Hāni Dread releases waiata honouring those who fought for te reo to become an official language

By Jessica Tyson

Waikato musician Hani Totorewa, also known as Hāni Dread, has released a new waiata honouring the revolutionaries who fought for the recognition of te reo Māori as an official language of Aotearoa.

Kōkiri pays tribute to those who delivered a Māori language petition withover 30,000 plus signatures to parliament in September 1972. Totorewa, of Ngaati Maho, says the petition was the beginning of a renaissance for te reo Māori.

“It’s about whakamana i te reo Maori (strengthening the Māori language) and that gives us huge inspiration to what see what we have now such as kura kaupapa, wharekura, whare wānanga, reo irirangi," he says.

In 1999, Totorewa joined reggae band Katchafire as its keyboard player. He has also played for musicians including Maisey Rika, Ria Hall, Troy Kingi and Rob Ruha. His new waiata Kōkiri features deep reggae grooves that morph into funk and soul vibes as a nod to the 70s and the significant milestones of the era.

“There are lines in the waiata that say ‘ākona te reo i ngā kura’ so reo should be taught in schools and it’s also remembering those who fought for te reo Māori during those times like Ngā Tamatoa, Polynesian Panthers and Te Reo Māori Society.”

The waiata was also produced with support from Creative Nātives and Te Whakaruruhau o ngā Reo Irirangi Māori.

Te Whakaruruhau o ngā Reo Irirangi Māori chairman Peter Lucas Jones says, “It's a timely reminder of the gains accomplished from such a monumental event and, because of their mahi, there are now generations of Māori who have grown up in a world where te reo Māori exists.”

As a solo artist, Totorewa's songwriting focuses on the awareness and education of significant events in Te Ao Māori with waiata such as Koohimuhimu about the July 9th 1863 eviction notice; Freedom Fighters about the freedom fighters and prophets of the 1860s; and Whaia a waiata encouraging youth to strive for greatness.

Hāni Dread / Source: File

Totorewa now dedicates life to his passion for music and uses his talent, experience and knowledge of te reo to help him to change lives through music. He hopes more songs in te reo Māori will play, not only on reo irirangi radio stations but on mainstream stations as well.

“As we evolve I’m pretty sure our mainstream radio will pick up our songs," he says.

Kōkiri is available on all major platforms including Spotify, Soundcloud and Bandcamp.