"We're only scratching the surface" New waiata composed entirely from taonga pūoro

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Ia band members. Left to right: Reti Hedley, Moetu Smith, Turoa Pohatu.


Three-man band Ia is known for their unique sound and incorporating taonga pūoro in their music but for the first time ever, they are releasing a song that consists entirely of traditional Māori implements and not a trace of Western instruments.  

“It feels a lot more native, and tribal,” says lead vocalist taonga pūoro enthusiast Reti Hedley (Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Rāhiri).

Pūmau is a love song that features the vocals of Ngaruawāhia raised Pianika Duncan, which in itself is a new element that the group is exploring with this waiata.

“This has just added another level of difference, having a female vocalist,” adds bass player Moetu Smith (Ngāti Māhanga, Ngāti Maniapoto).

Reti Hedley recording Pūmau. Source / Supplied.


 

The absence of Western instruments creates a resonant soundscape that is stripped back but coloured with emotion, soulful vocals and organic grooves.

“It feels native because you don’t have these really polished drum samples. Rather, you have very earthy sounds, so you have this connection to the whenua and you have flute instruments that carry the voices of the ngāhere through," says Hedley.

With the aim to bring historical stories from the ancestors into the modern realm, the lyrics are inspired by a historic mōteatea - He Waiata Aroha Mo Te Manana Kauaterangi, by Turuhira. This particular mōteatea was chosen because of its inspiring love story and whakapapa links to band member Turoa Pohatu.

Weherua by Ia performed at Māori Television in October 2020. Credit: Facebook/Te Ao


Although this is their first taonga pūoroonly waiata, Hedley and Smith have high hopes that it certainly won't be their last. 

“Being able to compose waiata solely based on the reo of these particular instruments, will create an authentically Aotearoa sound, and what we have done with Pūmau is only scratching the potential of this sound.

“We have tried our best to include instruments that are either straight taonga pūoro melodies, and we’ve tried to use taonga pūoro as the basis of musical elements.”

The song is set to release on the 20th of January 2022.