Māori music lacks diversity due to lack of talent - TJ & Huri

By Bronson Perich

Aotearoa music duo TJ & Huri called out the lack of variety in Māori music. 

"There's not enough diversity, because the talent's not there. Yes I said it! The talent's not there!" TJ says.

"I feel, there's a lack of variety in our subjects! I guarantee you, that if ten Māori songs lined up, nine out of ten would be about Māori (language)."

"If you look at our mōteatea, like take the big book written by Tā Apirana (Ngata), collected with all the mōteatea, the subjects were so diverse! So diverse!

The solution TJ says, is for Māori musicians to 'stop sackin it' about being creative. He encourages Māori musicians to write about whatever is real to the person when they write. He also says that the Māori community need to do more to foster and supporting local talent.

"It's a lot easier to write a song in te reo, based on another song I guess, that has the same topic," Huri says

"We are creative enough to think outside of that square, or that circle. We are creative enough for us to start writing something that is our own."

Increase the quality, not the marketing

Diversity, and increasing the quality of production in Māori music, they say, will improve the overall product. Improving the music would mean that promoting it would not be necessary. Playing music just because it's NZ music month, they say, is not the right way to go. They say that radio stations and broadcasters should be playing local music if it's good enough to be listened to.

"Don't force me to listen to New Zealand, if it's not good!" TJ says.

“This is the same thing with Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. If it’s good, if it’s good music, it’s good music.

“Art’s subjective. What I think is good is not what necessarily everyone thinks is good.

Huri backed his right hand man, saying that May shouldn't be the only month to celebrate homegrown music.

“Nowadays I guess, it’s just, New Zealand music to me, should be celebrated everyday," Huri says.

“Not just because of you know, this sort of mate that’s going around now. Now everyone wants to sort of, play New Zealand music on the radio and that sort of stuff."

Making big money in small towns

Now they have made a name for themselves, the days of the 'undercover gig' are over. Whereas the big cities can get away with paying local talent with bar tabs and petty cash, the boys make more money servicing the regions. 

"Say Auckland, big city. The bars can get any musician. So they're like 'you're not gonna do it for $50 and a free feed?'," TJ says.

The boys have played in small towns all across the motu. Places like Taranaki, Murupara, Waikaremoana, and Te Uruwera have received the chaps with open arms. In fact, they were even invited back to Murupara, but COVID-19 forced them to changed plans.

"A lot of these (small) towns get crapped on. But actually our experience, every time we go to these small towns, they've been nothing but hospitable. Sometimes paying us more than what we quoted them, because they appreciated us," TJ says.

Having whakapapa to Tokomaru Bay and Matawaia, Huri grew up listening to kaiwaiata such as Tuini Ngawai, Ngoi Pewhairangi, and Te Huaki Puanaki. For TJ, borin in Rotorua, he grew up listening to artists such as Prince Tui Teka, The Māori Volcanics, and The Howard Morrison Quartet. 

TJ and Huri's future plans include finishing their reo Māori EP. All of the tracks, they say, will be original songs from a variety of genres. This they say, will be their contribution towards improving the quality of Māori music.