Waitangi Six60 concert promises bright future for te reo Māori music – NZ Herald

The future of mainstream te reo music appears bright if Saturday night’s Six60 concert in Waitangi is to be believed.

Nearly 14,000 music lovers packed out the Waitangi Sports Grounds in picturesque conditions to witness one of the biggest music productions in the world currently, headlined by Six60 and featuring Drax Project, Troy Kingi and The Clutch, Paige and Eleven7four.

Gratitude appeared to be the theme of the evening – not just from the fans but also from the acts. There seemed an apparent awareness of how fortunate these musicians were to play in front of thousands of dedicated followers while much of the world is in Covid lockdown.

However, it was the night’s cultural element which garnered the biggest response from the Waitangi faithful. As Six60 approached the end of their set, a crew of kapa haka performers entered the stage as the award-winning group played their hit song, “Sundown”.

Kapa haka performers gave Saturday's Six60 concert at Waitangi a spine-tingling edge. Photo / Adam Pearse
Kapa haka performers gave Saturday’s Six60 concert at Waitangi a spine-tingling edge. Photo / Adam Pearse

The surprise inclusion of kapa haka was met by raucous celebration from the crowd and it gave the evening the sign-off it deserved.

Fortunately for those in attendance, the kapa haka was not confined to a single song. As their last song of the evening, Six60 broke into their classic “Don’t Forget Your Roots” – which had previously been translated into te reo Māori in 2019.

Similar efforts to use te reo were utilised by Drax Project, who also performed in te reo earlier in the night.

Six60 frontman Matiu Walters. Photo / Jodi Bryant
Six60 frontman Matiu Walters. Photo / Jodi Bryant

Despite the number of beer cans crumpled into the some of the country’s most culturally significant earth, the concert provided a strong reminder of how te reo Māori is quickly emerging as a regular presence in mainstream music.

“I don’t know if [te reo Māori] is going to make its way into the mainstream, but we’re going to have a crack at it,” Six60 drummer Eli Paewai said.

“I think if we wanted to release a full Māori song or album tomorrow, I think we could and I think radio would probably play it, I hope they would.”

Six60 hit the stage at Waitangi. Photo / Jodi Bryant
Six60 hit the stage at Waitangi. Photo / Jodi Bryant

Six60 bassist Chris Mac said the te reo version of “Don’t Forget Your Roots” had been one of many valuable examples of popular songs being heard by the public in Māori.

“It was a nice gateway for people to be able to have Māori language on the radio and not alienating people who weren’t super passionate about it,” he said.

“I think that’s the challenge for the future, finding ways to bring people into accepting that culture in a more mainstream way.”

Kerikeri's Troy Kingi was one of the support acts to the Six60 Saturday event at Waitangi. Photo / Dillon Johnstone
Kerikeri’s Troy Kingi was one of the support acts to the Six60 Saturday event at Waitangi. Photo / Dillon Johnstone

Mac referenced Tai Tokerau thrash metal band Alien Weaponry as a prime example of how te reo Māori could be used in all genres of music.

“I was just floored by how good those [Alien Weaponry] songs were and I wasn’t surprised at all – if the song is good, the song is good,” he said.

Drax Project drummer Matt Beachen said the best way to promote te reo Māori in mainstream music was to do just that.

“It’s just putting out more music in te reo Māori, it’s not rocket science really.”

Similar to Six60, Drax Project had looked to translate their more popular tracks into te reo Māori, notably their 2018 hit “Woke Up Late”, which became “I Moeroa”.

Lead singer Shaan Singh said the fear of failure held many people back from exploring te reo Māori and he encouraged others to view any knowledge gaps as learning opportunities.

“If everyone does that and switches it from fear to being inquisitive about it, that’s really all it needs.

“There’s no doubt that I said something in the song … that is pronounced not 100 per cent correctly but that’s okay, I try my best.”

Singh encouraged any musician interested in te reo Māori to actively pursue it and to seek advice from Māori language experts.

Troy Kingi, who lived in Kerikeri with his whānau, said having the likes of Six60 and Drax Project producing songs in te reo Māori gave more opportunities to up-and-coming Māori artists.

The huge crowd were well entertained at the Six60 Saturday in Waitangi. Photo / Dillon Johnstone
The huge crowd were well entertained at the Six60 Saturday in Waitangi. Photo / Dillon Johnstone

“Every time you hear a Māori song on the radio, it’s going to make it easier and hopefully at some point in a few years, you’ll be hearing Māori songs on the radio and not think, ‘that’s a nice Māori song’, but think, ‘oh that’s a mean song’.”

Echoing Singh, Kingi said if artists and media personalities approached using te reo Māori with an open mind, it would only boost the profile of Aotearoa’s indigenous language.

“I’ve seen a massive effort from a lot of mainstream media to start saying a lot more words in te reo, all of that stuff is normalising it and that’s what we want, that’s what makes Aotearoa unique.

“I think the right kaupapa is be willing to do it, there’s not going to be a Māori person who says, ‘Don’t sing that’, you’ve just got to ask so you’re making sure that you’re saying it right, pronouncing it right and that’s cool.”