30 Nov 2017

Māori music making its mark

10:19 am on 30 November 2017

In today's ever changing music landscape, a surge of Māori artists are making their mark in the music world.

Behind the scenes of a rehearsal with Rob Ruha at recording studio The Lab.

Rob Ruha Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

In the last month alone Rob Ruha, Troy Kingi and Ria Hall have all released new albums.

They are Māori artist proving that despite not always being visible in the mainstream market, there's still a lucrative career for artists who embrace their Māoritanga.

Mr Ruha gave the first public taste of his second full-length album Survivance in a multi-stream broadcast which went live on RNZ, iwi radio stations and social media.

He is part of a group of Māori artists including Maisey Rika, Ria Hall and Troy Kingi who come from a kapa-haka background and have a distinct Māori flair to their music.

"We try to push those boundaries and offer new ways of engaging with Māori content through music," Mr Ruha said.

Poi E is the most famous te reo Māori song to top the NZ top 40 charts, in 1984, and also the last - a sign of the hesitancy of mainstream radio to play Māori music.

Despite the lack of mainstream airplay, Ria Hall's new album Rules of Engagement still hit number six on the NZ Top 40 album charts earlier this month.

Rob Ruha said Māori music was well received around the world - and he recently produced a te reo Māori music soundtrack version of the popular Disney film Moana.

"Language is not a barrier overseas, it seems to be kind of here in Aotearoa, which is a shame but I guess that's the normal culture overseas, people speak four, five languages."

He is managed by his wife Cilla Ruha, who also manages Teeks, winner of the best Māori Artist at this year's Vodafone Music Awards, and Kaaterama Pou from the Māori pop group Maimoa Music.

She said she has seen audiences embrace Māori music in her short time in the music industry.

"I'm privy to the growth of that aroha and that appetite for Māori sound, for the Māori perspective, for the Māori swag."

Cilla Ruha said she would like to see more broadcast collaborations between New Zealand media groups to help promote Māori music.

Troy Kingi is also releasing his second album and has grown his profile through television, film and his music.

He enjoys his musical freedom - something he believes he may not have with a major record label.

And he encourages other Māori musicians out there to pursue their own music careers.

"It's not like small fish in a massive pond like in America, New Zealand is so small eventually you're going to be seen if you keep at it," he said.

Rob Ruha and Troy Kingi's new albums will be released this week.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs