Piripi Taylor - The humble frontman

By Lynette Amoroa

Te Kāea's Piripi Taylor (Ngāti Awa, Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa) has many roles when it comes to the revitalisation of the Māori language.  Off camera, he's a father of four, the deputy chairman of Mataatua Marae and teaches the Māori language. However, another talent of his was revealed at the premiere of Disney's Moana in te reo Māori earlier this week.

A formidable frontman for te reo Māori and when it's action time his voice commands attention, a reminder to his audience and peers that this is more than a job to him.

"To me, my marae and Māori Television are one and the same in that they are precious."

When the cameras are off, the job doesn't end. Piripi is once again cast into the teacher role, passing on his knowledge to Māori and non-Māori alike. Two nights a week, he facilitates free night classes at Mataatua Marae in Māngere.

"These are the shelters of our language, the shelters of the treasures passed down to us, our customs, our protocols, our very Māori heritage. So there is truth in the saying that these are treasures we must protect, and I am merely a caretaker of these treasures."

As the deputy chair of his tribe's urban marae in Auckland, part of his responsibilities is to share the history of the marae with visitors.

Tonight, he has the privilege of talking to a visiting rugby league team Trident High School from his hometown in Whakatāne. He hopes to inspire the boys ahead of their semi-final match against Haeata at the National Secondary Schools League tournament.

His teachings were passed down to him while growing up in the small community of Te Teko in the Bay of Plenty.

"I'm like the grandfather who raised me. He was a man of the marae as I am," says Piripi.

"The marae was the first place I can remember the language being spoken in the prayers and at the hāpati of the Ringatū Faith practiced by my elders of Te Rangitāiki. The language and my faith are always with me and they guide everything I do."

But the teachings come with huge responsibilities. Each day brings a new lesson.

"Although I prefer the supporting role, there are times when the formal rituals of engagement and upholding the customs and essence of the marae fall to me. That can be very hard but my elders always told me that if there's no one to do it, then do it yourself."

The responsibilities though come with a sense of satisfaction that is felt by his children.

"Seeing what he does here and a lot of places elsewhere, I would like to do this work now as well," says his son Manaaki.

"It's great that he's helping so many people to speak te reo," says his daughter Irirangi.

Now he's having fun with his teachings by taking the language to new heights. Earlier this week, he's been thrown into the limelight following the premiere of Moana Reo Māori as the voice of demi-god Māui.

"He has a big role at Te Kāea and now as Māui in Moana (Reo Māori), and we can say that's our dad," says his son Rameka.

But the humble frontman would prefer to steer the compliments to his teachings and upbringing with the aim that his children follow suit.

"My broadcasting voice, my rituals of welcome voice, my singing voice, my haka voice, my prayer voice and my way of talking on the marae."

"There is a saying; a person taught at home can stand collected on the marae, a Māori taught on the marae, can stand collected anywhere."