Waiata Reo Māori gets its own spotlight with Te Reo Māori singles chart

By Tumamao Harawira

In 1984 Pātea Māori Club hit the big time with its song Poi E, the only song that is sung entirely in Te Reo to make it to No 1 on the music charts. Now it is hoped that, with the exposure of Māori waiata through a new Top10 music chart, it won't be long before there is another No 1.

This week marked the beginning of Ngā Waiata Kairangi I Te Reo Māori: The Te Reo Māori Music Top10. The new chart features the 10 biggest tracks in Te Reo Māori by sales, streams, and airplay. Vocals must be at least 70% in Te Reo.

Pere Wīhongi of Maimoa, who has two songs on the chart says,"there isn't really a better way to highlight Māori language songs.

"It's really humbling to be put alongside some of the greats of New Zealand music."

But questions are being asked about quality control, pronunciation, and diction, with five of the inaugural Top 10 being sung by artists who aren't fluent in Te Reo Māori.

Waiata/Anthems was released in New Zealand on the 6th of September 2019 and it debuted at No 1 on the Official New Zealand Music Chart.

In 2021, the Waiata/Anthems documentary series was launched, showing iconic musical artists from around Aotearoa, such as Katchafire, Drax Project, and Hollie Smith translating and recording their songs into Te Reo Māori. Today, three of the Top 10 are from the Waiata/Anthems series.

But according to longtime Te Reo Māori singer Whirimako Black, that isn't a big issue for her, as long as the artist's foray into this space isn't just a token gesture. Whirimako says while she is supportive of these types of waiata, the onus is on these artists to continue on their journey of learning Te Reo Māori.

"It is a start for them, to begin to learn the language, to be able to cross over into Te Reo Māori. It is just the beginning of their journey."

"The main thing is that they go further, and not just leave it. Because the Māori world will be looking to them, to see the growth in the language and in their knowledge."

Pere Wīhongi, is thankful for being on the Top10 but was circumspect about not being able to see a Te Reo song featuring regularly on the main chart.

"How do we have our Māori language songs on the main charts of this country? It's all well and good having a dedicated chart for the Māori language, but it would be great to see Te Reo songs on the same level as Pākehā."

Ngā Waiata Kairangi I Te Reo Māori: The Te Reo Māori Music Top10:

10. Taku Raumuri - Uruwhetū feat. Tōrere rāua ko Te Aroha

9. E Te Tau - Maimoa rāua ko Hops

8. Hiwa-i-te-Rangi - Maisey Rika

7. He Kākano Ahau - Stan Walker rātou ko The Levites

6. Waitī, Waitā - Maisey Rika

5. Tukituki Te Manawa - DRAX Project

4. Kōrukutia - Hollie Smith

3. Utua - Maimoa

2. Karawhiua - Katchafire

1. Tua - Stan Walker rāua ko Ibanez Maeva