Waiata reo Māori gains popularity in mainstream radio

April 10, 2024

Waiata reo Māori gains popularity in mainstream radio

Māori music artist EMCEA competing in Your Shot 2023, a programme that gives aspiring DJs in Aotearoa full training experience. Photo: Your Shot NZ

Mai FM’s ‘Waitata Māori’ feature is making substantial progress in the waiata reo Māori space in Aotearoa, says the station.

Mai FM’s content director, Callum Butter, says you need passion from the audience to move songs into higher rotation on the station, which the feature has successfully achieved for waiata reo Māori.

“The Waiata Māori feature has only been running for a year, and there have been around eight artists that have crossed over to the station’s main playlist.

“The first waiata Māori feature we had was ‘He Aho’ by Tawaz. That started making it to an A-rotate, and it’s still on the playlist today, which is a massive success.”

Callum says the station previously struggled to get the audience to engage with waiata Māori, but people now seem receptive to the idea.

“It’s at a point now where I've been programming for nine years, and I’ve never seen it not be accepted. People have a genuine passion for waiata Māori.”

Callum believes the quantity of waiata Māori has improved due to increased funding from Te Māngai Pāho and NZ On Air, which helps people create waiata Māori without the backing from a major label.

Māori multi-genre music artist and audio engineer Mahima Mane-Chapman (Ngāpuhi), aka EMCEA, also believes there has been recent growth in the Māori music scene.

“It began with the Maimoa group. Their song Wairua blew up on the internet, starting social media trends, and it showed other Māori artists how we can be successful in a modern world which is heavily social media focused.

“It’s pretty cool to have mainstream songs by artists like Benee and Drax Project reimagined in Te Reo Māori. I’ve even heard people say that the Māori versions are better, which I feel speaks to the potential that Māori music has to become mainstream.”

Callum thinks there is still a lot of catching up to do for waiata Māori to become mainstream, but there is huge potential.

“Waiata Māori is in that new music genre, and people are starting to experiment. But you’ll see people experiment and then tell their friends about it, who will then tell their friends, and it's a snowball that just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

“It’s just about people embracing it, enjoying it and being passionate about it.”

Callum says despite the success, there is still a lack of waiata Māori produced by wahine.

“When we go look for waiata Māori from wahine, it feels like there is a lack.”

EMCEA believes more programmes should be created specifically for wahine and programmes where tāne and wahine collaborate to close the gender gap.

“I think creatives already in the industry could offer these services, or just personal mentorship to wahine, to increase their access to music production.”

LISTEN: EMCEA gives his opinion on Aotearoa’s funding for aspiring musicians.

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