Māori hip-hop artist aims to 're-indigenise' Māori through new album

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Tipene Harmer of Ngāti Kahungunu has recently been nominated for a plethora of music awards, including best Māori artist.

These awards come following the release of his latest album Heritage Trail – A collection of waiata that Harmer hopes will uplift, empower, and re-indigenise Māori.

“I started listening to American rap when I was a young fulla,” he says.

“It made me feel powerful and I just used that feel and infused Hip Hop with Te Ao Māori and created this album. It's very intentional in terms of the messaging.”

Tūrangawaewae by Tipene Harmer feat. Maisey Rika & Troy Kingi

In between creating and writing music, the Whitianga-based father of five works full-time as a kaiako at Mercury Bay area school. One of his most recent waiata, Tūrangawaewae, was nominated for best single by a Māori artist and Harmer says the inspiration came from his pupils that he was teaching at the time.

“I had about twenty rangatahi in front of me, and I asked them ‘who has been on a marae before?’ And yeah, none of them had been, and they were 18, all Māori from the Waikato. So it was a bit mamae.

“They shared their thoughts on a whiteboard and it was mostly negative things, so I thought to teach them about marae through a song, and that's how Tūrangawaewae came about.”

West Side Hori by Tipene. Source / YouTube

Now that Aotearoa is in level four lockdown, Harmer sees this as an opportunity to recharge and reflect.

"The whānau time is important too. I can just sit with my kids and let them paint my face and all that stuff, and then go into the studio and make some music as well.

"I actually think it's a blessing, I think it really slows the world down for a little bit." 

Tipene Harmer 2021 Nominations: 

• Top 20 Finalist APRA Silver Scroll

• Best Hip Hop Album

• Best Māori Male Solo Artist

• Best Single by a Māori Artist

• Best Māori Songwriters

• TMP Funding Kupe music video

• Aotearoa Touring Funding assistance