing on stage.

They are now bringing together a series of talented performers for He Toa Takitini during Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, a free event with one showcase concert every day.

This exciting showcase is part of Te Hui Ahurei Reo Māori o Te Whanganui-a-Tara, the Māori Language Festival of Wellington, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Māori language petition delivered to Parliament in September 1972 with te reo Māori focused arts and events. This festival is from Wellington City Council, in collaboration with Taranaki Whānui, Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Te Rūnanganui o Te Āti Awa.

The kaupapa of this showcase series is to support and celebrate Māori language music, says Mina. 

“Māori language music should excel in beautiful art galleries and creative spaces, and not bars and pubs. To live as a full-time musician performing original music entirely in the Māori language with respect and integrity is the greatest thing to be doing.”

To get a glimpse of some of the amazing music that will be in the showcase, here is a song from the Māori Hip Hop group IWI, which will be opening the showcase on Rāhina 12 September. This band has been around for over 20 years, and their mission is to contribute towards the survival of the Māori language and custom through waiata. 

Listen to Mai i Maketū (3MB MP3)

Find out more about Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, Māori Language Week on our website or check out the programme for Te Hui Ahurei Reo Māori o Te Whanganui-A-Tara on the Te Reo Fest website.