Waiata is a hugely important part of te ao Mäori. There are many different types of waiata such as hïmene – hymns, waiata a ringa which are the waiata with hand movements and moteatea – chant like songs that tell a story usually from the past. Mäori being an oral language much of the culture is embedded in the variety of different songs. There are also love songs, war songs, songs especially for tangi – funerals.
Waiata is one of the highlights for me of learning te reo and tikanga Mäori. I have always loved music, I played instruments including violin, recorder and guitar but singing is my favourite. There are hundreds probably thousands of waiata they are written all the time for a myriad of different occasions and different kaupapa. In our classes we sing many waiata pertaining to the taonga, the importance of the language te reo Mäori. The tikanga is embedded within these songs. I find them moving and I learn from them.
Something I say over and over is that you cannot really know a culture without knowing the language – not deeply and in context.
It is an incredible feeling to sing in a group of people who are all passionate about what they are singing. I have been moved to tears on a few such occasions. I remember at the hui whanui singing with some 300 other people – there is nothing like it. For me I feel that within the song are all the emotions of joy, sadness, the history and the future dreams. Te reo Mäori is such a physical and expressive language and the people also – and it comes out in the singing. Words in English at this point cannot fully express what I am trying to say, and my Mäori is not good enough yet either…