Kotiro Māori E composer Tommy Taurima passes away

By James Perry

Rongomaiwahine and Ngāti Kahungunu composer Ramon Pakimana "Tommy" Taurima passed away yesterday, aged 83.

Noted for his compositions including Kotiro Māori E, and Te Rina, his songwriting career spanned more than 60 years. He was only 18 years old when he wrote his first waiata for his local Mormon-choir group and kapa haka, during his time in Hamilton, Waikato. 

Video - Native Affairs 2014

He told Māori TV's Native Affairs programme in 2014 he didn't think songwriting was necessarily something someone can learn, "I think it's a gift that you've been given.

"I just love to do it, write songs, the harmony structure, and create triads. Of course, that's what I'm well known for is the harmony structure of my songs," he said 5 years ago. 

His songs, many in Te Reo Māori spoke of myths and legends. He said "you've got to know what you're writing about. With Māoris anywhere, you've got to be right! Otherwise, you're in trouble, cause your worst critics are your own people." 

Taurima became the first person to teach Māori at the Polynesian Culture Centre in Hawai'i during the 1960s. "Uncle Tommy" received a Lifetime Living Legend award from the PCC in November 2013. His most notable show during his time at the PCC was Horizons which ran from 1995 to 2010.

He also spent many years tutoring cultural groups in his home town of Nuhaka in the Hawkes Bay, and also groups that toured the world, including Europe and North America, taking Māori culture to the world. 

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He was awarded the Queens Service Medal in 1993, and also received an Honorary Masters Degree from Te Wananga o Aotearoa.

Tommy Taurima said the secret to songwriting is "how you make it go! Go from these heartstrings to those ones. It's important."

"Uncle Tommy" will be taken to Kahungunu Marae, Nuhaka on Monday. His funeral service will be held on Tuesday.