Aotearoa Allstars, Toni Huata collaborate for Waiata Anthems 2022

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Wellington-based band Aotearoa Allstars is made up of artists from award-winning kaupapa Māori music groups, who have collaborated with Māori performer, director and producer Toni Huata (Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Kahungunu) for their new waiata. 

The band's performance of He Aroha, composed by musician and Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori chif executive Ngahiwi Apanui, features in this year's Waiata Anthems album.

It’s the first recording they have done together but they first collaborated at the 2015 edition of the Tuia Te Ako conference.

Huata says it’s an absolute pleasure to be part of the kaupapa, as it includes linking to other important kaupapa like Mahuru Māori, Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, and historic milestones such as 50 years of the Māori Language Petition and 50 years of Te Matatini to name a couple.

Apanui (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Hine, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui) says he found inspiration for the waiata after seeing things happening around the world, such as the war on Ukraine and te reo Māori criticism.

“I didn’t want to write a protest song but I wanted to write one that people didn’t know was a protest song,” he says. “He Aroha, really, is about aroha as a basis for peace. The only time people are going to start resolving their issues is when they take the time out to exercise a bit of care and concern for others."

Apanui also revealed that an event will be held in celebration of 50 years of the Māori Language Petition next Wednesday with those who were there when it first began.

“Look at what’s happened in the past 50 years. Kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa. We have a situation where 83% of New Zealand believe that te reo Māori is important, and that’s something we didn’t think we would ever see.”